Tuesday, 19 May 2009
So we were now both wide awake at silly o’clock, might as well take the last few lazy steps to where we could call for a pickup which, being a Sunday, was unlikely to come till the next day. The ice had hardened with the cooler evening temperatures, and the with it the chance of me falling into very very deep snow covered hole were minimized. But unfortunately it still looked and felt as though someone had taken a sledge hammer to my feet. Every step was agonizing, “but only a couple of hours”, I cheerfully thought to myself!
Within 10 minutes we had already hauled our pulks over many ice boulders and up to a ridge. WOW! The sea of ice no longer stretched as far as the eye could see. Nope, it met land. A dusty gravelly landscape in the far distance, that was it. The end looked so easy. Spirits soaring and many a cheer and high five later we discovered a couple of steep slopes that we could sit on our pulks and slide down. This day was getting better and better. The next thing that stopped us in our tracks was a man made feature - skidoo tracks (a form of snow quad bike) and they appeared to be going where we had to go.
3km in and the ice boulders became the size of houses. The skidoo in out and over what can only be described as ice valley boulders until we were stopped yet again in our tracks. Altitude 700meters and the ice was melting, and fast, and the tracks were now covered in feet of water. Wading was no option - the kit and us would get wet as proved when one of my pulks accidentally slid into one of these pools and sank. We detached from our pulks and crawled on all 4’s up a house sized boulder on our left to find that there was no feasible way round and that the only option was to individually, one by one, lift and slide each pulk up the side and over the very steep sheer ice valley, made even trickier now that the soles of our shoes had become separated from our boots. Niall controlled the front and I controlled the back. One slip or mistake would see us and the pulks slide 20ft into the icy cold water.
Nearly 5 hours passed. We were 3 x slower then what it would usually take to cover that distance but inch by inch we edged and limped our way down and off the spectacular icy feature. “We’re off!!!”, indicated by Niall as he bent down and tenderly patted the first rock he found. “What’s that? Dude, people.’’ 3 figures appeared on the hillside. I jokingly shouted to Niall that maybe we could hitch a lift with them. The figures proceeded to scramble down the hill and greeted us. Hans Christian, a Danish carpenter, and his 2 colleagues had coincidentally come to see the ice. They couldn’t believe there eyes to see 2 tiny red, heavily bearded and burdened specks weave their way towards them. They had extremely kindly hung around to see if we needed a lift. Result! Call it fate or call it being jammy, either way A JOB WELL DONE.
During the drive back I saw some of the most beautiful countryside in all my life. Wild deer roaming free, stunning ice formations and a car stuck in ice blocking the road. The gathering crowd took great pleasure at mine and Niall’s appearances, especially our hobbling walk. Needless to say, yet another hurdle jumped. We’re now based in the very small town of Kangerlussuaq, population 700, but being on an ex-American air base there’s a bowling alley and a small shed here we consumed two long dreamt of family sized pizzas. Taking a shower and putting on clean clothes resulted in a shock as we realised how much weight we have lost. Although eating really well I’m going to say that I’ve lost over a stone and a half and Niall equally as much. Our heads with big hair and beards look ridiculous compared to our bodies. We fly back soon and have hundreds of photos of heads and beards for you guys so the shows not over yet. Just like to say thank you again for all of the support and I couldn’t have done it without you. And our position is nice warm bed stuffing mouths with Twix and Mars.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
The majority of this trip has been purely physical - put one leg in front of the other as many times as you can in a day and you will go far. Now, in it’s final stages, the trip is strangely cranial, each of us scanning the horizon for the best route through the minefield. And so, at a little before 8pm this evening, we chose a suitable campsite free of crevasses and pitched our tent one final time. Our position is 67 08.046’N, 49 53.519’W we are at 701m altitude, leaving us 41m to drop to Point 660, our finishing point, which we aim to reach by midday tomorrow. This trip has had a bit of everything - breakages, blisters, sunburn, snowblindness, frostbite (just a little bit, not to panic anyone at home), falling into crevasses and now at the very end this wonderful natural spectacle is providing one final obstacle. As Muzz and I sit here puffing on his Grandfathers pipe we are both filled with a great sense of satisfaction at what we’ve achieved these past 23 days. And it is with great pleasure that I can say tomorrow, day 24, we will take one final pained step and step off the ice and back onto land once more. Until next time my friends, adieu.
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
Be sure to learn your left from your right for an error in this most simple of tasks may one day prove fatal. So it was this morning for one unfortunate little bird. Wheatears are a common migratory bird who over winter in North Africa and spend their summers frolicking in northern Europe. They fly over the Sahara to Morocco and then over the straights of Gibraltar and onto mainland Spain. Once there they turn right and head for Europe. Unfortunately for Willy the Wheatear he turned left. He must have thought it odd, heading back out to sea again rather than gliding over the plains of Spain. But, ever confident in his sense of direction, he ventured onwards, 4000 miles over the North Atlantic to Greenland. He finally spotted somewhere to shelter, our tent as it happens, and settled down for the night. Unfortunately for Willy, wheatears aren’t adapted to -25C and he never woke up. But one person’s loss is another person’s gain and wheatear shish kebab made a fine change from the normal dehydrated rubbish.
