Distance to go:
Ben and Tarka will cover 1800 miles starting from Scott's Terra Nova Hut at the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back to the coast again. That's equivalent to 69 back-to-back marathons hauling up to 200kg each (the weight of roughly two adult men) of kit and supplies necessary to survive.
Distances here are shown in statute miles.
Al’s Crow’s Feet
As I lie on my side in the tent trying to decide what to write about, I catch sight of my reflection in the small, handheld gadget I’m typing this on.
I look old.
My woolly hat is low over my brow. My eyes look tired and drawn. Wrinkle lines radiate from the corners. And we have only been out on the ice for a few days. What, I keep asking myself, will I be like after 110 days and 1800 miles of Antarctica have finished with me?
All three of us are in a strange position: we have each done enough to not need to prove anything to other people or to ourselves. This can make the cold, plodding, difficult grind of an expedition feel somewhat daft. As we took off our skis and unclipped our harnesses after one hard day’s hauling, we each confessed that, independently, each one of us had been mulling over other less painful options for life (wedding photographer; writer; teacher).
We all laughed at that, relieved perhaps to discover we were not alone. But also because we each know we would actually find it very hard to leave all this behind. Greenland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been – the mountains, the vastness, the solitude – and it’s a privilege to have it as my office. And I am realising out here that the three of us are in a very exciting position. Although we have all done interesting things, we are now in a position to begin something really difficult and significant in our lives.
We do not know if we will succeed (it would be pointless if it was guaranteed). But we are discovering out here in Greenland that we have one of the key ingredients for a successful expedition.
It’s the single best way of diffusing tensions, making light of misery and keeping things fun and positive.
So far we are all getting on very well. Ben and Martin talk about North Pole trips, Martin and I discuss photography, and we all chat together about what Antarctica will be like and how we can boost our chances of success down there.
So long as the tent remains full of laughter and good-natured mickey-taking then I believe our prospects are very good indeed.
The prospects, however, for my wrinkle-free, youthful good looks seem rather less positive.