‘Fiddlesticks!’, I yelled into the wind (or words to that effect – I learned yesterday that my blog posts were having to be edited for the Barn Owls guided reading class at Barton Stacey school so I’m determined to make this one family-friendly) and clambered back to my feet. For the first time on this expedition, I’d properly fallen over, being pulled backwards by my sledge and losing my footing as I tried to crest a big ridge in the sastrugi, and ending up lying on my side in a tangled heap of skis and poles and rope. ‘I’m lucky I didn’t break anything.’
Fifteen minutes later I stopped to rest, and as I reversed back to straddle my sledge and sit down for some food and hot drink, I noticed I had broken something. The last foot or so of my right ski was flopping around like a limp fish. ‘Oh flipping fiddlesticks’, I said, a little less loudly than the first time.
I have two identical pairs of skis on this expedition, so it was a manageable problem rather than a total disaster, and after a quick pit-stop I was on my way again on my second pair. The broken ski still works (I hadn’t noticed anything was wrong until I saw it) and I might be able to glue the tail as I have some two-part epoxy in my repair kit, but obviously I don’t want to break too many more. I actually feel quite sorry for my poor skis, after the abuse they’ve been subjected to in this terrain . They were designed and made for backcountry ski-touring, after all, not battling through the sort of post-apocalyptic ice planet armegeddon that I encountered yesterday.
The terrain improved markedly as the day went on, with a few deliciously flat sections that allowed me to finally settle into a rhythm and let my thoughts wander. And the weather was much the same as yesterday: blue skies, sunshine and perfect visibility, with a seriously nippy wind coming from the east south east.
I’m running a bit late this evening so will answer more questions tomorrow, but I was thinking about Jamie’s today (hello buddy!) ‘Should people care about Antarctica and if so, why?’
A good reason to care is water. One of the things that is hardest to comprehend about Antarctica is the sheer scale and size of it. Right now I’m lying down in my tent at nearly 1,900 metres above sea level, and most of what lies beneath my bed is water, frozen as snow and ice. In places, Antarctica’s icecap is three kilometres deep, and it’s a giant continent, basically the same size as China and India put together. I’ve been walking for more than a month now and I’m barely halfway to the middle. Often I look at the horizon around me and try to imagine the enormous cubic volume of water that I’m walking across. The vast majority of our planet’s fresh water is locked up down here. The only thing keeping it locked up is temperature, and we humans are proving to ourselves that as a species that has figured out how to release huge amounts of energy from fossil fuels (and I wouldn’t be able to survive down here without my little stove that burns white gas, a sort of low-octane petrol) we have also become a species that can raise a planet’s temperature…