The Two Ronnes

Day 5: S81° 22' 35", W051° 01' 29" Daily distance: 12.4MI Distance to go: 984MI

In a nutshell: grim up until about 4pm, glorious from around 5pm onwards. I’m typing this at nine in the evening and, for the first time since I landed in Antarctica last week, it’s completely still (and therefore completely silent) and the sun is shining on my tent after an overcast and windy few hours earlier in the day. It was warm enough this evening to pitch my tent without having to wear my big down jacket (a Canada Goose Mountaineer, which I normally put on over everything else as soon as I stop moving).

The sunshine came at a good moment, as I wasn’t having much fun this morning. The surface has been mostly poor, with a strong wind at the start of the day from the east (or my left as I skied south). You might be amused to hear that I’m not carrying a thermometer, so have no way of knowing the exact temperature, but going by memories of my last expedition here, the windchill could have been dipping into the minus thirties for a few hours. By contrast, it was warm enough in my tent this evening to lie on my sleeping mats (but not in my sleeping bag) in just a fleece, a hat and my baselayers as I melted snow on my stove, so the temperature range can be vast.

In general, though, it’s just bloody cold here, which is why I haven’t bothered with a thermometer. For almost all of this expedition, it’ll be cold enough that just a few minutes walking around outside bare-handed would lead to irreversible injury. I’ve also seen a surprising amount of exaggeration when it comes to polar temperatures. In nearly 17 years of expeditions, the lowest ambient air temperature I’ve experienced was -48 degrees C. on the Arctic Ocean, and Tarka and I had some desperately cold days in 2013 and 2014, but our little Kestrel wind speed gadget rarely said anything below -45, including windchill. (N.B. clearly I’ve now probably jinxed myself for some sort of freak cold spell…)

Other recollections from today: I saw a shape in the snow that looked a lot like a dog’s paw print, which made me homesick. And the mountains are getting bigger on the horizon, which is encouraging. Also, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back for the last hour of the day, like some giant, benevolent, reassuring force encouraging me on…

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
12/11/17
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Comments

Gavin

13/11/2017

Hi Ben,
Will be better not having to lay depots on the way out, or do you think you will you miss the lightening of the pulk. Either way, it looks like a strong start!
Gav

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Dr Lucy King

12/11/2017

Hi Ben! Loving your updates from your Antarctic tent. I’m messaging you from my tent in the bush in Tsavo, Kenya, and I think we’ve probably got about a 65C difference in temperature between our tents! I’m sweating uncomfortably in 36C waiting for the much needed rains and I’m enjoying your chilly snow and cravass-crossing stories immensely. So impressed at this expedition you’re doing and glad you kicked off so quickly and didn’t have to wait too long for your travel window. That must have saved food and energy. Please take care out there! Best wishes from our roasting hot Elephants and Bees Research Center in Tsavo, wish I could send some of this heat your way! Lucy King x

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Kevin Wright

12/11/2017

Hi Ben, Forgot to say in my last message. That giant benevolent that’s reassuring you and encouraging you on is probably the same one that Bear Grylls and Robert Swan experienced and as a Christian I like to feel that God is watching over you. God bless, Kev

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Kevin Wright

12/11/2017

Hi Ben. I sort of see what you mean about the temperature and I hope you don’t get that jinxed spell! Personally I would want to know what it is but thats because my field of work is temperature. During my visit to Antarctica I took a 55 year old met office Mercury in glass thermometer. Fancy putting that in your ruc-sac! I wanted to do some ice point checks on the different types of ice and to see if there was any difference to what we manufacture in the lab. There wasn’t! But it was fun doing it and I have the melted water in my office from the six samples in little glass bottles. Bear Griylls did something similar from Everest and his boys were christened with the water. Just a thought with your forthcoming wedding and what the future may bring! Have a great march today. Kev

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