Muzz and I flew out of the blocks today, taking advantage of perfect hauling conditions, nothing up 18.1km on the first two shifts. I tore away on the 3rd shift and really got into the zone. So much so that I only turned around to check Muzz was upright after 25mins, rather than 5 or 10 or so as usual. Unfortunately Muzz wasn’t very close. In fact he was over 2km away, walking in the opposite direction. I unhooked from my pulks and skied back to see what was up. “I’ve lost those RAB mittens,” said Murray, very forlorn and rather upset as they retail for about £200, “unless they’re in my bag.” “Muzz, if they’re in your bag I’m going to punch you in the jaw,” I said, as we’d used up two hours of searching. And guess what, they were in his bag. Poor Muzz looked so relieved that I spared him the concussion and we motored on. I stopped after another 9km shift to wait for Muzz to join me. As he arrived 25mins later he looked at me and said “uh oh”. And I was like, “oh no, what have you done this time, what have you lost, what have you broken.” But his beautifully working ski bindings had sheared in two. So we pulled for two hours with Muzz walking and me hauling 3 pulks. Tomorrow we’re going to screw his boot into the ski and continue on our way. We saw a remarkable thing today – distinctly coastal clouds. We are camped at 67 05.393’N, 48 32.398’W, altitude 1418m, a mere 65km from Point 660 – our official finish line. And we can see the clouds hovering where the sea must meet the land. Tomorrow we will keep our eyes peeled for anything that isn’t white, it may just be the sea. We hauled into a beautiful evening light today, the sun casting shadows over the ice. Murray commented how it made the ice look just like cooled down lava. “Nah mate, looks much more like granite to me”.
Right, I’m just going to go and pick some bits out of my teeth using Willy’s claw and put my head down for the night. Next time I write, well who knows where we’ll be.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Don’t think about time, don’t think about exhaustion, don’t think about pain. Bob’s Big Boy Burger, a sizeable mouth watering feast, only available at the one and only Kendricks restaurant in Dartmouth. I spent most of the day thinking about this almighty culinary experience - the hustle and bustle of the chaotic restaurant, the anticipation after ordering, the exciting first glimpses as the waiter brings it over, and then the blissful first bite. Hot digidy, that’s one tasty burger! Yes, the power of daydreaming is extraordinary but I sense all is about to become a reality as we now officially have under 100km to the finish. Our position is 67 01.222’N, 47 47.554’W, altitude 1606m.
I’m sure everyone at home (including myself) thought “oh, they’ve made it to the summit it should be easy, a case of sit on the sledge and slide all the way down hill and straight into the bar”. We couldn’t be more wrong. Since the summit we’ve had the coldest weather yet, below -30C, and as today proved we still have to fight for every inch. The day kicked off with some fresh snow and a whiteout. With lots of drag on the pulks and no horizon it gave the illusion that we were heading steeply uphill. We also weaved wildly the conditions made us take a bit of a zig zag route when it came to navigation. My heels had taken a literal beating on the previous day’s hard ice and had swollen and bruised and by early afternoon had become uncomfortable. So a combo of walking for 1hr, which is a tad more comfortable, and then skiing for 1hr was introduced. Our powers of British grit and determination and thoughts of the Bob’s Big Boy burger saw us complete our 30km quota.
A quick message from Niall to his girlfriend:
Congratulations Rachel on winning your canoe race, most impressive darling especially as you haven’t trained in two years.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
When the end is in sight just make sure you get there. It is true that most expeditions fail in the closing stages and it was just that stage in my Atlantic crossing, with 4-5 days to go, that we were blighted by the weather and forced onto the sea anchor for 75hrs. That is absolutely why Muzz and I need to concentrate fully and not let our guard down. In that way we will ensure that we will have more days like the one we've just had. We set off today at 2093m and descended to 1811m, speeding downhill at an average of well over 4km per hour and notching up 38.3km for the day. The pulks skated over the ice like Torville and Dean and Murray's polar elephants were nowhere to be seen. Tonight's camp at 66 57.449'N, 47 07.183'W sees us 139km from the finish, but we're well aware how cautiously we must proceed from here as both bodies and equipment can still fail.
Two days ago the pump on our stove gave out so we retrieved our spare and low and behold have halved the time it takes us to boil a full pot (which I'm delighted about as it gives me 30mins more sleep in the morning). I made a minor adjustment to my harness recently too. We were advised to wear our hauling harnesses like a belt. But much to Rachels disgust I wear my belts rather like Simon Cowell, up around my belly. Muzz suggested lowering it somewhat to reduce leverage from the pulks and it works a treat. I now look more like 50 Cent than Simon Cowell. Let's see if I return to my old ways upon my return to the UK.
I spent rather a long time today recalling a conversation I had with a drunken Eskimo in the bar in Tasiilaq. He sat next to me at the bar and gazed deeply into my eyes before saying "I can't". Now what he probably meant was "I cant focus on you" but I took it as more of a sentimental reflection on his life and proceeded to tell him about the little train that could, who plucks up the spirit to say "I know I can" when straining greatly to climb up a steep hill. I said all of this, gazing back into the crossed eyes before me, and then paused for a reaction, which was the very same, "I can't". This time he probably meant "I can't understand a word you're saying" or "I can't believe you're speaking philosophically about a childrens story". And indeed it is strange that at 27, and the veteran of several ultra endurance expeditions, I'm drawing strength from the little train who could, but I am. We can succeed on this expedition, I know we can.
As odd as it is for a human to have no horizon, as we have experienced in whiteouts here when your entire world revolves around the front of your skis, it is also rather bizarre, and rather wonderful, to have a 360 degree horizon. Not one blemish for as far as the eye can see, which at sea is approximately 3nm either side of you, so I must assume it's something similar here. At 5pm today our horizon suddenly dipped as the icecap turns towards the coast.
But it's getting late and I've got to read a few pages of Noddy and Big Ears to Muzz before beddy byes. Nighty night all.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
weather conditions , 18 days of sleeping in a tent, 18 days of numb
extremities, 18 days of navigating, 18 days of back aches, 18 days of
being woken up by splash of condensation in face, 18 days of having to
get up get to your destination, 18 days of not washing,, 18 days of
the most exposed toilet in planet.
