The plan to commemorate Scott's centenary and the death of the Polar Party is a noble and fitting tribute. I support the efforts of the team at ISCE and wish them all the very best for their plans in Antarctica in 2012.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
"News grows scant in midwinter... events seem to compress" -- Capt. Scott
We covered more ground yesterday than originally planned, so after packing up our tents for the last time, we returned to the lodge a day early. Stepping inside â€“ cut loose from our hiking and tent routines â€“ it was like entering a glassblowerâ€™s bubble. We suddenly had more warmth, room and time than we knew what to do with.
Geoff gave us a fascinating talk on a previous expedition he had led, which sensitively recreated the final leg of Scott's trip to the Pole. Original fabric swatches were dug up, historicist biscuits were commissioned, reindeer sleeping bags were hand-stitched and central American bamboo sourced for ski poles. What leapt out at me from Geoff's presentation was that the ingenuity with which Scott's team attacked the cold are easily overlooked. They were polar empiricists non pareil whose contributions helped to confirm the Gondwana hypothesis and to calibrate modern climate change indicators.
The team tackled the final descent back to the lodge today and as we descended further, the snow cover rapidly reduced. The ice had melted from the streams and the whole environment had changed. What a change 300 metres can make I thought to myself as I made the final few plodding steps, with the sledding dogs situated next to our lodge howling as if they were giving us a joyous welcome home. Just like a seasoned polar explorer would, I gorged myself on five delicious home-made Norwegian waffles. I could feel the life being restored to my tired, worn explorer body as I munched away. I am quite sure Scott would have followed suit had he survived his almighty ordeal. The atmosphere has become very relaxed this evening as the team all individually dwelled upon the great experiences that the seven day expedition had brought.
On the trail your mind canâ€™t help but turn wistfully to that final day. As you lie in your bag, damp and cold, and the wind rattles at the tent, you dream of a warm bed. As you sip gingerly at your mug of tea â€“ trying to ignore the remnants of the noodles that preceded it â€“ you pine for a plate. But when that moment comes, when the creature comforts so longed for are there in front of you, all you want to do is to turn and head back to the hills. I know they say the grass is always greener, but such were my thoughts as we walked into our cabin base this morning, the ISCE training exped at an end. This evening I still feel the same way, and Iâ€™m pretty sure the others do too. The polar exploration bug has bitten us, and bitten good.
Weâ€™d had breakfast and packed away camp well in advance of our deadline - a sign of the new found efficiency of our camp routines. Little did we realise that by heading back the work was just beginning. The tent was erected again, but this time in order to dry out. In a kit explosion all of our gear was strewn around the cabin. Every available hanging spot was taken in an attempt to dry out all the equipment in anticipation of our departure. Later, as we finally began to relax, Geoff Somers gave us a talk on one of his treks to the South Pole. In that expedition, his team had tried to use all of the same equipment that Scott had. The pictures looked amazing and I hope the ISCE can cross the ice in the same style. The expedition will be a fantastic celebration of their achievements.