As you might have noticed - our interactive map has been moved.
We wanted to show you that our focus has changed from the Expedition to the Foundation. If you're looking for the map, and want to listen to those daily broadcasts from Antarctica click here
Instead of working on my dissertation or reading up for an upcoming exam (I have a worryingly low attention span - as I'm sure my final marks will show), I've just finished watching the last episode of Michael Palin's Pole to Pole.
In the episode he manages to get to the South Pole, and if you haven't seen it already I really recommend it as it shows you what its like out there/ down there in glorious technicolour. He is able to walk around the world (around the South Pole itself) in 8 seconds which is something that I can't wait to try out when I get down there.
The whole thing becomes a bit more real when you see other people doing it, rather than just daydreaming about how cold it is going to be in the not-too-distant future.
The Antarctic is the most remote and coldest place on Earth. These two facts make it critical and yet very difficult to maintain contact with the outside world.
First and foremost, we need to keep our logistics provider abreast of our progress and location. We may also need a means of contacting the resident Patriot Hills doctor, for diagnosis and treatment. Next, we want to send daily updates, containing written entries, photos and video footage, to this website. Finally, it will be incredibly valuable for us and our families to be able to communicate whilst we're on the ice.
Severe cold devours batteries and electronics. We'll need to ensure that all batteries are warmed before drawing on their power, otherwise they will go flat in a flash. The best way of warming batteries and electronic devices is to carry them deep within our clothing, so they pick up our radiant body heat. We'll sew additional pockets into our inner layers for this purpose.
Well be using lithium batteries, which are lighter and more resistant to cold than standard alkaline batteries. We'll also limit our use of batteries to an absolute bare minimum. For example, we'll only use our GPS once a day, to record our log and to help set our bearing for the following day. We will also use rechargeable batteries wherever possible, harnessing the 24 hour daylight in solar panels for recharging.
So, what electronic gadgets are we taking? Basically, the bare minimum to keep the weight down.
Firstly, we'll take two (lest one fails for any reason or is accidentally broken) Garmin Geko 201 GPS units with us. They're very light, simple to use, waterproof and robust. No frills - none needed. In days of old, expeditioners used wheels on the back of their pulks to log distance covered. A GPS dispenses with this.
Next come our communications. We'll be taking two Iridium 9505A Satellite Phones. They work wherever satellites are overhead, i.e. pretty much anywhere. We've been using these throughout our training and they provide remarkably clear contact with the outside world from the wilderness.
We'll use the satphones to provide live updates, in conjunction with two (again in case one loses the will to live) Ipaq HX2400 expedition PDAs. These have been well tested on polar expeditions and are smaller, lighter and tougher than laptops. Each PDA will have Contact 4.0 software downloaded onto it, provided by Human Edge Tech. The software will enable us to upload pictures, videos and dispatches straight away onto this site. The PDAs will also need to be kept warm, which means they will get to luxuriate in our sleeping bags each night. Lucky them.
On the photography side, we'll each be taking a digital camera, which again we'll keep close to our bodies to keep them warm, plus one digital videocam between us.
All this will be powered by a Survivor 10 solar panel, made by Solar Blazt. It's tough, flexible, waterproof and folds up neatly. It's our lifeline with the outside world so we will care for it lovingly.
Finally, we'll each take an ipod. In theory, they'll add non-essential weight. In practice, one of the hardest parts of Antarctic travel is maintaining high spirits when there is nothing to take your mind of the hardship and drudgery of your daily grind. To give an indication of the feeling of endlessness brought on by travelling across the polar landscape, Ranulph Fiennes and Mike Stroud came back for their transantarctic expedition short-sighted because the only thing they could focus on for weeks on end, was the tips of their skis. When all around you is never-ending white, the stimulation and escapism provided by an ipod will quite literally be music to our ears.