By our calculations there's only another 6 or 7 days to go - so close
to pizza and sausages! An absolute beast of a day today- blue sky,
hard ground, and 32.6km covered. Our ski bindings held together with
bungee cord and luggage straps have held up. Niall has just mentioned
that we are now officially in arctic circle - and the temperature
reflects it our monitor only goes down to -25, and it spends over 5
hours a night below that, rising only to -16C even in the middle of
the day on the sunniest of days. We've been informed on the sat phone
that if the wind picks up we could be in for a wind chill of up to
-70! A big howdy-doody to all those of you following us - keep the
texts and questions coming. We hope the line on google earth is as
close to the west coast as we think it is. Our position is N66
52.295, W46 16.315
Monday, 11 May 2009
N.B. The support team checked in with Niall and Murray last night and they were in high spirits despite suffering somewhat from the extreme cold that they've been experiencing these past few days. If their paracord fixes to the bindings hold out they expect to finish in 7-8 days time. Don't forget to make a donation to our chosen charity Help for Heroes at www.justgiving.com/epicgreenland
We caned it big time, knocking out some big miles, however a mixture of extreme cold and using every muscle to stay upright using the wind must have taken it's toll. When the chips are down I find myself thinking of simply putting up the tent and rustling up a large glass of hot chocolate. But that's not possible because if we don't move we're simply not going to make it to civilisation and therefore pizza. Out here there aren't any taxis and no easy way out. It's a grim truth but thats the one that I love.
We received some messages from the SuperClubs and GoldStar Cafe crew which we're happy to answer.
Q. Have you seen any awesome stars or any northern lights?
A. The answer is unfortunately not because there is only about 1hr of darkness per night in the Arctic at this time of year. And I love sleeping, especially after a hard day's pulling.
Q. What's the coldest temperature?
A. We have a thermometer/wind gage which, as we found out 2 nights ago when we had it in the tent, went down to -21C and then simply said LOW and so we're sure it went further. Then yesterday morning we recorded a temperature of -15C, however it was mixed with a 42mph wind which produces something called wind chill which makes it feel as though it is actually about -36C. Needless to say if you take your gloves off for any longer than a couple of minutes then your hands will get frostbite and become totally unusable and literally freeze in these conditions.
Q. Is it fun or is it dangerous?
A. To be quite honest it's an incredible challenge both physically and mentally, primarily due to the location and the inherent dangers in a place like this. I would say the day to day grind of hauling has no fun attached to it at all but the sense of achievement is massive. It's like anything in life, whether it be exams or learning to play your favourite sport, you get out what you put in. If you try your hardest then I guarantee you'll get something beneficial out.
That's all folks! Time to stop Niall snoring and get some rest. Hope all's groovy.
Our position is 66 45.491'N, 45 13.400'W.
QUESTIONS FOR THE ADVENTURE CLUB KIDS
Why is it only dark for 1hr each night at the moment on the Greenland icecap?
What is the midnight sun and the polar night?
If the temperature is -20C and the wind speed is 35mph what would the wind chill factor be?
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Muzz averted a near disaster just in the nick of time yesterday. Having just been to the loo he forgot to do up his fly. We got off hauling in -18C with light headwinds when Murray suddenly noticed a sharp pain in his loins. He looked down and through his open fly he saw a large patch of frost on his boxer shorts. Sure enough, his skin had iced up too and it took some warming to regain any life between his legs.
Yesterday evening was tranquillity itself and this morning started in much the same vein. Muzz and I hauled alongside each other for the first time in nearly a week and we made great ground, covering over 7km in our first 2hr shift including a stop for me to change skis after one of my bindings snapped. The winds picked up and during our second shift force 3, touching force 4 and we were singing the praises of these katabatic winds as we cruised to 8km in our next 2hrs. 2hrs later and it was too windy and cold to dig into our bags for our water so we guzzled our rations in seconds and we were off again. The laces on my right boot loosened putting undue strain on my ankle, but to stop and retie would have meant certain frostbite. Force 4 turned to force 5 to force 6 to force 7 and before we knew it we were in complete whiteout. Unable to see anything until you skied over it, flying ahead of the winds in -15C plus considerable windchill with gusts of gale force 8. The conditions went from severe to extreme very quickly. It was far too dangerous to stop after our 4th 2hr shift so we just kept on going, hoping the wind and snow would subside. At this point it was vital we remained very close to each other to continually check on each other’s clothing and general state. We were in a serious snowstorm at –15 C and travelling very fast. We reached 3hrs since our previous break and the winds still had not abated. We now faced the task of erecting the tent in a gale. As soon as we stopped down jackets were donned which immediately eased the chill on our rapidly cooling bodies. We worked together as rapidly as possible and dug the tent in to withstand yet more serious weather and then dove inside for a Twix and a mars bar each. Conditions have been far to serious to faff around fiddling with the GPS checking distances so you can imagine my delight when I saw that we had covered 34.1km and now find ourselves at 66 40.970’N, 44 33.760’,W altitude 2338m. Today got mighty serious, not least for Muzz and his little night time mishaps. Here’s hoping it calms slightly tomorrow. This is Niall, warm, well fed and happy, if a little relieved that today is over. Signing out.
