Day 48–Meteorological Predictions

December 22, 2011 5:55pm

December 22, 2011

S81°22.321 E049°03.220

Elevation 12072 feet

A quietness that screams at you is hard to find. But on the ice, in a world void of life and on a windless day, silence takes on a weight that I have yet to experience anywhere. Beyond the screeching hiss that overtakes the audible sense, the slightest sound explodes through the ear canal as if captured in an isolation chamber. On a sleepless night, the heartbeat alone will dictate a clock-like rhythmic pounding there to remind you of each minute that drags on. And with each of those minutes, I contemplated the windless conditions and dubious prospects of the coming days. I dozed off a few times only to wake up to the same state, in and out of my head. By morning, the stillness of the tent’s fabric confirmed the night’s prediction: this will be another static day.

My anxiety stems from the elevation where we now find ourselves: at over 12000 feet (3600 meters), we are close to the top. The nature of katabatic winds is to roll downhill, generally gaining speed as they do. But the closer you are to the top, predictably, the weaker the wind. We are now a week behind my schedule assumption, and given the altitude of the POI, weak winds could be with us as well for the first couple of hundred kilometers towards the South Pole. Such a scenario would be detrimental to our time table, and compromise our ability to complete the mission. What we desperately need is another front system to push air to the south, like the one we had last week!

Upon studying the wind maps at home, and given the proximity of the Argus Dome (elevation of 4083 meters) about four hundred kilometers south-east of the us, I had assumed the winds would be weak, but sufficient to deliver kiteable conditions for the–as yet unexplored–leg from POI to the South Pole. Getting up this morning, I wondered if we would ever get there. Eric was more optimistic, but questioned reaching Hercules Inlet, the final leg of the expedition. We both agreed on a new strategy: if winds develop in the middle of the night–“our” night anyway, since the sun hasn’t set in over a month and we are just now at solstice!–regardless of sleep, we pack up and go. Additionally, starting tomorrow, if the wind does not manifest, we ski. Neither one of us was particularly excited about that option, given the thin air up here, and that getting up for a pee can suck your breath away! At least the terrain has smoothened out some, and the sledges are lighter by at least one hundred pound. While pulling my skiing boots out of the sledge to dry out the ice crystals inside, it occurs to me to call Marc De Keyser, the whiz Belgian meteorologist, who now happens to work for ALE, our logistics team from the South Pole on, at Union Glacier. After giving him our coordinates, Marc says he will call back with a model as soon as he figures it out. An hour later the phone rings: “Four to six knots from the south tomorrow, which is not going to help you much”, he announces. My heart sinks. “However, a front is moving towards you and you should see about fifteen knots building from the north in the afternoon of the 24th. This should grow through the night to twenty five to thirty knots on the 25th. You should reach the POI by Christmas day!” Aside from being a star, Marc right then was the closest I felt to Santa since I was four years old! His model predictions are notoriously on the money. That means probably a rest day tomorrow, and, short of another surprise, we should definitely see a white Christmas–at the POI!

6 Responses to “Day 48–Meteorological Predictions”

  1. Daniela Maselli says:

    That would be a wonderful Christmas gift! Keep going guys!

  2. Carolin says:

    You will make it, Baby I am very sure. The wind will come soon.
    The family is together for Xmas and we are all missing you so much: Even the little twins are crossing their little fingers that all will go well! It is their first Xmas this year! I love you xxx

  3. Penelope Casadesus says:

    Great news! Thank you, thank you, thank you Marc for this great news – although it’s obviously not controlled by you, but your prompt reply gave hope to my son! A great Christmas present for Sebastian and Eric!

  4. BASILE says:

    Merry Christmas Sebastian and Eric ,,, Have good wind and have fun
    Joyeux Noël à tous les deux et bon vent!!
    En Bretagne, c’est la tempête,,, sans neige!

  5. Ginger says:


  6. Penelope Casadesus says:

    Dec. 24th – Happy Christmas, Bast! And Eric, too! Very sad not to have you with us, but we’ll all have a piece of Christmas pudding and make a wish that you will have the best winds in the world, no frost-bite and will be back with us ASAP! Your Christmas present is waiting for you. All love and hugs – your mother xxxx

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