Day 58–Stationary

January 2, 2012 1:25am

January 1st, 2012 Day 58

S84°08.345 E055°00.244

Elevation 11455 feet

The quietness is crushing, almost oppressive. The air is still. No flutter in the tent’s fabric, no air pressure outside, and the only sound breaking the absolute silence that dominates the vast landscape is the mechanical clicker of my camera’s shutter. For weeks now, I have scoured the areas surrounding our campsites for the more interesting sastrugi formations, and the faces that reach out of the ice. But the storm that preceded our arrival at the POI has left in its wake new forms that we had not seen until then. These patches vary in size between twenty to forty feet in length, and ten to fifteen feet in width. They consist of delicate, curved, wafer thin ridges intertwined with each other, and rarely greater than twelve to fourteen inches in height. In the sunlight, the sharp edges and rounded shapes create endless arrays of subtle shading. Carefully framed, they deliver abstract patterns at once organic and graphic, reminiscent of computer generated digital art. Without a reference in scale, the could pass for sand dunes, but for the dominant monochromatic white and blue hues. I can’t get enough of them and thankfully, there are enough out here to chose from! While kiting, they will raise your guard as these delicate looking ridges are fiercely effective at catching and diverting a ski’s edge; they are hard and brutal to ride over. But they also offer a harmonious visual break from the monotony of the white shredded surface.
An ice cap isn’t typically the richest landscape to photograph. The endless white is remarkable to place a subject into, but by itself can easily look barren and, well, empty! These new shapes, especially defined by the changing light, are graphically exquisite. Because the sun doesn’t set around here at this time of the year–rotating instead around the horizon–the same sastrugi patch will take on different but equally rich shapes depending on the time of day.

I have been careful not to trample over the nicer patches in an effort to frame a shot, so as to re-discover them at a different time of the day. It also keeps me productive and occupied during stationary days; such as this one. If I were the wind, on this New Year’s day, my resolution would be to work harder! Today is one of the more still days of the trip; you could practically burn a candle outside. At least the sun makes for a warm and pleasant walk to photograph. Were it not for the frost that builds in the beard from breathing, this would pass for a T-shirt day.

A stationary day enables us to be frugal with our fuel consumption; and the sun baking the tent facilitates the melting of snow reserves inside without using a flame. It seems like we will be able to squeeze about fourteen days on our petrol reserve, which should allow enough time to reach the South Pole. Whether we can close to Hercules remains uncertain.

In closing, I will not win any feet beauty pageant any time soon: the nail of my other big toe fell off today as well. It had also suffered trauma in the ski boot riding over the sastrugi and finally gone black a week ago. That toe will now also require careful monitoring as the new skin is thin and fragile, therefore more susceptible to cold injury. Note to self, and others interested in this type of mission: the Dynafit Zero’s, while incredibly light and awesome boots, are the wrong choice for a long Antarctica crossing–even with a fiber fill overboot, as I have. Eric chose the Millet Everest boot, which is warm, but offers little structural ankle support, and fatigues both foot and leg. If I had to do this again, I would sacrifice in weight (probably about seven pounds) but pick a soft and warm Rossignol boot and binding system, one and a half size bigger. And keep all my toe nails; I am three down! Lesson learnt.

7 Responses to “Day 58–Stationary”

  1. Enjoy the stillness and get some rest.

  2. Andrew Macpherson says:

    I can’t wait to see those days of stillness pix, I bet they’ll make an incredible series!

  3. Katrin says:


  4. Stephan says:

    Wonderful poetry of the ice Sebastian, brought to life by the commitment you fulfill each day to be there. In that place of no life you are so very alive.
    That pattern design is incredibly elegant.
    Cheers to you buddy

  5. Penelope Casadesus says:

    Beautiful photo, but pretty awful to ski over, I would think! We should send a little of the gale we are experiencing at the Ile de Re – too rough for Thomas to go wind-surfing and my house shudders from time to time from the gusts! Would that some of it fly over to Antarctica so that we could share it! Hoping that someone up there will hear my request by tomorrow so that you can move on—!
    All love, your Mum xxx

  6. Awesome photo! I’ve become addicted to this blog, the writing is as exciting as the experiences described in it, but i’m getting worried since you haven’t written in two days. Best luck guys!

  7. BASILE says:

    Beautiful sastrugi on which it is so hard to ski!!! I really admire about your journey, your blog and your pictures!! Thank you very much for all of them.

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