Day 63–We’re Not Alone

January 7, 2012 7:16am

January 6, 2012

S89°00.448 E011°22.371

Elevation 9005 feet

After yesterday’s push and late finish, we had essentially turned the clock: we woke up in the late afternoon. The sun was out, the snow was soft, and it was baking inside the tent. This wasn’t so bad, considering I spent my first night without sleeping bag. Wrapped in my big Napapijri jacket, I was actually too warm, and ended up sleeping on top of it. We were still riding high from the the previous day’s solid mileage. But the wind conditions suggested a different menu for the day. After checking with Marc, the predictions did not look good: light northerly, eight to ten knots decreasing to five knots by mid morning.
By 21:00, we were out of the tent and back on the trail, to a very different rhythm than the previous day. Altogether, at first, it was not unpleasant to be riding slow in the flat, soft snow. Given our proximity to the Pole, at this stage, this was almost like taking a stroll: easy on the joints, soft on the body. The incredibly flat terrain remained and the weak wind, with the warm temperatures reminded me of Greenland. And then something very unusual happened: we saw tracks! Five ski tracks, perfectly spaced, heading straight south. This was evidently a wind powered platform mounted on skis, and the first sign of human life we have encountered since running into these vehicles a month and a half ago. We followed the tracks for a while; clearly, they were headed for the Pole as well, though they did not seem to heed much attention to the Clean Air Sector: they were cutting straight into it!

The winds were virtually non-existent on the ground, and by running the kite–which Eric did three times for me, thankfully!–we manage to catch some air above. Until it finally died. It was 2:30 in the morning. We had managed 39.4 kilometers before setting up camp. Our hopes to reach the Pole tomorrow seem dim: wind prediction are weak for the next 24 hours. Perhaps the next day. I fell asleep to a warm tent, but woke up shivering: the clouds took over, and the temperature inside plummeted! Even wrapped in as much clothes as I have, this was not a warm sleep! ALE will take over logistics for us from the Pole to Hercules Inlet and then on to Chile–replacing TAC which has been doing the job since Cape Town. I have asked for a sleeping bag, as well as some medical gauze and tape for my toes, some replacement fuel and ten meals. Depending on how we approach the Pole from the Clean Air Sector, we are about 130 kilometers from there We’ll keep you posted…

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