Day 43–And A White Out

December 17, 2011 3:11pm

December 17, 2011

S80°55.392 E041°19.709

Elevation 11677 feet

The wind was still strong when I woke up at 6:00 this morning. The sun was baking Eric’s side of the tent, as has been customary for the early mornings given the orientation of the tent; the wind determines that, and since we have been in a North-north-west system for the last couple of weeks or so, it is a de facto condition that his side gets the morning heat, provided there is sun. On my side, there is about a 10C degrees difference which can sometimes be advantageous. I sneaked a look outside. A cloud bank was headed our way, and the wind was blowing snow over the ice with about 14 knots. Given our late stop last night, I let Eric sleep another ninety minutes. I seems that we are in a new system, and today’s wind looked here to stay for the day.

Next, I undressed my toe to have a look. Another sigh of relief: it looked stable, having not changed in the last thirty six hours. Two days ago, the dead cells were spreading overnight. But that development has stopped, which means two things: 1- we have managed to contained the injury with the new boot configuration; 2- the frostbite, given continued care and protection, has initiated its healing cycle. In the worst case scenario, I might lose a few millimeters from the top; in the best case scenario, it will re-grow and I will lose some sensitivity in that toe. Either way, this is very good news.

We were slow out of the tent, and when we finally got out at 10:30, the sun had totally disappeared. We rigged the thirteen meter Frenzy’s and faced another downwind rodeo over some pretty chewed up terrain. We were rockin’ and rolling over the sastrugi on a very bumpy ride that required full concentration at all times. The last two days have seen some of the sportiest rides of the trip; not especially fast given the direction of travel, but a real workout. Additionally, since we are moving with the wind, it feels less cold (you don’t feel the wind) which in this case isn’t such a good thing given how physically taxing the ride is. I was sweating bullets, which is not good for the breaks: that is when the body rapidly cools down, in spite of the mild 20C below–outside of wind-chill. The other inconvenience of downwinders, is that the steam from your breath travels in the same direction and at just about the same speed, which makes fogging of goggles very difficult to avoid. I switched to my REVO’s which have been custom vented and managed all day to keep them fog free. They worked great! Downwind travel is slow–basically the same speed as the wind. After two hours, we had covered twenty four kilometers and the effort was considerable. But the good news was that, again, my right foot was warm in the boot, and did not even require thirty minute breaks. Between yesterday’s very cold temps, and today’s mild ones–no cold feet. It seems that we have regained control of the narrative! The wind dropped long enough for us to switch to the fourteen meter Yakuza’s, but soon grew again to blowing snow. On the downwind tack, we are forced to ride at a ninety degree angle to the sastrugi around here and moving at eighteen kilometers per hour in this terrain made for a wild ride! I was concerned with the crack in my sledge, since at that speed, it is difficult to avoid the occasional airborne, and sometime flip. The shake of the sledge is so intense that the cargo is subjected to a real work-over! A bag of peanuts will literally turn to butter! And I am not exaggerating!
The wind was growing, but the visibility closing in and by 17:00, we decided to pack it in. Good thing, as thirty minutes later, we were in a complete white out–our first since we’ve been here. Evidently, we are still in a stormy system. Upon speaking with Andrei, our search and rescue coordinator for our daily sked call tonight, I find out that Novo saw winds of forty-six meters per seconds today! That is roughly 165 kilometers per hour! I hope that isn’t headed our way… Luckily, we are now 1442 kilometers from there–hopefully out of reach. Right now the winds are howling outside, and the tent is shaking pretty nicely! Sounds like it will be a loud night. But most importantly, this evening’s inspection confirms that the toe is stable–no spreading of the bite. There will be no toe loss–that’s a promise!

We have covered 57 kilometers today and are 260 kilometers from our first destination: the Pole of Inaccessibility. The mission is carrying out as planned. We need to average 45 kilometers per day to reach the South Pole on January 11th. We are then planning twelve days to reach Hercules Inlet, and complete the first East-West transcontinental crossing of Antarctica. We have just past the mid point of the trip…!

5 Responses to “Day 43–And A White Out”

  1. Hope Morris says:

    Great news about your toe Sebastian! Sounds like you are having another amazing journey. So proud of you! Sending positive vibes your way.

  2. Eva says:

    I´m very happy, that your toe is healing and that the wind is finally better for your travel. Good luck for the rest of the journey!

  3. Karin says:

    Great news! Crossing fingerst that everything is working out as planned!

  4. Lis says:


    I am following your journey with admiration and trepidation. Keep that toe warm and yourself safe!!!!

    All my best,

  5. Tmac says:

    rockstar status all the way…………you guys are doing an amazing feat, bravo, the community is all right behind you, about 5000 miles, but hey! keep the foot warm, heal god speed T

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