Sensory Deprivation

Miles Advanced North: 26.3

Days on Traverse: 39

Days Roundtrip to AGAP: 4

Days Layover at South Pole: 14

Total Mileage Thus Far: 1,177

Fuel Delivered to Pole: 92,325gal.

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Rest assured, I am alive and well, and will be continuing these updates on a biweekly basis. If something awesome happens- I’ll write about it, if not… just take all the emails I sent previously and read them in reverse.

OK, so, we are headed back to McMurdo now, minus a crew member. Dosinga our mountaineer only does the one way trip- he is at this moment in McMurdo, probably knocking on the door of every floozy in town. He’s headed for Greenland soon, where he will be doing the traversing business up there. The Greenland Traverse carries a gun for Polar Bears and that’s probably why he’s ditching us- so he can play with that gun. So have fun with that Dosinga, YOU JERK! Just kidding… goodnight sweet prince.

Buck and McLovin’ grew much attached to their new alien friends, whom they named Cheech and Chong. I was going to send pictures of their dissection- complete with blue alien blood and guts n’stuff. It was going to be awesome. Unfortunately, I got in some trouble for a few of those other pictures I sent out. Yup, it was a full on caining. BUT, I’m still here, so that means I win.

Day 46

Miles from Pole: 186.6

Average Miles Per Day: 46.6

Weather: Clear, -39 WC

Have you ever heard of a Sensory Deprivation Tank? Imagine yourself floating in a pool of very salty water that is warmed to the exact temperature of 98 degrees. The salt helps keep you buoyant, but don’t get any in your mouth because then you’d be ‘tasting’- remember, this is sensory deprivation- no tasting allowed. The pool you’re floating in happens to be in a room that is absolutely, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face, pitch black. Your ears are slightly submerged so the only thing you could listen to would be your own heart beat. So you can’t hear, can’t see, can’t taste, can’t feel… oh, and you’ve got a nose plug on too, so no smelling.

It’s said if you can stand a whole hour in the tank-then you’re very comfortable with yourself. That’s a good thing, I mean, if you can’t stand yourself- then who else is going to be able to stand YOU?

Traveling across the Polar Plateau is a lot like floating in a Sensory Deprivation Tank. Nothing but blue sky and white snow as far as one can see- it may be beautiful and alien-like at first, but after a week, there are no sights here that can stimulate the brain (minus the occasional Sundog or two).

Your sense of smell is obsolete because the cold hinders evaporation- if you could smell anything, it would be diesel fuel or at best- your own body odor. The hum (or whitenoise) of the tractor deafens any tunes you might be listening to- if you haven’t memorized them all already. I caught myself trying to decipher the words to the song ‘Halo’ by Beyonce’ of all freakin’ things. Then there’s the food. It’s Kiwi. Their motto seems to be, “Bland is Grand!”

“Hmmm, maybe I’m not that comfortable with myself after all.”

Every Shade of White

Miles Advanced North: 353.8

Location: Lower Leverette Glacier

Weather: Sunny, 15 ABOVE

Elevation: 1,557ft.

The Transantarctics- such beautiful mountains too! Finally off the Plateau and down into warm weather. Yesterday our elevation was 5,055ft and three days before that we were at 9,600ft. We can actually BREATH here, some of us were even wearing t-shirts and sneakers- it’s absolutely wonderful.

I’m going to say this now before I forget- we really have a great crew! I may hate them all tomorrow- but right now, NOPE, everyone is awesome, in fact, the world is awesome! Hallelujah, back to the land of the living!

Location: Ross Ice Shelf

Number of Days Since We Left McMurdo: 71

Miles From McMurdo: 400.9

Weather: Clear; 31 Degrees

Elevation: 291ft.

We’ve been using a snowmobile to re-flag the traverse route. This is a tedious job because you’ve got to stop every quarter mile and plant a flag- that gets old after 1,050 miles. I’ve been doing some calculating and I figure the traverse route has about 17,000 flags laid out along the trail. As old flags get buried and tattered, we add new ones next to them.

Considering each flag costs about $4.50- we have about $76,000 dollars worth of flags along the route, and that’s at the low end of the number. From what I understand, the bamboo comes from south-east Asia and the flags themselves get tied on in Boulder, Colorado. And then they’re shipped to California where they get put on a barge and eventually they get down to Antarctica .

Currently, we are near the Long Duration Balloon payload crash site. The LDB project studies the Ozone Hole. Amazingly they have been able to ‘land’ the thing about a mile off our traverse route- and they want us to pick it up and bring it back to McMurdo.

That’s all good but they want to fly out a couple times and get all the sensitive gadgetry off it first. So we are stuck here until they get their sh1t together. We are all fed up with this traverse business and we want to get home.

Days Since We Left McMurdo: 76

Total Miles Northbound: 1001.0

Total Traverse Mileage: Approx. 2,552

Miles To Go: 48

Weather: Ice-Fog In Morning Then Sunny, 31 Degrees

I have seen every shade of white this continent has to offer. And I’m tired of it. Not just me, everyone is mentally drained and homesick ready to get on a plane and get the heck out of here. Even the best of us are a$$holes now.

The day started out as usual, whiteout conditions until noon, then the curtain of ice-fog opened suddenly and there she was- Mt Erebus (the most southerly active volcano in the world) billowing plumes of steam across the horizon like a giant welcome-home-banner.

Mt. Erebus rises from sea-level straight up to 12,000 ft- it’s an impressive sight and I never get tired of it.

Just 48 miles to go!

With any luck, we’ll be in McMurdo by dinner time tomorrow.