The wind finally let up a bit today, though the conditions were generally mediocre with low visiibility for the most part, and the sun struggling at the losing end with cloud cover. Some nasty times were spent in two rubble fields, something that we hadn’t done in a few weeks. We hadn’t missed much, and the experience remains as unpleasant as ever–hard to find the selling points of pulling heavy sledges up and down large blocks of ice burried in thick powder, generally forcing us off our skis.
I had said, a while back, that the Arctic sea should be on the list of sunny destinations since we had had three straight weeks of sunshine; well, hold on to your bikinis as I may have to revise that opinion: we haven’t had much sun now for about a week. While it does not affect temperature out here, the sun still helps psychologically; more importantly it helps define the terrain for route finding and simplifies navigation as it rotates in the sky at the rate of 15 degrees every hour. I spent the day navigating using the wind instead for guidance, which hit us from the west with 10 to 15 knot gusts. (These alternatives save battery life from the GPS.)
While a definite improvement on yesterday, that wind gets right through you during the short breaks. We spend those chewing the most out of our rationed energy bars to make the experience last longer! Any mouthful of flavor is a treasured experience to both taste buds and our growling stomachs. Keith and I have come to sorely miss the Herbalife protein bars which we have ran out of ten days ago. If you haven’t had one of those, you should try them out: they’re really tasty!
The south drift robbed us of three miles last night and today we pushed hard for 15 hours and made 15 nautical miles. Given the loss ratio to the drift, we probably traveled 18 NM or more, so this was a big day, much of it spent–luckily–on large flat pans. Our stopping position was N88°55.802 and W37°09.620. We’ll be out of 89° tomorrow. Finally.
We have been told categorically that our flight off the ice will be no later than the 26th in the AM as Barneo closes then. (Barneo used to close later in may, but the rising temperatures have made this too precarious for this floating station servicing expeditions and scientific research on the ice for four weeks). We will therefore be air lifted to the pole for the last few miles lost to the race. In the end, the many leads, the drift and the blizzard hampered our progress this week. No honor lost; just another humble lesson from the great white desert. If only we had two more days!…