Friday, 8 May 2009
gone into spasm and i'm struggling to hold the phone. why so cold you
ask? because we're absolute ninjas and we're camped at the highest
point of our trip so far, 15 km past the summit of 2500m. Getting to
the summit is a great stepping stone on our voyage, both physically
and mentally. Only 280km til we get off this giant icecube - we're
going to push hard to get the miles in to achieve our goal. However
must be noted that most accidents happen on the descent, so don't
worry, we're going to be extra cautious and vigilant. hope you are all
well, and we'll update you when muscle control returns! Our position
is N66 35.657 W43 49.463, elevation 2471m
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Muzz and I are just cooking up supper after a cracking day at the oars. We hauled 30.3km and now find ourselves at 66 30.855N, 43 11.785W and at an altitude of 2471m. Conditions were ideal with cold temperatures giving us a hard surface all over and a friendly easterly wind helping us on our way. We're now 13km from the summit of our crossing so from tomorrow afternoon we will once again be bedfellows with Sir Isaac Newton. Let's hope that Admiral Beaufort stays kind to us and that Dr Richter steers clear of us altogether.
Muzz lived to eat his words about another item of my equipment today. First was my adventurous watch, the Casio F91W, available for under £8 at Argos and worn by all adventurers worth their salt, which has outlasted Murray's expensive Nike sports watch and continues to function perfectly. Then today was my fleece headband, sponsored to me by High Sports of Shrewsbury. Muzz has mocked how silly it makes me look but ate humble pie and shamefacedly asked to borrow it today. When the wind is biting at your ears and you're generating a lot of heat through exercise there's little better for the job than a fleece headband. I have been asked to write my motivations for being here. Why would I want to manhaul across Greenland, or row the Atlantic, or climb a mountain like Half Dome? It's difficult to give a straight answers but I suppose I want to do this for exactly the same reasons that you might want to jump off the top diving board at the swimming pool. Firstly, because it's there, then there's because of the personal challenge of it and because you've seen other people do it and want to give it a try yourself. And then there's the knowledge of how great you'll feel once you've done it, the sense of pride and achievement. We all remember jumping off that top board for the first time and how good it felt. And then there's that feeling that you just kind of have to do it even though it could go really wrong, i.e. you might bellyflop. I also derive a huge amount of inspiration from my friends and family. And in turn I want to inspire them and others to do great things with their lives - to do more than sit at home watching match of the day and eating a microwave meal. I have always taken great inspiration from a poem called 'If' by Rudyard Kipling, the man who wrote the 'Just So' stories and I implore all you guys at SuperClubs Plus and GoldStar Café to read it. This is my minute and I'm filling it. Finally, and in much more an immediate way, I do things like this so that I can have experiences like that which Murray and I had yesterday. It was nearly 8pm and we'd been out for just under 12 hours when the sun broke through the clouds directly in front of us. It hung there, a giant orange glow casting the most mysterious light over this remarkable landscape. Every tiny flake of snow that fluttered to earth in the still air was caught by the sun's rays and shone like a speck of falling gold dust. That vision alone is reason enough for me to be here. Goodnight everyone and sweet dreams.
TO THE ADVENTURE CLUB KIDS:
What did Sir Isaac Newton discover and how does it relate to Niall and Murray heading down from the summit?
What did Admiral Beaufort invent a measure for and what is it called?
What did Dr Richter invent a measure for and is there any chance of Niall and Murray experiencing what it measures in while they're on the icecap?
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
This appeal for help comes from Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh.
The Dhaka Project is a humanitarian community service founded by an Emirates Airline cabin assistant, of Portuguese nationality , two and a half years ago. We now have 700 children from nursery school to Class 6 levels under our care and attention.
We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to build a full and rewarding life. At The Dhaka Project, we maximise human potential. We try to bring hope to the children of Dhaka, Bangladesh, by providing sustainable skills and dignity needed to better their lives.
We envision lifetime transformation.
Our mission is to create a safe and nurturing environment so that poor, underprivileged children in Dhaka can be developed to become the best that they can be, and rescued from the miserable depths of abject poverty.
Apart from donations that come from the world over, and especially from the financial generosity of the Emirates Airline Foundation, we also need help from professionally qualified individuals with a range of experience and skills that can change the lives of these marginalised kids.
We need people who have experience and skills in the following areas of specialty:
English Language teaching for elementary learners .
Computer teaching geared towards children IT education.
Extra curricular activities eg. drama, music. sports, dance, any kind of performing art.
Teaching another language besides English like French, Spanish, German etc.
Help in putting in place administrative work processes & procedures for the schools.
Working on improving existing school curriculum.
Counselling programme for families of children under our care as well as child counselling.
Health, dental, eye care support from doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists, paediatricians.
Teaching children about the World and Global culture.
Instilling confidence and a sense of security through child psychology and personality development.
Environmental awareness program to inculcate into the young a love and caring for the environment in which they live in.
However, any other specialty experience and skills not listed above will still be considered in the context of the developmental needs of the children.
For more background information on The Dhaka Project's activities, as well as insights into what our volunteers say, do visit this website :
Volunteers-of-the-World, come and share your experience and your life with the children of The Dhaka Project. They await you with open hearts and excited anticipation.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device
in by severe winds, we woke to find a beautiful day, not breath of
wind and sheet ice - perfect. The temperature dropped to -20 during
the night, and then warmed to -18 when it came to packing up and
making a move. The day although very successful, in that we set
covered a new pb of 28.7 km, was riddled with a number murray
classics, starting with putting a metal clip in my mouth to free my
hands when packing up the pulks, which then stuck to my tongue, and a
mini tug of war ensued. 4 km in, and looking back to admire the
distance covered, I realised my thermos was missing, which is an ultra
important bit of kit due to limited supply and the fact it contains
3/4 of my days fluids, so a 4km dash back to recover was necessary.
