Lying four days weatherbound in the tent

Published on 04.12.2011 - South Pole 1911-2011 NPI

The team of four did not receive a warm welcome when they arrived on the antarctic plateau : they had to face strong catabatic winds and terrific low temperatures.

The good and the bad

If we take the expedition datas only, then one can be optimistic : the team of four (Vegard Ulvang, Jan-Gunnar Winther, Stein P. Aasheim and Harald Dag Jølle) has safely reached the point 85° 39.473 S / 169° 36.203 W and they have no more than 500 km to go (having done 812 km so far). An other plus : they reached their second depot and could therefore resupply in time the expedition. Good score. That's for the bright side.

Let's have a look now at the other side of that planet : during three days, the four Norwegians were bounded in their tent, just because they could not go out of their house, even for a pee -too furious catabatic winds nearby. Second, they still can't manage to catch up with the delay on Amundsen Schedule, they stay invariably 100 km behind the big man. And so, they will not be able to do it in time for the 14 December. No doubt about that.

The backstage of a typical rest day

But, nevertheless, the spirits of these four guys stay high. And they give most interesting accounts in their diary. The one of 29 November for instance, when they took a rest day (without beoing aware that from the next days on, they were going to be oblige to stay in the tent for long), the tell us what goes on in the house during a rest day on the plateau. Here is their comment : " ... The four-man tent, also known as “the mansion” or “the assembly room”, stands to the right. The three-man tent, frequently called “the slum”, is on the left. The tents are at shouting distance at wind speeds up to Beaufort 6 or so. At higher speeds, all contact is lost.

Many undoubtedly wonder how we handle ourselves when we take a rest day under such extreme conditions. The answer is the pee-bottle. In everyday parlance on the Plateau often called the piss-bottle. On a resting day with wind and drifting snow and and  30°C below, that bottle is more important than ever. The storm can rage on to its heart’s content and one need never leave one’s sleeping bag. Provided one has mastered the technique, that is. But some people do crazy things. The historian Jølle, for example, refuses to sink so low as to pee in a bottle. Regardless of the wind speed outside. The sock magnate Ulvang has to crawl out of his sleeping bag to get it all going. And then much of the point is lost. Seeing Vegard Ulvang hunched on his knees with a red energy drink bottle between his legs at the far end of “the slum” is – with all due respect – not a pretty sight. Besides, he’s wasting all the advantages of being a man. Winther and Aasheim are the only ones who have fully mastered this implementation of the recovery position. ..."

Here are the last datas received : Position: S 86° 17.271, W 175° 17.993 / Temperature: -30°C / Wind: 10–12 m/s from the southeast / Elevation: 2.800 metres / Distance traversed: 24 km / Distance behind Amundsen: 101 km / Total distance traversed: 896 km / Distance remaining to the South Pole: 415 km.

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