Pitch Whiteness

April 18, 2009 4:09am

88.4589N, 55.6776W

Living in a tent on the ice for any extended period of time yields particular adjustments to a lifestyle which does away with most modern conveniences. To begin with, building and breaking camp everyday forges a habit of systems devised to optimize time whilst finding coherence in an otherwise chaotic environment. But from frost to hygiene, tight living quarters, proximity to an open flame and gas inhalation–there are many issues that would hardly qualify extended tent life as entirely safe, healthy or much less: comfortable. Yet, there is no question that throughout the day, the prospect of this unpretentious, shielded environment, a warm meal and a sleeping bag is one of the more re-occurring comforting thought to enters the mind. And after a hard day of pulling, I often find that I sleep the best in a tent. Sometimes it is the simplest things that make us happiest.

Food has become another obsessive thought; all kinds of food, but mainly those that are taken for granted or are readily available. Like pancakes; toast; cookies; chocolate; and yes, mom: your lamb stew!

The day begun in virtual pitch whiteness. When the sky is overcast out here, all manners of depth, perspective and height disappear. The pale shade that normally gives the icy terrain its detail is completely gone. What remains is the seemingly posterized ice blue color of most pressure ridges–and pure white. It feels as if you walked into the very rough, unfinished plates of a cartoon sequence. This makes route finding difficult and precarious: you will walk right into an ice mound in front of you thinkng it is flat terrain! Very unsettling. Additionally, with the absence of the sun, navigating with the GPS becomes imperative, keeping it around your neck for constant updates. This was our morning; and it makes for slow travelling. Especially as yesterday’s wind spread snow drifts everywhere, including on thinly frozen leads, now camouflaged into the landscape.

The weather was incredibly still, which added to the eerie, surreal visuals. The temperatures were warm at around minus 18F degrees. As the day developed, the weather lifted for a while, then the wind came back and strengthened to another late afternoon of 25 mph lashings from the west, while a fog rolled in bringing back the low visibility of our morning! Meanwhile, we came across many leads. We assembled the sleds into a raft again to cross one, a sequence which I am pleased to have on film. It will be in the documentary I am filming of this experience. One lead was a few hundred feet wide, and forced us to ski around it, which took almost two hours.

Overall, a day of epic contrast, and some of the more extraordinary visuals, much of which could not be committed to film as I have a technical breakdown, and my backup is almost out of battery! So disappointing…

We traveled for 14.5 hours and covered 14 nautical miles which hardly makes up for some 1.5 lost to last night’s drift. Our stopping position was N88°27.536 and W55°40.667. We are planning on cutting our sleep down from 7 to 5.5 hours and working on 20 hour days to increase our mileage and performance in the race to make the pole by the 26th… Henceforth–and sadly perhaps–blog entries will likely now be shorter! The pressure and focus is set on that goal. With one week to go, we will also need a little luck! Good night.

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