The rest of the day went rather well, with conditions as pleasant as
could be. We just had some supper - chilli con carne, applied to
extremely dry cracked lips this caused a vibrant sting. on that note
i'd like to wish my cuz Dale luck on his first peaks mission, and
massive thanks to doms charity contribution in sport, its cracking to
have support of the community. Our position today is N66 25.576 W42
33.235, elevation 2374m
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Things are really rather serious today and are both eagerly anticipating a return to relative normality tomorrow.
Our position remains 66 20.476'N 41 56.849'W, altitude 2238m.
We are well rested but we are both in need of the loo. A polar poop is quite out of the question in conditions like these. A big polar hello to all of the kids at SuperClubs Plus and GoldStar Cafe. We will toast you a warm cup of hot chocolate tonight. We hope you are enjoying following our journey and are very much uplifted by your support. My love also to Rachel and my family.
Monday, 4 May 2009
We’ve walked another 24.1km today, taking us ever closer to our summit of 2500m. We had a rise and fall of 20C with -17C in the morning and a tropical 3C mid afternoon and then inevitably back down for the night. Preparing for such temperature fluctuations requires a range of personal equipment and layers including my daily clothing system which includes a t-shirt/board shorts base layer followed up with skiing trousers and a breathable jacket with a coyote fur lined hood which totally encloses our faces and protects us from the bitterly cold wind and snow. If conditions worsen we have a neoprene face mask and an emergency coat and gloves which are lined with goose feathers, otherwise known as down, and act just like a duvet. After a long day and back in the tent and the games commence in order to decide who has to get out of their sleeping bag and make dinner.
Our position is 66 20.476'N 41 56.849'W
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Our day starts at around 6.30am when I wake up and put the stove on while Muzz grabs and extra 30mins of beauty sleep. The stove takes about an hour to melt all our snow for the day so we busy ourselves preparing our drinks and food and calling in our position to the staff at Expedition Greenland. After breakfast we pack up and haul out for the day. Each of us completes 4 leads where we break a trail through the snow for the other person. We have increased the time of these leads to 75mins to add more hours to our hauling day. After each pair of leads we stop for a bit of food and drink. The food is things like raising and peanuts and muesli bars - all high in calories and mostly quite tasty. Once we finish our day's hauling we whiz the tents up, brush off all the ice from the inside caused by condensation from breathing and cooking freezing on the tent walls and pile snow up around the tent to protect us from the wind. The stove goes on again for the evening's drinks and food. For meals we eat freeze dried packets of expedition food. Muzz is relatively new to this game so the novelty of these meals is yet to wear off. But I spent 63 days eating this rubbish and it all tastes the same to me, it all tastes of dung. We add 50g of butter and 50g of cheese to these meals for extra calories and creamy consistency and add salt and pepper to try and give it some flavour. Every night we brush the snow and ice off our boots and use them as a part of our pillow to keep them from freezing too much. It's time for bed. Muzz drops straight off while I read about while I read about the evolution of human nature.
We had a storming day today, pulling 27.2km And we are now at camp 10 and our position is 66 16.075'N 41 26.511'W and an altitude of 2125m above sea level.Today's blog has been a bit more factual and a bit less rambling. I promise I will return to my usual rambling self tomorrow. Today's been a great day, here's hoping for more of the same tomorrow. Happy bank holiday all.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
PS I overheard Niall talking hygiene in the previous blog. You will be glad to know that I’ve decomissioned my t-shirt after 165hrs of use.
Our position is 66º11.011’N, 40º52.566’W and elevation 1978m
Muzzy and Nially signing off
N.B. I was unable to distinguish what Muzz was saying at one point so the above blog is missing part of a sentence.
Friday, 1 May 2009
Apologies for the delayed posting of Murray's day 7 blog. The support team spent a long time on the phone to the boys yesterday and we didn't want to cause unecessary alarm until we had dealt with the situation.
Snow blindness passes within a couple of days and we would like to reassure everyone, especially Murray's loved ones, that he will be absolutely fine. The boys have access to a group of highly trained Royal Marines and people with lengthy experience in the Arctic. Yesterday we spoke to all of them and, based on their advice, the boys were able to make some well informed decisions as to how to proceed. Their response was exemplary and there is no doubt in my mind they will complete this adventure safely.
Snow blindness is essentially sunburn of the retina. The best way to cure it is to cover the eyes completely, which is what we've done today. But there are several methods of soothing the discomfort. One that was recommended to us on the sat phone today was to place cold, wet tea bags on his eyelids. I had a quick look at our store of all of our tea, all citrus flavours, not exactly ideal to have lemon tea in your eyes "that's a negative on the tea, we've got loads of coffee though if that helps". Murray spent the day with a snow wet pair of used long johns wrapped around his face. Eating has become a two man operation, as has drinking. You can imagine my consternation when Muzz announced that he needed to pee. While Murray's been blindfolded Ive taken the opportunity to swap all the rubbish bits of food out of my food store for all the scrummy bits in his. And as for his toothbrush, he's going to get a big surprise tonight when he goes to brush his teeth as I've had all kinds of fun with that!
Today has been predominately about caution. Muzz is very tough and very brave and we could have been gung ho and pushed on. But what with a third party being evacuated from the icecap these past two days we well appreciate the necessity of a pragmatic approach to this challenge.
We have consumed our regular daily rations so our bodies will be enjoying a 2,500 calorie surplus tonight. It's now a week since we were dropped off onto the ice and over 2 weeks since leaving the comfort of home. This means a week without washing… for Murray… and 2 weeks for me. Amazingly though, we don't appear to be smelling too bad.