1 Vapour barrier liner
1 Sleeping bag (eg Rab) good for -250C
1 Synthetic outer bag (NOT waterproof or Dryloft) (optional)
1 Foam mat (eg Thermarest Ridgerest regular)
1 Thermarest (eg Thermarest Trail Comfort regular)
1 Zipped/buckled bag to hold sleeping system (if not outer bag)
1 Eye mask (eg Jetrest/Dreamessentials Infinity sleep mask)
2 Pants/boxers (merino wool/synthetic) (optional)
2 Base layer long johns (merino wool/synthetic)
1 Fleece trousers
1 Softshell trousers (NOT goretex) (eg Paramo/Rab/Wintergreen)
2 Base layer top (merino wool/synthetic)
1 Thin fleece top
1 Thick fleece/insulated top
1 Windproof jacket (NOT goretex) (eg Paramo/Rab/Wintergreen)
1 Fur ruff for jacket
1 Down Jacket with hood (eg Rab)
3/4 Inner socks (merino, eg Bridgedale/X-socks )
2/3 Vapour barrier sock liner (eg RBH Designs)
3/4 Outer socks (eg RBH Designs Insulated sock)
1 Spare oversized boots
1 Insulated gaiters
1 Camp booties (eg ME Co-Op hut booties)
2/3 Inner/working gloves
1 Warm outer gloves (leather-palmed eg ME Pinnacle)
1 Extra-warm outer mitts (with idiot loop) (e.g. RBH Designs)
1/2 Neck gaiter (merino)
1 Windproof hat (covering ears)
1 Thin balaclava
1 Thick/windproof balaclava (eg OR Gorilla/Psolarx)
2 Goggles with windproof nose cover (NOT mouth cover)
1 Sunglasses (+ hard case) (eg Julbo Micropore/Cebe Coccinel)
Hygiene/Minor Medical (personal)
Dry skin cream (eg Bag Balm)
Lipsalve & Lip sunblock
1 Toothbrush & toothpaste
1/2 Soap (eg Cuticura medicated soap for dry skin)
1 Flannel (in plastic bag)
1 Pee bottle
1 Vitamin/mineral supplements (optional)
Anti-bacterial hand gel (eg Cuticura hand sanitizer)
Medicated zinc oxide tape
Athletes foot powder/cream (Micatin/Lotrimin/Lamisil/Daktarin)
1 Lexan bowl
2 Lexan spoon
1 Lexan/insulated mug
1/2 Lexan water bottle (with insulated cover)
Ski / Glacier Travel (individual)
1 Pulk (Xmarx)
1 Trace (with elastic)
5 Carabiners for trace x 3 and prussic loops x 2, (wiregate - Camp Nano/Wild Country Helium)
1 Pulk harness (Radical)
1 Skis (pair) (Asnes)
1 Bindings (pair) (Rottefella)
1 Skins (pair) (Asnes Skin Lock)
1 Poles (pair) (Swix Mountain Poles)
1 Crampons (pair, newmatic, in crampon bag/bubblewrap)
1 Prussik loop (pulk to rope)
1 Prussik loop (person to rope)
2 Slings (for trace)
1 Climbing harness
1 Camp seat (optional)
1 Digital camera (with hard case)
1 Book (optional)
1 Journal + pencil
1 iPod (plus charging lead)
1 Small solar panel (optional)
1 Ear plugs (pair) (optional)
1 Watch (with alarm)
2/3/4 Stuff sacs (for clothes/kit eg Granite Gear Air Bag)
US$ for South Pole
Base camp food
Food - breakfast
Food - lunch/snacks
Food - dinner
Stuffsacs for food
Fuel (white gas)
3 MSR stoves (MSR XGK EX)
3 Stove boards
6 Fuel bottles
1 Stove maintenance/repair kit
1 Large kettle/pot
1/2 Medium pot
1 Large cooking spoon/ladel
2 Scrubbing cloth
Condiments (eg salt, pepper,currey chilli)
2 Emergency safety matches (box)
1 4-man Hilleberg Keron GT tent (with snow flaps, hanging line & safety pins, with mosquito net removed, poles fixed and taped)
Tent pegs (eg SMC perforated snow stakes or Tanchor) ?
