Set the Bearing to Ray

Day 16: S83° 13' 33", W052° 05' 1" Altitude: 1333m Daily distance: 13MI Distance to go: 854MI

I was going to call this “Set the Ray to Jerry” but realised a) that was such an obscure reference that most of you would just assume I was starting to crack up, and b) that I wasn’t entirely sure why that line was lodged in my brain. It’s the title of an album, I think, but I couldn’t remember whose.

Again, I find myself humbled by Antarctica. Out here, moving at a snail’s pace and spending all day reeling in the horizon with my legs, I have all the time to think, but no opportunity to look things up on Google. Our memories these days are invincible as long as we have a 3G connection, and it’s sobering to be brought face to face with the fallability of the mind when it’s not augmented by the internet.

Antarctica also demanded a full wardrobe rotation today, with wind this morning that meant cold fingers, giant mittens and goggles, and a beaming sunshine this afternoon that – when the breeze left – meant skiing in a thin fleece and a baseball cap, trying not to sweat too much. I’ve never experienced anywhere else on earth where the conditions can change so much in a day.

I’m skirting along the edge of the (beautiful) Forrestal Range at the moment, and made a slight dog-leg today now I’m clear of the worst ice, setting a new bearing (160°) for a small peak called Ray Nunatak. I know that Henry Worsley camped right next to this point two years ago, and he would therefore (I’m almost certain) have been the last person to see it. It’s the last piece of rock before a few hundred miles of just snow and ice, so it feels symbolic in a few ways. It’s 25km from where I’m camped this evening, so if I get my skates on I might reach it tomorrow (although the going today has been tough: lots of up and down again, and acres of sastrugi).

I wanted to quickly doff my cap in the direction of two other expeditions on the ice at the moment (but on the other side of the continent): the first is Expedition Ice Maiden, an all-female British Army expedition making a supported crossing from the Leverett Glacier to Hercules Inlet via the South Pole.

The second is Leo Houlding’s Spectre Expedition, a long-distance kite skiing journey to climb one of the most remote mountains on Earth: the wonderfully named Spectre in the Gothic Range of the Transantarctic Mountains. Sadly I don’t believe Daniel Craig is on the team, but I can neither confirm nor deny that they have Union Jack kites and dinner suits under their polar gear. In all seriousness, this is a massive project and I’m glad Leo is back here in Antarctica and taking on such an ambitious and innovative goal.

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
23/11/17
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Comments

Chris Hilmer

24/11/2017

I am curious – what are the criteria for “supported” or “unsupported”? You state here that the Ice Maiden team is supported, their website says they are unsupported. Thanks.

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Kevin wright

23/11/2017

Hi Ben, thanks for the interesting read tonight. Your blog should be turned into a book when you get home! I do love that feeling of standing somewhere that only a few have ever stood before. I read once that more men have stood on the moon than the Beardmore Glazier. Just about to have a wee dram so cheers to both you and Henry as I raise this glass of Shackletons Whisky. Keep Giong! Kev

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Brad

23/11/2017

Always great to read your updates. Going to an Antarctic event tonight taking place at St Georges Hospital in South London to celebrate Dr. Edward Wilson who was on Scott’s Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions. Dr. Wilson trained at St Georges which is why that location was chosen. We expect 70-100 people there. I’m sure there will be enthusiastic talk of your expedition amongst the attendees. Looking forward to more of your updates. Best wishes.

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Jason Hay

23/11/2017

Set the Ray to Jerry is a song by smashing pumpkins. It goes:

“Born to please every simple need
I stand alone in my thoughts indeed
Hate you for ever making me
I’m in you, I’m your anything…”

How fitting since today is Thanksgiving in America and theres going to be lots of pumpkin pie smashed up here today. Good to know you’re not the only one crossing the icy plain out there. I hope your new bearing brings new tunes and the best weather.

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James Whaley

23/11/2017

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE USA!!

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Matias

23/11/2017

Hi Ben,

I´m wondering about your technical setup. What are you writing your excellent posts on, how do you transmit and what about power?

Thanks and take care!

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Paddy Nicoll

23/11/2017

Are you thinking of Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” on Saucerful of Secrets? Does any more musically-knowledgeable follower know “Ser the bearing to Ray”?

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Jonathon

23/11/2017

Incredible journey Ben, thanks for sharing. Can you post a photo of the Ray Nunatak, as you say we need Google to augment reality and there are no photos On Google so you would be adding to the corpus of worldly knowledge. Also why black tent and black pulk cover and not red – are you a closet Goth?

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