To Cape Town

October 27, 2011 2:00pm

Los Angeles, CA.

The familiar glaze of panic washed once again over my face at 5AM this morning. I have been up all night finalizing the last packing details, when it struck me: impossible to locate the DC connector for solar charging of my camera batteries. At this stage, four hours from departure for the airport, the filming of this mission could be virtually obliterated. Sure, I could—maybe—find this item in Cape Town. But of the four days we will spend there (two of which on a weekend), most of it will be spent packing the sledges. Besides, this is not a common piece of gear so nothing could be less certain.

The panic always happens to me in the night hours before departure. Most of it is irrational since planning has taken months, and the exacting equipment list was painstakingly compiled over that time. In reality everything is there, somewhere. But the final stage of this exercise, which should be mindless since it is really by the numbers at this stage, is not impervious to the forgetfulness and distraction characteristic of fatigue, or stints of packing interrupted by the stream of visiting friends bidding their farewell before I go. In a mad, unsettling way, I guess, it is part of my method. But planning for a ninety day, unassisted expedition across the middle of Antarctica requires planning for everything from the obvious down to the minutia of clothes pins and extra small neoprene washers! Amundsen who reached the South Pole for the first time on December 14th 1911, said: “Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.” Scott, who attempted the Pole around the same time would reach it about one month later, but tragically perished with his team on their return journey. Bad luck, people called it…

No one “plans” to be unlucky, but at least 50% of an expedition is won to planning before ever setting a foot out of the plane.. By 9AM, with a handful of loyal friends, we are loading five hundred and ninety seven pounds worth of planning, which includes most of the breakfast, lunches and dinners, including snacks for ninety days of full autonomy, as well as much of the gear. Eric, whom I will meet in Amsterdam on our way down to Cape Town, will complement that with about another two hundred pounds. In all, we will be pulling around four hundred pounds each at the start of the mission! Moving up the glacier will be like pulling a house, and for the fist two weeks until we find appropriate wind line to beginning kiting, I don’t anticipate covering more than a couple of miles a day, in very cold temperatures. East Antarctica, in early November, is not known for its temperate weather.

But for now, the objective is to get all this cargo onto the plane, which officially starts the mission. Ten hours to Amsterdam with one hour of transit and another twelve hours to Cape Town feels in itself like an expedition. I leave my friends curbside at the airport and give my little dog a farewell hug; I won’t see her again for 109 days, if all pans well.

The people you leave behind are the more painful casualty in this type of mission, tearing at your heartstrings for what invariably feels like abandonment. This, of course, is especially the case when it comes to a partner. And ironically, their presence in your heart is often what gives more resolve to succeed. Perhaps in fact for the purpose they provide to come back to.

As I lean back in my seat, the engines roar, and the sprawling urban landscape for Los Angeles soon slowly fades under the wings of the 747, while the mid day sun bathes the surrounding desert on this its warm autumn rays. We are far from Antarctica, but as the jet gains in altitude, the second countdown has begun. D minus 5.

Here we go again–

3 Responses to “To Cape Town”

  1. All of us are on the edges of our seats watching your journey …and know you both will have all the “luck” that prayers can afford!

  2. Sheila Anderson says:

    Hi Sebastian, I am a first cousin of Priscilla Copeland (her mother and my father were siblings) and hope to follow this journey on-line as I have the last two. I wish you all the best. So many of us are behind you and marveling at your daring-do!

  3. BASILE says:

    “Here we go again–”,,,, Hello Sebastian! Soon…

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