1 4-man tent insulated floor
1 Tent brushes
2 Shovel (eg Komperdell Carbon/Salewa Tour)
3/4 Spare guidelines
3/4 Spare pole sections
2 Iridium phone with battery (+ sim card)
2 Spare battery for Iridium phone
1 Back-up system for iridium phone (eg PBL or Argos)
1 Spare battery for back-up system
1 Laptop with rugged case and charger
1 PDA with rugged case and charger
1/2 Solar panel (e.g. Brunton)
2/3 Rugged boxes for Comms kit
2 Compass (eg Silva/Suunto)
2 GPS (Garmin Geko 201)
2 Spare lithium batteries for GPS (set)
1 Hands-free compass support (eg Snowsled)
Ski travel spares
1/2 Spare skis (set)
1/2 Spare poles (set)
1/2 Spare Bindings (set)
3 Spare pole baskets (set)
3 Spare skins (set)
3 Spare screws for skins (set)
Crevasse Rescue (team kit)
12 Locking crab (DMM Sentinel)
6 Slings (Mammut Contact 8mm)
9 Prussik loops (5mm cord)
3 Ice screws (Black Diamond Turbo express with protectors)
2 Rope (Mammut Genesis Superdry 8.5mm x 50m)
2 Rope bags
2 Ice axe (Black Diamond Raven Ultra)
2 Deadman/deadboy (DMM)
3 Knife (Petzl Spatha)
1 Video camera (with hard case)
1 General repair kit (e.g. laces, fabrics, needles, thread, buckles, string, wire, duct tape, plastic twist ties, superglue/araldite etc)
1 Multi-tool/Screwdriver (eg Leatherman Charge ti)
1/2 Thermarest repair kit
1 Medical kit (to treat frostbite, burns, cuts, severe pain etc)
1 Wind/temperature indicator
It turns out that we are allowed to take 1lb in weight (that's around 400g for all you metric people out there) as luxury items - something to help the long, ice-cold, windy, interminably bright (24 hour sunshine), barren, featureless Antarctic days go by a little easier (is it too late to change my mind I wonder?)
Anyway, it's something that I have spent some time thinking about (my luxury item that is, not quitting although that thought is beginning to sound more appealing) and I can't decide. Henry Adams' chair in his article "top ten things to take to the pole" looks pretty tempting. I have decided however, that I want to take a book as I'm not up with the times enough to own one of those 'i-pod' things that everyone has nowadays, but I don't know what book to take.
The thought of reading Shakespeare on the ice was appealing for all of 3 seconds, so I need some help - what should I take to read when I'm down there?
Here's a conundrum. You hope desperately never to have to use any of the crevasse rescue kit you bring. But if you do fall in a crevasse and your team members can't simply heave you out using strength alone, you're in real trouble unless you have the kit to set up a pulley system and the knowledge and experience to match.
The only solution is to bring what is absolutely necessary and no more. This involves a raft of thin dyneema slings, prussic loops of different sizes and lots of wiregate and screwgate karabiners.
Climbers are generally weight and kit-obsessed so it was relatively easy to research the lightest and best made examples of each item we needed. The lightest wiregate karabiner currently made (or at least when we bought them) is the Nano by Camp. The lightest locking karabiner which can be used for belaying is DMM's lovely Sentinel (below). Mammut make some really light, thin and super strong 8mm slings.
We'll be using Black Diamond's Turbo Express ice screws because they're really easy to use, which helps when your mate is dangling over a precipice waiting for you to anchor him. We're taking Mammut's Genesis Superdry 8.5mm ropes. They have an excellent reputation for being really reliable and maintaining their flexibility when frozen and they're very light.
Finally, we'll be taking two Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axes (above). These are great glacier travel tools; they're too light for general use but are ideal for ski touring/glacier purposes.
And the last ingredient? Practice, practice, practice!
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