People have been asking what we do to occupy ourselves in the evenings. Aside from cooking, eating and drinking we chat a lot. There are so many interesting things to discover about each other that we are never short of conversation. We sometimes play scrabble (I won tonight) and each evening one of us gets out the pen and paper to write a daily blog.
Here are a couple of other interesting little titbits from our daily routine:
Toothpaste freezes at this temperature so we brush our teeth using tooth power. It takes about 45mins to melt enough snow for our food and drink every morning and evening. We are taking an extreme mix of nutrient tables to replace lost vitamins and electrolytes (a cocktail of NUUN, Berocca and Ola Loa) so much so that I feel like the Keith Richards of the adventuring world. The expedition beards are progressing nicely. Muzz has some great coverage and I look more and more like Confucius every day.
We didn't move far today but for those wanting to plot our position for camp 8 our position is: 66 08.203'N 40 34.319'W
We are well rested and, after a week on the ice, well into our routines. Everything is slick and efficient. Both of us are eagerly looking forward to continuing our journey westwards safely, rapidly and in high spirits. I'm off to get some more coffee for Muzz's eyes. Speak to you all again soon.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
7am and on with the snow. Melt ice, make drinks and then breakfast. Eat. Get out of warm sleeping bag. On with the salopettes, harness and jacket. Retrieve dry and very, very smelly socks from bottom of sleeping bag. A bit of foot surgery. Squeeze feet into what we pray will be dry and flexible boots, and curse when they're frozen stiff. Pack everything and time to brave the conditions. Packing everything into pulks (sledges) has to be done as fast as possible or your extremities freeze pretty rapidly.
9am and we set out into what we can only describe as a blank white canvas. Visibility is about 15-20m, there is no sense of up or down, left or right. This becomes more and more apparent over time. When walking with no horizon you simply don't even know if you're standing upright. Niall has mastered the art of using a GPS and tracks a very, very fast straight line. I discovered in the early hours that my GPS kept losing signal. This mixed with no land reference and my blurred vision meant walking in a straight line is a bit trickier than usual. However it turned out that it was my old friend the wind that was to come to my aid. By using my body as a weather vain I discovered that I could track on an impressive straight line. So much so that I spent my leading hours with my eyes closed. Partly because my eyes stung, partly because the goggles were steamed up, partly because I could focus better and think of burgers, chocolate and jacuzzis, but mainly because there was absolutely nothing else to see. But we still managed to bash out a 22.1km stint with over 200m altitude. Over 8hrs of constant walking. Much credit to Niall who led some shifts of over 3km per hour.
We are settled in for the night and ready for the next day. Our position is 66 07.951'N 40 32.559'W
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Staring up at us from our skis is a portrait of Roald Amundsen, the first man to the south pole and one of the world's finest polar explorers. I take great inspiration from this image as it encourage us to follow his example in our own adventures. Much to my amusement Amundsen bears a striking resemblance to Lenin whose example, it must be said, should not be followed.
We are snuggled into camp six at 20.4km from camp 5 after our best day on the ice to date. I wanted us each to lead 4x1hr shifts, totalling 8hrs of hauling, as had been the plan yesterday, and today we managed it. We stepped out of our tents to -10°C ambient temperatures and force 4 winds making for a challenging start. But once again the winds were on our tail aiding our progress enormously.
Every man should grow a beard at least once in his life, if testosterone levels allow for it, and every man who years for adventure should live one day to see ice falling on said beard. I have now lived that dream. Unfortunately i have had a stinking cold these past few days (must be chilly over here) so the ice in my moustache has taken on a ghastly green hue. Not quite as dignified as could be. My appearance continues to amuse Muzz. He and Pete found it most gratifying that i was able to assimilate myself into Eskimo society so easily. Having been spoken to in Italian in the Pizza Express at Hampton Court, in Arabic at the pyramids of Giza, Punjabi in the bazaars of Delhi and in Spanish (with a heavy Mexican accent) wherever I have travelled, I can now add east Greenlandic to the list of languages i have been mistakenly adressed in.
The sun came out briefly this afternoon and when it does it illuminates a million and one ice crystals that sparkle away before us. It is the most awe inspiring site.
The forecast for the next few days looks a little better than for the previous 2 and we will attempt another full 8hrs of hauling tomorrow with me cracking the whip. Rest assured that we are paying close attention to our tent and calorie routines which are running very smoothly. We are consuming around 4,500 calories per day all told, drinking 3.5L of fluids and getting a good number of hours in the sack. I am well aware how important it is to maintain a rigorous diet and rest program and how this is absolutely key to our ability to knock out some big miles. It's calm outside and its -3.5°C inside and it's time to hit the hay. Hasta luego from Niall the green bearded Eskimo.
Our position is 66°03.717'N 40°05.208'W and altitude 1673m.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Today we were blessed with a strong tailwind. As a cyclist I have often heard tell of tail winds but have only ever experienced those directly in my face. I always assumed that these winds were punishment from God for not believing in Him (Her/It/Them) and that they were a great divine flatulence aimed directly in my direction. Today, thankfully, the wind was off our starboard stern quarter making navigation using the wind particularly easy, were it not for homing pigeon syndrome. I managed to override this syndrome early in the day but Muzz still found himself curving away at 45 degrees every few minutes until the wind was directly in his face. Then he stood there confused for a while until a quick GPS check confirmed his suspicions, he'd gone wrong again. We made good ground before lunch but Muzz's feet developed blisters on his blisters in the afternoon and we called it a day an hour earlier than planned. Still, having spoken to the MD of Expedition Greenland this morning it sounds like we're putting in more miles than most people manage to do at this stage as we steadily scale the parabolic icecap of Greenland. The daytime temperature stayed steady at -8C today, dipping to below -9C by the time we called it a day at 6pm. Muzz and I no longer refer to temperature as minus anything, it is simply 8 or 9 degrees. We had a steady 15-18knots of wind today so if someone could do the maths for a wind chill I'd be very grateful.
