Surprising inner travel with Copeland

Published on 06.12.2011 - Antarctica 2011-12 Legacy Crossing

They still don't know whether they'll make it to the POI or not

They still don't know whether they'll make it to the POI or not

© Expedition website

Like Copeland writes, their projected daily average distance (75 km par day) "is lagging like a ship taking water". Here come all the makings of jeopardizing their plan to reach POI (Pole of Inaccessibility). And also a different travel...

Looking at things coolly

First the last numbers : on 2 December (day 28 of the expedition), Copeland and McNair have traveled 73.5 km, leaving the POI at no more than 967 km ahead. The next day (3 December, day 29), they add 77.32 km on their counter. On 4 December (day 30), they barely managed 34.5 km and finally, on 5 December (day 31), they covered only 28 km, putting the POI at 828 km ahead and the Russian base Novolazarevskaia at 790 km behind.

With these figures in mind, Copeland is straigth enough to say that he is not very optimistic for the POI. "What’s more, we are imposed short hours from the wind", he writes on 5 December. "Walking and hauling up here is hardly an option, as the elevation robs a good amount of oxygen from each breath. We spend time sucking on air after each extraneous effort. And as the terrain alternates between rough ice and soft snow, and as the sledges are still very heavy, that option offers little prospects: we would barely cover a kilometer before packing it. In the next few days, I will be forced to evaluate whether to set our bearing to 90 degrees South–the South Pole. Unless stronger winds manifest, and fast, the POI could elude us yet. ..."

That's for the remainder of this trip. But let's change ends and discover the other side of the wall : what an expeditioner like Sebastian Copeland is really thinking about what he is experiencing on that far ice, in this dead white world. Note : we had previously noticed, when he was crossing Greenland in 2009, that Copeland not only respects deeply his followers (trying to explain in simple details his voyage) but also has a original talent to write his daily comptes-rendus.

Far beyond the narrative of the doings, "it humbles you..."

Once more this time, we can't resist the pleasure to publish some of his writings which go far beyond the updating of the daily facts. A feast for the mind. An example to follow.

On 4 December for instance, Copeland writes : "Today marks a month that we have been on the ice, and one third of the mission. Progressively, we have adjusted to the harsh environment. Early November in this part of Antarctica is cold, and at the altitude we are traveling, even colder. The first two weeks are a shock to the system. Humans are not wired to live with limited resources in environments where the average temperature is minus 30C without wind-chill, and the only element outside of air is ice. For the last two weeks, there have been no birds flying overhead, nor will there be until the final week of the trip. No contrails in the sky; no people; no organisms of any sort. In short, nothing to anchor a familiar reality around you as a reminder that you are not alone. The fact is–you are alone! Within millions of square miles. While many uncertainties prevail for the remainder of this trip, the mental threshold of doubt, insecurity, and fear of failure is behind us. There is nothing quite like the ice to make you doubt yourself, and expose your vulnerabilities. It humbles you, and perhaps that, too, is one purpose for such a mission. A stop when the winds whip up means a rapid cool down of the system. Eating commandeers blood away from the extremities and to the stomach to process that new energy. It typically means that hands get cold and sensation is lost to the fingers. Your facial system freezes while off for eating and becomes challenging to set back on; when it does, the frost seizes your face. The combined effect can be disorienting, and to some extent paralyzing. Your feet are always cold, and all you have is your mental to push you forward, for another round. There is no vanity. Just the stark reality that you, and you alone are holding the reins of your life in hand, and to let go carries profound consequences. Over the course of the last few weeks, I often questioned what I was doing here. It did not help that I recognized that feeling from prior expeditions; I thought perhaps this time was the one: too big, too old, and under qualified. In reality, most of the challenge takes place inside you head. That is where the battle is waged. With good preparation, and good equipment, eighty percent of the trip is mental. And if you can get past the initial hump, what is left are the two laws of perseverance. Law number one: take one step forward. Law number two: continue walking. If you cannot continue, refer back to law number one…"

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