January 18, 2012
Elevation 5323 feet
We got up in the middle of the night, broke up camp and set the kites out, only to concede that the wind was too weak. This was just drill. We were back to bed, to repeat the exercise four hours later. The sky was pure white, and with the ice, this made for a featureless environment. No horizon; no detail off the ground; no sense of where the sky began and where the ice stopped. We were characters in a pure white void, a blank canvas where all that was visible were us, the kites and the sledges. There was wind, not strong, though the speed was impossible to determine: our progress was entirely abstract since we had no point of reference except for the GPS at the end of a section. The ice was gliding below our skis, but how fast? It was impossible to tell. Occasionally, upon diving the kite, it would crash so hard it was to determine a horizon. Thankfully, the terrain was smooth, and the snow relatively soft which facilitated travel--at first. But without warning, and probably because we descended further and dropped on the face of an invisible ondulation, we found ourselves in the middle of what evidently was a pronounced sastrugi field. The smooth ride was replaced with erratic jerking and obstacles that were met without warning, or foresight! The sledge would tip inexplicably, from colliding with unseen sastrugi heads. It was disconcerting. My toes felt the biting, sunless cold. The wind was faltering, and the conditions amounted to some of the more unpleasant day of the trip. We chose to wrap it up, and in no time, the wind simply shut off. We were back in the tent; it was 9:00 in the morning, and we hoped for a second shot at closing some miles later in the day. The wind never came back, though now, at 23:30 hours, it sounds as if it might manifest. Forecast calls for eight to ten knots. We need to get on the road; we are 658 kilometers from Hercules Inlet, and have six days left to close the gap... Today we merely managed 41 kilometers. The pressure is on.