The weather has been ace today: blue sky all day, quite cold this morning with a bit of wind (in the minus twenties) then feeling warmer this afternoon as the wind died down. The sastrugi and generally rubbish terrain continued until mid-afternoon, when it started to shrink as I skied on, and then vanished completely when I stepped through a gap between two low ridges, like walking through a gate into a giant white field. The snow is still a little soft, so it doesn’t score top marks, but it’s an awful lot better than the assault course I’ve been scrambling through.
I decided it might be flat enough to switch to my ‘faster’ skis, with the short skins. I’ve attached a photo of the two different skis side-by-side so you can see the difference – the coloured fabric strip is the only section that has traction on the snow, but it also produces friction as I slide my foot forwards with each step. The long skins are grippy but slow, and the short skins have less grip but much better glide. They were fantastic this afternoon, and it felt like I was moving faster.
I was wondering about sastrugi today – as it’s been the bane of my life for the last few days – and how long it takes to form. I know it’s created by the wind acting on the snow, but I have no idea if some of these massive ridges and troughs are purely seasonal, and blasted into shape each winter, or whether they might have been around for years, with layers slowly being plastered on and chiselled into shape by the wind…
Lastly, wishing Belinda a very happy birthday today from Antarctica!
Some answers for you:
1) Class 6E from Great Crosby here, Ben. We are fascinated with your every move and you have been inspired from your treacherous journey so far. We have a few questions.
a) How do you charge you electronic devices?
It’s 24-hour daylight here so I have a solar panel outside my tent while I sleep, tied to the top of my sledge, that charges everything up.
b) How can you upload images if you have been disconnected to the internet?
I can send and receive short messages via satellite, and upload compressed images, but the connection is too slow for me to use the Internet, or social media like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
c) How grueling was you training regime before undertaking the adventure?
It was pretty tough, and a mixture of endurance training like running and cycling, and strength training in the gym, lifting heavy weights.
d) How does it feel to be one of the only people on the continent of Antarctica?
Right now, with the sun shining on my tent, I feel very lucky!
2) Hi Ben. I was wondering if there is anything to be afraid of out there?
There were a few crevasses earlier in my journey, near the coast, so falling into a hole was a genuine fear then. Strong winds can be worrying, especially trying to put up or take down my tent in a storm. If I let go of the tent and it blows away then I’m in big trouble!
3) Hi there, the children in yr 4 at Jericho Primary School are all amazed by your efforts and have been inspired to do some fantastic writing about Antarctica. We have got some questions we would like you to answer if possible:
a) Which songs make you move faster? What’s on your ipod?
I have a wide range of music, but the stuff that makes me ski fastest is probably drum and bass. I have Keeno’s new album with me, All the Shimmering Things, and although it’s probably not many people’s cup of tea, it definitely boosts my speed!
b) If you are wearing big gloves, how do you pick up something if you drop it?
I try not to drop anything! I actually dropped one of my mittens when it was quite stormy a couple of weeks ago but managed to spear it with my ski pole before it blew away completely. Luckily I have a spare set, but it was still a moment of panic…
c)What’s been the toughest part so far?
Either climbing the Wujek Ridge, or dealing with zero visibility in whiteouts.
d) How many pairs of socks do you wear?
Two! A thin liner pair and a big thick woolly pair.
e) Have you come across any equipment or signs of other explorers on your travels, including your friend?
Nothing at all.
f) What are you looking forward to doing the most once completed?
A hot shower, putting on some clean clothes (I’ve been wearing the same underwear for 29 days now!) and hugging my fiancée Pip. Definitely in that order as I’m not sure anyone would want to hug me in my current condition!