Hard Days Work

April 12, 2009 4:16am

It’s hard to think of anything good to say about 25
knot Arctic winds whipping you all day with it’s frozen razor lashes.
But I did come up with one. Well, two if you count wind direction which
in this case was from the south/west and thus not head on (we are
headed north–but of course you knew that). The one good thing about a
cold wind beating you senseless while pulling a heavy sledge is that,
while the fine snow powder can become a blanket of liquid-smoke by your
feet, it is also hardening the ice. And this makes pulling a sledge
lighter. It is a trade-off. But behind the protection of a good
fur-ruffed hood, and with proper wind resistant clothing, and so long
as the wind does not blow directly in you face, the experience can be
less unbearable than would seem. It reduces the field of vision to what
is directly in front of you– which can feel isolating or cozy,
depending on how you look at it. Breaks are very short because the wind
does not like you to stop. Conversation is minimal, and focus is high,
especially now, given the time pressure we are on if we are going to
make the pole. We are fighting a south drift which is like running the
counter backwards: every 8 hours or so, we lose a hard fought for mile
to the Arctic sea drift; like walking on a treadmill.
Our first
order of the evening last night was to dry my clothes from the swim I
took that day. They were frozen into hard ice and weighted near 40
pounds! Then we elected to lose some lest from the re-supply, which
meant throwing away a lot of food, primarily our “treats” which amount
to things like bread, cheese, and extra meal items. To make more daily
mileage, it is now necessary for us to be lighter, thus faster. While I
hate littering out here (we have been religious about carrying our
trash) there is a neat bag with 40 ponds’ worth of frozen food which
will either make 1) an Inuit family believe in Santa Claus 2) a polar
bear finally feel justified in traveling these 3) a nice archeological
find one day.
Terrain was really tough for our first few hours,
negotiating a difficult maze of pressure ridges, the tallest we’ve had
to climb (up to 15 feet). The pans were short and hard fought for. This
tested our spirit; in three hours we covered about a mile… We came
upon a narrow thinly frozen lead which, given yesterday’s experience,
had us play very safe: we tied the two sledges together and tested the
manufacturer’s claim that the float, no matter what. We climbed onto
them, and broke the ice ahead of us to clear a passage–that took some
time. Finally, in the afternoon, the terrain started to open up a bit,
and we got to buy some mileage back. In the end we skied 14.5 hours and
only managed 11 nautical true north miles. Our current position is
N87°30.030 and W74°54.528. We are drifting East fast–the decimal
points on the GPS are literally rolling. We have tried to compensate
but I believe this will reverse… Temps were mild but for the wind, at
about minus 22F degrees. That’s it for now. Tomorrow will be opppp!

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