Over the course of 14 to 15 hours of day in/day out pulling, there are many instances when the effort feels overwhelming; and endless. Your legs lose all power; your back and arms burns. You reach a physical barrier that screams for a break--generally a power bar or drink break. These tend to be short, as you must be cold at stoppage in order not to sweat during effort (for then you'd get dangerously cold during breaks as the sweat would freeze). Those short breaks, and any type of food, sometimes even just a candy, give enough mental seperation from the effort to bring fresh reserves until the next cycle. It occurred to me that life is like that, too. Sometimes if you are challenged and see no end to it, it is important to acknowledge that this time shall come to pass, that everything in life is transient, and therefore not to let it affect you.
This will be my last dispatch from the ice for this trip--tomorrow our last pulling day here. After five weeks of this epic adventure, I know that re-entry will be a challenge. But all things do come to an end--and I could really use a sandwich! The last few days have been the toughest. We pulled long days, with reduced food rations, and the conditions were especially tough. But today, perhaps a salutation to honor our effort, the sun was mostly out, the winds died down, and we traveled open pans with only a few pressure ridges to cross. The temperature fluxed between negative 15F and 20F degrees. This was perhaps our easiest travel day. We lost 2.5 nauticals overnight to the south drift, but managed 14.5 nauticals in 13.5 hours of travel, which means we likely did 2.5 on top of that.
In all, I have estimated that we have lost around 60 nautical miles to the drift on this trip. The winds have been especially strong, and we only once gained north drift, and only by a half a mile. Surely, the moment we leave the ice, the trend will reverse! Our ending position was N89°07.881 and W36°36.458. Tomorrow we will push long and hard for an anticipated 18 hours, to get us as close to the pole as possible. The helicopter will then lift us and and drop us within striking distance. Two extra days and we would have been there un-assisted...
As I sit here, typing in my iPAQ (great PDA by the way--amazing communications tool) I cannot help but think of Peary, Henson and the four Inuit on their team, and how after reaching the pole on Aril 6th 1909, they then had to face the un-assisted return to land, for another month of journeying. They were no satellite phones, no blogs, no power bars, no technology developed Napapijri fabrics, no nylon tents. Just six brave men facing the unknown with no safety net, and no back up. I would raise my protein drink to them in salutation--but i'm all out!
Good night. I will report back from Longyearbyen, from which we are making our exit. Until then!