Hi, it’s me again. We’re now at N84?20’12” and roughly E101?30’. Once again it’s been a rather special day – and we started it with yet another incident. Mike released our pepper spray by accident inside the tent, which gave us a rather hilarious start. We thought we were going to die inside that tent!
Pepper spray is intended as a defence of last resort when you’re standing eye to eye with a polar bear, and it’s extremely effective. Well, it worked. Shortly after breakfast, our tent was suddenly full of it, and we could hardly breathe – we lay next to each our vent gasping for air, struggling to catch our breath. That episode certainly did get our blood circulation going.
The weather was borderline today, with 10–12 meter winds per second coming from northeast, and almost zero visibility in the snow. We decided to stay in the tent to see how things developed. I listened to the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, while Mike enjoyed his music. Around noon the wind had abated a bit – we packed our equipment and broke camp. It was still a miserable day. Even so, it did us good to get out of the tent. It is so easy to just remain there once you’ve settled into your sleeping bag. Hence it feels like an even greater victory when you get it together and brave the elements.
Our progress may not seem impressive: 4 km in 6 hours. That leaves our countdown at 632 km, since we drifted a bit south. In difficult conditions and reduced visibility, we crossed an average of one lead of seawater every hour. When they’re covered with snow, they can be deadly. We have to always be scanning, looking left or right, trying to read the terrain. Sometimes a snowdrift will run straight across the water. But we managed to cross each lead safely.
At the end of our day, we came to a huge lead that was newly frozen and started walking. We were fine, but discovered that the ice was very varied, with patches of very thin, dangerous ice that looked almost the same as the thicker ice. Here and there the ice had cracked, and was obviously moving, forming pack ice a number of places. Mike and I decided it was best to withdraw, retreating several hundred metres onto solid ice. By tomorrow we expect the lead to have frozen, so that we can continue without taking undue risks.
The wind is supposed to come from a more southerly direction tomorrow, and the weather forecast calls for good weather the next few days. We don’t mind it so much when the wind is at our backs.
Yesterday’s incidents show how important it is to stick close together. I am always just behind or right in front of Mike. As soon as I saw him losing his balance at that second lead, I unhooked myself from my harness and came to his aid, helped him up, and fished his equipment out of the water – including a ski pole that was floating in the ice slush. To lose equipmen can almost be worse than getting wet. We have only one extra ski pole and one extra ski; if we lose two, we can be in serious trouble.
We’re in the tent once again and our dinner is waiting for us. Tomorrow we’re going to cross that lead.
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