Previous page: the expedition skied in single file for 900 kilometres, from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, in 38 days; above: the team passes the distant Thiel Mountains – one of the few landscape features visible during the journey; below, from left: the team used two Hilleberg Keron GT tents, with four women to each tent; celebrations on arrival at the Geographic South Pole; New Zealander Kylie Wakelin (left) and Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu of India show off their ‘snot-cicles’
The wind in Antarctica is often a greater enemy than the air temperature. It always blows from the south, the very coldest parts of the continent, and the slightest breeze creates significantly lower temperatures. On a cold and sunny day, we would often ski in just our thermals. But as soon as there was a breath of wind, we would need the protection of a wind-resistant shell. This garment weighed 100 grams, and the Pertex material it was cut from felt extremely flimsy, but it provided complete protection from some of the world’s severest winds.
The wind also aggravated the icing problem caused by the moisture in our breath. Our faces had to be covered to protect our skin from the cold air, but anything over our mouths and noses quickly iced up. I’ve tried a variety of face-covering combinations involving Buffs, balaclavas, goggles and even zinc oxide tape with varying success. Every polar expeditioner has their own favoured combination, but no-one has come up with a completely reliable system that works for everyone.
We used an all-in-one balaclava that had removable sections covering the mouth and nose. Everyone on the team liked the system, but there were still problems. The removable sections tended to freeze together, making it difficult to eat and drink (particularly from wide-mouthed water bottles) and long ‘snot-cicles’ formed like stalactites on the end of the nosepiece.
l e ave no t r ace A key part of our expedition was ensuring that we had minimum impact on our surroundings. There’s a long-held convention in Antarctica that you remove all rubbish, including food scraps and excess fuel, but we wanted to go one step further and remove our human waste, too. We managed to source Disposa-Johns, lightweight bags that are used by the military to dispose of faeces. Each bag is double-lined with secure seals and contains a powder of polymers and enzymes that deodorise the contents (which, in any case, froze almost
70 www.geog raphical.co.uk january 2011