“How are you feeling” has been the most frequent question I’ve been asked in the last month, and my answer has usually been flippant; something about November seeming ages away, and now here it is, just around the corner. An honest answer is harder to come up with, not least as my feelings can u-turn in the few seconds it takes to see out a train of thought, perhaps from pride that I’ve managed to fund and organise another project of this scale to sadness that I’m leaving my wife-to-be, my dog, and my home for several weeks of arguably pointless plod through Antarctica’s bleak nothingness. Or at other moments, my internal barometer might swing from anxiety about all that’s left to do in the dwindling number of hours before I climb aboard my final drop-off flight to exhilaration at the knowledge that, soon, I’ll be the most isolated human being on earth, perhaps with a magical view from my tent door of the low austral sun over the Pensacola Mountains, or the Forrestal Range. I feel simultaneously better prepared than ever, and yet secretly scared that my skills and experience (and desire) might somehow desert me the day I’m dropped alone on Berkner Island.
Speaking of all that’s left to do, I’m typing this at midnight at my dining table, and surrounded by maps, paperwork, a satellite phone, a tangle of USB cables, an Iridium GO! satellite transmitter, two hardback books wedged open on pages that show valleys and glaciers I expect to be treading myself before the year is out, and an parcel containing hundreds of small plastic bags – bought on eBay – in which I’ll pack everything from energy drinks to vitamin D tablets.
I wonder what Shackleton would have made of eBay, or the GO!, a gadget not much bigger than a pack of playing cards that will allow me to Tweet from my sleeping bag. In the photo above, Pip is helping me test the solar panel that I’ll strap to the roof of my tent to harvest power for my electronics as I sleep through seven or eight hours of Antarctica’s 24-hour daylight.
I’ll write more in the coming days about the component parts that make up a journey like this: the clothing, the equipment, the training and preparation, and the reasons why I’m heading back to Antarctica. Thanks for reading, and if you have a burning question then please chime in on the comments section below, or on social media, and I’ll do my best to give you an honest answer.