Now we're hunkered down and the wind is up at around 20 knots, gusting 25. We're in for a cold one tonight. I hope all is well with everyone at home and you are enjoying plotting our position on Google Earth. Morale here is high. We are enjoying the challenge and enjoying taking the mick out of each other. Muzz's socks are safely warming in his sleeping bag and we're about to tuck into some dehydrated dung. This is Niall (the left handed pigeon) signing out.
The position for day 5 is 65 59.639N 39 40.208W
Monday, 27 April 2009
Loving the sat phone messages.
Our position is 65 54.36'N 39 19.159'W
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Current position 65°50.453’N 38°59.714’W
Our first night position was 65°35.787’N 38°44.230’W.
The most stunning morning awaits, blue skies, sun and a really hard crispy crust to the snow - perfect for pulling sledges. We start slow but quickly pick up the pace, averaging a reasonable 3km per hour. All good until 12, when that beautiful sun was to curse us, the snow becoming soft and the pulks became sticky and digging in. By 12.30 Murray’s well judged combo of t-shirt and shorts was still not enough to keep cool. Leaking like sieves at 8km in, we sit on the pulks and literally chill out. After munching on a bag of peanuts we reluctantly return to the process of the pulling game. Walking beside one another I remark to Niall how the sleds feel much heavier after the break. Niall, however, stays silent, which I pass off as him thinking I’m a wuss. Then I look behind us and I notice that Niall has inadvertently left the pulks 100m behind us. A 1/1 draw in the lost stakes! 700m up and all limbs are aching, straining and cramping. We decide on a halt at 750m altitude. However the last kilometre would prove to be the hardest – very steep and very mogly. It requires every morsel of energy to reach our goal. Normal strides are not an option. An inch by inch approach is required. Every couple of metres the sleds are grinding to a halt which only a full lean forward so your face is only inches off the ground will cure , allowing a couple of inches forward motion. It can only be compared with having a tug of war competition with your local rugby team, none of whom are on your team. We reach our goal and the sense of achievement is outweighed by our need to recoup. After rapidly erecting the tent and getting a brew on the temperature drops to -20°C and snow and wind kicks in. We have 8km and 15m altitude until we reach the cap of the icecap and this should flatten up somewhat, allowing us to put in some 12 hour walking days and clock up some of our 350 required miles. Let’s hope the weather holds.
Getting some wicked messages through from you guys and it makes a fantastic difference to morale. Hope you’re all well and we’ll update ASAP. If you’re tracking us on Google Earth our current position is :
Saturday, 25 April 2009
On Thursday 23rd, after a bon voyage to Birdy, we get the call which we had much anticipated. Game on! It's 4pm and the sun shines brightly over the heliport. We lug our full pulks onto the scales at the check in. "Aih, aih, aih, wow !" exclaims the shocked check in girl at the total of 170kg. The bulk of this weight caused by my two tee shirts, one pair of underwear and extortionate amounts of freeze dried food and fuel. Approximately 1.5kg of food per person per day. We load up the helicopter and after a brief consultation with the pilot, giving him our GPS coordinates, we hear the unmistakable sounds of the engines igniting. Moments later we're cruising and weaving only a couple of hundred feet above the iceberg riddled eastern coastline, the snow covered fjords rising high above us. Both of us are in awe at the sheer barren landscape. The helo circles, trying to find an appropriate landing spot. As we drop lower the fjords rise higher and the glacier acting as our doorway to the icecap becomes more obvious. As soon as the helicopter leaves a faint ringing and eerie silence presents itself. We are truly all alone!
Our position is N65' 37.5 W38' 39.5
N.B. Niall and Murray are using the sat phone to call my voicemail and dictate their blogs. Unfortunately the rest of this message was inaudible, but they will attempt to leave it again tonight so check back tomorrow for more.
Friday, 24 April 2009
After all of the drama with the other team Niall and Murray eventually made it out yesterday afternoon and managed to fit in 2hrs skiing, covering 6km, before pitching camp for the night. They called me at 1am (I think the cold had already made them have a time difference brain malfunction) last night to say things were great, at least that's what I think they said - the connction was so bad I could barely make out a word. I was expecting a call this morning with a full update but they're clearly having problems picking up a signal on the sat phone. By about 3pm I was getting slightly anxious so I called Matt at Expedition Greenland who informed me they'd left a message this morning with their position and that all was well. Minor panic over.
And while EPIC Greenland has been kicking off I have been consoling myself over not being out on the ice by starting to look for a boat for EPIC Tasman, and this week I think I found the perfect one. When I called Tara to tell her the news she was like a kid in a candy store. So she and I are about to launch headfirst into ocean rowing expedition madness - chasing up sponsors, calling in favours and begging, borrowing and stealing everything we need to get ourselves and the rest of the team to the start line next January. We are eternally optomisitic that this will happen but are quite reliant on sponsorship and grants so the candy store kids are having to keep one foot firmly in their boxes and remember that we might not be able to pull this around in 7 months and may have to postpone until 2011. It's been a very difficult time for many expedition teams lately. The current economic climate is making us all feel like Indiana Jone chasing after his unreachable holy sponsorship grail.
