To Infinity and Beyond

Day 19: S83° 35' 14", W051° 56' 1" Altitude: 1301m Daily distance: 12.6MI Distance to go: 828MI

I finally put the peaks of the Forrestal Range behind me today, with one final piece of tricky terrain getting past Ray Nunatak and its neighbouring hill Beiszer Nunatak (at the far left on the horizon). The cloud closed in when I was close to the peaks, and I had my hands full traversing some challenging slopes near the bases of the mountains, but things progressively improved as the day went on and it’s a pleasant sunny evening as I lie here typing this with two thumbs.

The surface hasn’t been kind, with sastrugi near the mountains and soft, sticky snow for the latter half of the day, and it’s frustrating to feel that the mileage on the clock at the end of the day doesn’t entirely represent the effort invested.

I started the day with a live satellite phone-in to BBC Breakfast, which was a surreal experience, and I’m happy to hear I’ve had a number of donations to The Endeavour Fund as a result. This prompts me to thank Arqiva, who are very kindly sponsoring all of of my satellite phone calls!

I’ll be on a straight line bearing for at least the next 25 days, and don’t expect to see anything more in the way of scenery, so it’ll be a flat white 360-degree horizon for a while. There’s not much else to report today, other than my dawning, disappointing realistion that it’s – perhaps paradoxically – harder to do any proper thinking on a solo expedition. With Tarka on my last expedition we took it in turn to navigate, so for half the time I was following him, plugged into his ski tracks, and could switch off and daydream. Alone, a lot of my mind is constantly occupied, not least with navigation, which usually involves focusing intently on a patch (or interesting-looking lump) of ice or snow on my bearing, as well as being mindful of the weather, the wind direction and the time, particularly when to next stop and rest/eat/drink. The upshot is that rather than this being an exercise in mindfulness and presence, I’m almost always working really hard to get to somewhere else. The time passes quickly during the day as a result, but the quality of introspection that I recall from parts of my last Antarctic expedition is proving elusive so far. Perhaps now the terrain is simpler I can spend a little longer on autopilot…

Ben Saunders (@polarben)
26/11/17
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Comments

Sheila England

28/11/2017

You may have addressed this before, but how do you keep track of the time? Being you are so close to the pole, how does the movement of the sun factor in?
I’m just really curious seeing you ‘are right in the thick of it’ at the moment.
– Sheila

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Mike Pagey

26/11/2017

Hey Ben.
After seeing you at the geographical society late Sept 17, I didn’t realise how hard this was going to be. Well done, keep going and to top it off. Your incredible friend (who you are doing in aid off) was our commander back in 2006. I thought I recognised him.

Anyway, keep strong, be strong don’t run before you can walk. Small safe steps.. keep smiling.

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Lynn Campbell

26/11/2017

Which Antarctic polar explorer of by-gone days do you most admire and why?

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Polona Itkin

26/11/2017

Hi Ben – thanks for sharing the story. It reads great!
I do some short winter trips myself and I was wondering how fast are you with setting up and breaking camp. Your tent has no storm flaps. Does it mean you have to dig it in a bit every evening? Or you just pile up some snow against the sides? Do you ever get any snow drifted in?
Thanks a lot for the answers and good luck with your trip – the flat parts can still have pretty clouds to look at 🙂

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Kevin Wright

26/11/2017

Hi Ben, I’m afraid I missed your broadcast with the BBC Breakfast so a bit disappointed. I hope yesterdays days rest proved to be beneficial. The ice maidens were also battening down the hatches on days 3 to 4. I think they are on the move again now though. Don’t suppose your paths will cross? Keeping on that straight line for the next 25 days will be tuff so hopefully your music 🎧 will help with the monotony and help with the autopilot! What grid reference should 25 days take you too? When fishing with my grandsons the comment when we part is often “tight lines” however for you Ben it has to be “ Straight lines” Kev

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