Day 5: The Wedge Design
Good day today. Ice fog and some white out, but minimal wind and relatively warm temperatures (-5C).
Yesterday we felt like we were going steeply uphill, which is why we were going so slowly. In fact for three days it has felt like dragging two tires uphill. Max cardio workout, all day with no rests. In those cold winds, to rest is to freeze. Today we gained a plateau, level "ground," and still we went slowly. In 8 hours we covered only 9.7 miles. (7.5 mi yesterday.) Yet it was easier today, and we enjoyed the day very much.
White out conditions are interesting to say the least. You cannot see the ground you are skiing on. As you step off a 1-foot ledge with a jolt, you wonder why you did not see it! As you run into a sastrugi and come to an abrupt halt, you wonder what was that?
Today Jenny took the lead, to give my eyes a rest from staring at the invisible horizon, and she did very well. But she soon grew tired, and started wandering off course. Way off course. In 25 feet she turned 45 degrees. Almost as if her boot was nailed to the floor. This happened several times.
In a white out you can't see the wind lines in the snow, but normally you can. And because the wind normally blows in the same direction, the wind lines give a person a general idea of the heading. For more accuracy, I painted this wedge design on both skis. By maintaining a certain angle with the wind lines, in this case about 40 degrees, I know I am about on the right heading.
Jenny takes the lead.
I painted this wedge design on both skis. The method is fairly common, but the design is original. Each wedge represents 15 degrees on the compass. The wind lines are about 40 degrees from south, and I'm heading due south.
My wedge design also works on the sun-dial principle. The shadow of a ski pole moves 15 degrees an hour, so looking at my watch and noting what time it is, I could maintain a certain angle on the wedges and know that I was on course. After a few days of using the wedges, I no longer needed them. For the rest of the trip I simply judged the angle of my body's shadow in relation to the shadow of my outstretched arm. The shadows move 15 degrees in one hour. (15°x24 hours=360° full circle).
Taking a break in near-white-out conditions. The air is below freezing, but the lack of wind makes it seem much warmer. We need such thick mittens to keep our hands warm because they don't get much exercise. We wear vapor barrier liners under them, to keep the moisture out of the mittens, so they don't freeze solid.
Skiing without a face mask in warm weather. Enjoy it while it lasts
After shoveling a pile of snow on the snow skirt, to hold the tent in place, I'm tying the solar panels to the tent. These solar panels worked at "night", and still put out some charge when the sky was cloudy.
It was Jenny's idea to name our pulks "Spirit" and "Opportunity" the Mars rovers, and I thought that everyone in the modern world knew what the names meant. I was rather dumbfounded when nobody in our circle of Antarctica friends had a clue. They did, however, know what Mars is.
We have loaded the camping gear into the tent, and put the pulks in place, and now it's time to retire for the evening. Here we have tied the pulks to ski poles, to prevent loss in the event of a sudden blast of wind. But because we can't see them at night, through the closed door, we later started tying them to the tent.
Our night-time gear placed into the tent. We sleep with two pads under us, one inflatable, and one not.
Jenny acting silly wolfing down a stick of butter. Butter helps us stay warm, and we use it in our cooking; but sometimes we eat it raw, like a candy bar.
The sun circles around the horizon, about 15 degrees above the horizon; so the daylight persists throughout the night. And now it is "night" and time for bed.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the funniest story of today. In good weather we took our first sit-down rest of the trip, sitting on a pulk (sled). To make this possible we had to unhook the traces from our harnesses. When the rest was over, we stood up, put our ski pole straps on, and began to ski away. After 5 steps I always check the area. And what did I find that I had left behind? My pulk! Jenny was in stitches.
Evening camp: S 80° 41.466' W 81° 27.715'