Strength being sapped as the problems increase…

Published on 06.01.2009 - Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Perhaps more than the other expeditions this season, the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition is experiencing quite a few difficulties in making its way across the polar plateau. "It really is a completely different world," they tell us...

When talking about their respective feats of endurance out on the ice and also in their 'live' dispatches, many polar explorers have likened the elements they have had to contend with (Arctic pack-ice, Antarctic polar icecap, etc.) to living beings, with their own set of values and feelings, beings with whom the men and women striving for their various goals have had slightly odd and even secret relationships, although each one as real as the next to the explorers themselves. For example, we can recall Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer having genuine conversations with the pack-ice during their attempt to cross the Arctic from Cape Arktichevski to Ward Hunt in 2002. They talked to it about their fate and subjected themselves to what they took for its instructions. "Is it going to allow us through?" was a theme repeated in several of the dispatches the team sent back from the pack-ice at the time.

The same conditioning, reflexes and attitudes are cropping up again here in the MSC expedition, as we can see from the note sent back on 5th January by Henry Worsley, the expedition leader who is carrying the very same compass used by Ernest Shackleton a century ago. Worsley reports how over the past few days the powerful and indomitable frozen continent has sent a clear and unmistakable message to the men of the expedition. They may have had some 'easy' days while crossing the Ross Ice Shelf. Certainly, they were tested as they climbed Beardmore Glacier and their conduct was deemed determined and courageous by the Antarctic itself, which rewarded them with fine weather. But once they reached the plateau, the warning was crystal-clear: "You will have to fight for every last kilometre left on your trek". At least that is the way Worsley has interpreted the message.

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