Tense times for Copeland

Published on 16.12.2011 - Antarctica 2011-12 Legacy Crossing

Sebastian Copeland's feet are in bad shape

Sebastian Copeland's feet are in bad shape

© Expedition website

Sebastian Copeland has serious problems with some of his toes. The time has not come yet to throw on the towel. But, as he says, he takes the situation quite seriously.

These last days, Copeland turn his attention to his toes which are in a pitiful state. However, pair is carry on with sailing on the ice, and sailing well : on 14 December, they have done their bsecojnd best disantace so far : 106 km. But during the all day, the American expeditioner did not feel his toes at all.

He write the same day at night in the tent : "... Of the last two days spent in the tent, the second was a tense contemplation of whether the trip might require medivac on account of my toe: while I finally managed to pull the big toe nail that had been badly bruised from two weeks ago riding the sastrugi, the liquid it had been oozing had set off a cold injury from the cold boots. Cutting the dead skin off the crown of the toe revealed a frost bite significant enough that our prospects looked challenged. Some of the flesh had already turned black, and without a rest day, there was no telling whether and if it might spread. I let the wound air out in the tent all day to assess its condition. After speaking with a frostbite medic, I forwarded photos and got a temporary assessment. Needless to say, I would rather not lose a toe; and yet, with the POI within reach, to abort at this stage was equally unappealing."

"My toes have temporarily lost sensitivity"

"I spent some tense hours contemplating options, and their consequences. I was torn. It is hard to explain the mental stakes that reap havoc to the mind: the effort; the planning; years of aspiration; not to mention that the worst of the expedition is behind us. Additionally, one has a different perspective from the ice; the history of polar exploration is riddled with stubby digits…! Luckily, in the morning, the extent of the dead skin cells appeared to be contained. After reconfiguring by boot gaiters, socks combination, and shortening our traveling section duration–from two hours to one, less if my toes felt cold–we decided to go for it. The morning was tense. For one, it is difficult to tell exactly what threshold of cold is or isn’t acceptable. My toes have temporarily lost sensitivity from the long days kiting, and cold feet more or less come with the job. However, after each one hour section, I took the time to walk around and restore circulation to toes and feet. After six and a half hours of kiting, we were both anxious to see whether any change had developed. I am happy to report that the bite is stable, and the actions we have taken seem to be working. We are now 349 kilometers from the POI, a distance that can hopefully be reached in less than a week. For now, the objectives remain the same, even if one at a time: POI, South Pole, and Hercules Inlet. Daily monitoring will diligently be in effect. Don’t worry people, I have no desired to be acquiring the ungainly moniker of Stubby Seb: the toe stays! I obviously have an angel sitting on my shoulder; please don’t fly away! "

The next day, on 15 December, examining his toe condition, he has difficulties to see whether the dead cells are continuing their degenerative cycle from prior damage or whether the travel of the 14 December (106 km) has damaged the toe further, setting off then more degeneration overnight.

The pair's position on 15 December : 80° 23.8123 S / 37° 42.613 E / Elevation 11570 feet. They are now at 349 km from the Pole of Inaccessibility.

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