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.