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.