Day 29–Snow blindness, altitude cough and a broken binding

December 4, 2011 10:30am

December 3, 2011

S76°54.777 E020°11.778

Elevation 11274 feet

If one measure of friendship is at the very least knowing your friend’s name, close behind should be the ability to spell it properly. In yesterday’s blog, I misspelled my fiend DJ Isaiah’s name. Mind you, when parents pick Isaiah for a name, they commit their son to a life of being asked: “How do you spell that”?, by post office clerks and administration officials. No excuse, really, but it did get me thinking. Sorry about that, brother Martin. Now, would you like some stamps with that? (Please note: I went ahead and fixed that typo for Sebastian…knowing that he would have, had he been in any other circumstance, noticed that mistake immediately.-Jessica)

Last night, about an hour after falling asleep, I woke up from a vicious case of burning eyes, so much so that I felt like crawling up the tent’s walls. I rubbed then, closed them, opened them and rubbed them again–nothing was helping. It felt like dozens of paper cuts right on the eye. I kited for about one hour without eye protection yesterday. As we know, the chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) which used to be found in aerosols and refrigeration devices, have depleted the ozone, particularly in Antarctica. The ozone, among other things, is a filter of Ultra Violet rays (UV’s) which are harmful to the skin and the eyes. Omitting to wear eye protection essentially created a temporary sun burn of the retina, called snow blindness. Some antibiotic eye drops and a sleeping pill a by morning, the pain was mostly gone but I saw everything through a white haze. Not ideal when maneuvering in a white environment. It was as if seeing life through fogged lenses, which robbed all details from the ice’s surface. Less than ideal as the wind was pretty good in the morning and our cruising speed for the first two hours netted us 35 kilometers. The terrain seems to arbitrarily shift from quite smooth to rough and sastrugi ridden. I am not sure why, but that is a good question for our friends at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. Half an hour into our second period, Eric took a nasty fall which resulted in a broken binding. The consequences could be crushing as he does not carry a spare. My frustration was partly directed at myself for not imposing the same binding system as mine for redundancy, after he insisted on carrying a different system. I carry a spare. On an expedition like this, streamlining the variables is critical. However, I will give him credit for McGuivng a fix with wires and a strap, after we set up the tent for about two hours. How long it will last, especially when the winds picks up and the terrain worsens remains to be seen. We probably won’t know until after the South Pole. For now, this remains mostly his inconvenience, on top a a nasty altitude cough that has been with him for about a week.

By the time we hit the trail again, the wind had pulled back and predictably died by 17:00, as usual. We did manage an acceptable 77.32 kilometers total for the day. Chipping away at it.

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