And some icing on the cake (yes a sweet treat themed blog today) was Ed D suggesting we all do an ultramarathon later this year. Ed J has already done one so I'll leave them, and anyone else on the team mad enough to torture themselves, to their little bit of lunacy. In my mind this fits into the same bag that ocean rowing fits into for most of our readers - the absolutely stark raving bonkers loony nut house bag. But then we wouldn't be able to live up to our motto of venturing where few dare if that weren't the case.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
I'm here to say how the last week have changed
my mind and my way to see how my life is.
One hour ago I was in front of the sea (Atlantic Ocean) with my best friend Aline, crying and bored about life.
This time was different. I just dicided to chance my life 'cause I'm a 33 years old girl who reached my goal in life.
When I was a kid my dream was to become an architect. I made my dream come true 2 years ago but everything
continues boring. I suddenly noticed that life is nothing but a cycle, where people born, graduate, get in to a
relationship, have kids, go to work and do it over and over again.
Seriously: I don't want this kind of life to me!
And last week I saw 2 things on TV (I usually turn the Tv on just to sleep with the sound from the machine...).
One: I was watching "Whales War", where a group of people fight to save whales lives. On this TV show a guy
said something like that: "There's 6.5 billion people in the world, and only 37 people are in the middle of
nowhere to fight for this". It was a strong and touched me! Two: Last week I just saw the last episode of
Last Man Standing on Discovery Channel. I was amazed about the places, the goals, the determination of you guys.
In the past, few years ago, I used to think: "I prefer stay at home watching TV instead of climbing a frozen
mountain and feeling cold. *WTF* these guys are doing??? Get a life!"
Yesterday I was on the internet and looking for videos of you on LMS, I've found (I don't know how!) the
wherefewdare.com and I saw about the challenges, about the bio of everyone of you and I felt happy 'cause
you guys still on this type of life, looking for challenges and looking for make difference in this boring life.
There's a Pete's quote: "One day I hope I'll be able to retire peacefully and look back and think I did something with my life".
Now I changed my point of view. Completelly! Life is not all about have a great job, children, a wife/husband,
have a dog and die. This is not life. Not to me.
I feel inside of me something huge, something beautiful and this kind of life I'm living it's not the life I wanted.
I wanna do (I WANT TO DO!) something huge, something beautiful. I WANT TO MAKE DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE ALSO!
I can't continue living this life of cycle. Life is not only writing a book, have a son and plant a tree. We need a reason to live or die for.
I wanna see the world from the top!
See you guys on TV doing the most incredible things and now continuing with the challenges is amazing...
I'm jealous of you! In a good way of course. I wish I could be like you and make the difference. Not be like
everybody else. I don't want to be an ordinary person. But I am one now.
And tonight, next to my best friend, she said: "You changed my life 'cause you gave me help when I most
needed". And I said: "That's great. But it's time to change MY LIFE now. Enough. Today is the first day of the rest of my life".
And now I'm here, writting this long letter, just to say "thanks"!
Inspired by the attitude of you guys I decided to break that cycle of my life and do something to live (or die) for.
I don't know exactly what to do but I realized something: this city is too small for me!
I hope in the end of this year I'll be able to go to another country to build houses to poor pleople, to save
animals lives, to climb a frozenmountain... whatever! Maybe in Afrika, in London, in USA, in Australia...
I don't care! I am an open-minded person and I need goals in my life. I NEED. I only ask to God an opportunity
to initiate this change. Maybe this opportunity was see you guys in action, and read about Tara's, Niall's, Margaret's,
Pete's and Ed's lives. This kind of thing inspires me!
And Edward: you are the most incredible person in this world! Your determination is brilliant and very inspiring!
I definitely want to be someone like you, who make the challenges a reason to life worth it!
Thank you guys (one more time) and good look to the whole team. I wish the best every momment of this adventure.
I'm following you on Twitter. I look forward to see the triumph of you!
God bless you guys and take (a lot of) care!
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Pete is returning home in a couple of days and will bring photos and videos from the training week back with him so we'll post them over the weekend. Keep leaving your messages of support on the homepage. I will pass them onto the boys when we speak.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Just a quicky, to say that me and some random I picked up from the rainforests of Guyana have ended up getting grounded in Iceland due to bad weather, on our way to traverse the Greenland Icecap. I can pretty much garentee that things are going to get alot worse, primarily cause i dont have the BBC to organise my ass.
The first scrabble took place during the delay at the airport, which established Niall as a narrow champion, and Murray as a good ´vocational studies´candidate...so far.
So we spent the day preparing for the adventure ahead by heading to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa - silica mud (´spunk´) was liberally applied to faces, and an invigorating exfoliation was had by all.
Here´s hoping the weather is better tomorrow for our hop to Kulusuk, and the ongoing helicopter flight to the expedition base at Tasiilaq.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
So we've lost Pete who has now redeployed to 'ghanners'. But one gone and another returns - Niall arrived back from his 6-week field trip to Guyana and leapt straight into expedition prep mode with me. We are up to our ears in website creation, starting to consider the daunting prospect of how much we have left to organise for Greenland, and trying to find a guide to lead us across the icecap. Not to mention the permit application that should have been submitted two weeks ago! I'd forgotten how exped prep can consume ones entire existence.
Murray has been in touch from Antigua with news of an EPIC kitesurfing mission from Antigua to St Barts. Despite running into some pretty rough conditions he made it in one piece. Although he couldn't find anywhere to stay in St Barts so after a seven and a half hour kite surf he slept soggy and exhausted on the beach before kiting to St Martin the next day where some friendly people took pity on him and offered him a passage back to Antigua. He is booking his flight home and will be returning imminently to get involved with prep for Greenland. We sorely need his help so can't wait to have him home.