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Arrival | Log #1


1. Lou lands in Punta Arenas
2. Riding the Ilyushin to Union Glacier
3. Arrival at Union Glacier
4. Lou's Diary 
5. Equipping the modern pioneer

  

1 .  L O U   L A N D S   I N   P U N T A   A R E N A S 

We've just received word that Captain Lou Rudd has arrived in Southern Chile and is currently going through his final preparations before flying to Antarctica. He’ll be spending these last days of comfort in the seaside port of Punta Arenas, close to the lower snow-patched ridges of Chilean Patagonia. The city is popular amongst polar tourists and explorers, who use it as a springboard to the great, frozen unknown. Hence its acquired moniker  The City At The End of the World – a reference to its position beside the outflowing waters of the Strait of Magellan. These waters then carve passage through the spiny mountains, tidewater glaciers and fjords of Alberto de Agostini National Park and flow out towards Antarctica. 

Lou will be spending the next few days in downtown Punta Arenas at Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) Headquarters. For 25 years ALE has specialised in providing deep-field Antarctic experiences and logistical services. Lou’s pulk arrived several weeks ago at ALE’s combined office and warehouse, where Lou has just been reunited with his supplies. He has now packed 75 days of food and readied, weighed and loaded most of his kit. Everything is going to plan and Lou is shedding all excess weight to maximise energy efficiency on the ice. So far he’s saved weight on waste food packaging, calculated his fuel and weighed and reweighed all his refined essentials. The final stages focus on examining the velocity of the ice to map crevasses and route planning with ALE.

With typical good humour Lou let us know that the weather looked good for his scheduled flight on Thursday. Feedback from the ALE route planning was a little less positive –

“In summary,” Lou said, “There’s crevasses everywhere…”

 

2 .  R I D I N G   T H E   I L Y U S H I N   T O   U N I O N   G L A C I E R

ON NOVEMBER 1st Lou left civilised society in the stomach of the Russian Ilyushin II-76MD. Equipped with turbofan engines and unpaved landing capabilities, this multi-use monster is often repurposed for zero gravity training and the transport of heavy machinery, including tanks. It’s a short flight in this rattling beast over the Drake Passage and on across the iceberg-sailed Southern Ocean to Earth’s last great frontier.

Once he arrives in Antarctica, Lou will touchdown on the broad expanses of the Union Glacier, where a 3km runway of naturally occurring stretch of blue-ice welcomes jet cargo aircrafts to the final vestiges of human influence, otherwise known as the Union Glacier Camp. 

 

3 .  A R R I V A L   A T   U N I O N   G L A C I E R  

THE full-service Union Glacier camp is seasonally occupied (November-January) and found near the remote Ellsworth Mountains, close to the snowy fin of Vinson Massif – the highest peak in Antarctica. For three months the camp acts as a logistics hub for scientists, tourists and South Pole teams before it is dismantled at the season’s end. The start-up crew is made up of mechanics, engineers, safety specialists, chefs, pilots and comms operators of mixed nationalities, including Brits, Canadians and Chileans… It’s here that Lou will wait for weather clearance, no doubt enjoying his last moments of company and comfort in the double-walled, dual-occupant Clam Tents with their high-tech nylon covering. 


“For three months the camp acts as a logistics hub for scientists, tourists and South Pole teams before it is dismantled at the season’s end.”


The moment he has that window of clear weather, Lou will be crammed into a high winged, ski-fitted aircraft – most likely the De Havilland Canada Twin Otter DHC-6 – before rushing to his starting point at Hercules Inlet.

 

4 .  L O U ' S   D I A R Y  

Oct 31 2018 – Arrival at Union Glacier

Good evening everyone, it’s Lou Rudd with the first report from Antarctica. Really pleased to say we flew 24 hours ahead of schedule from Punta Arenas in Chile, and at two o’clock this afternoon touched down in Union Glacier in Antarctica, which is the temporary holding camp that all expeditions come through, a tented base.

While I’m here I’ll be sleeping in my tent but I’ll be fed so I’m not breaking into my expedition food. It’s really a chance for last preparations, communications tests and just checking all my systems and that everything is working as it should do and is ready to go.

So I’ll be here now for at least 24 hours and then we’ll start. Once I’m ready and all the preparations done I’ll be in discussions with the operations team; we’ll have a look at the weather at my chosen start point and see if possible then to start planning to fly from here to get dropped at the start point – possibly within the next 24 hours, so I’m really excited about that.

For the first time, I’ve had a drag around of my pulk, the sledge I’ll be dragging behind me for a thousand miles, fully loaded with the 75 days of food and all the cooker fuel and the rest of my equipment. It’s a little bit daunting. It is really heavy. It’s way beyond anything I’ve ever hauled before, obviously doing this journey unsupported makes it a real challenge.

But, it can only get easier as I eat my way through my burden, so I’ll just keep thinking positive. Looking forward now to getting the final preparations cracked, and great to be back here in Antarctica. It truly is an impressive place. It was about -25 when we landed here today, very light winds, and the sun is shining. So absolutely stunning scenery and I’m really humbled to be here. I look forward to updating you all tomorrow. That’s all for tonight.

Onwards.

 

5 .  E Q U I P P I N G   T H E   M O D E R N   P I O N E E R    

Polar expedition equipment has come a long way since Ernest Shackleton first set foot on Antarctica. More lightweight materials, advanced synthetics and other technological innovations have led to crucial marginal gains. These advancements have enabled modern pioneers to go further, faster and for longer in the world’s most inhospitable environments.

Seb Coulthard (sailor and engineer) and Jamie Facer-Childs (member of the SPEAR17 Expedition Lou Rudd led across the Antarctic) gave us a rundown of the equipment that today’s pioneers are using to push the boundaries of human endurance.

 

JAMIE FACER-CHILDS | JFC

SEB COULTHARD | SB

 

SHACKLETON: How has expedition kit changed for the modern pioneer since the time of Shackleton? 

SB: There is a kind of brotherhood among modern pioneers. Now people share information and technological advancements. The idea is if you travel as light as possible you can go further.

JFC: You need three things gear that is going to protect you from the weather conditions; gear that will enable you to keep making progress every day; food that will give you the energy to keep going.

SB: People are looking ahead rather than to what’s already available. They’re all going to different companies and saying: ‘I know there’s this amazing jacket you produce which is lightweight and it’s great but I want something a bit more bespoke. I want something that’s a little bit more efficient.’

It’s very rare to find companies that do that, but I know that Shackleton can. It’s brilliant when a company can shape itself to the needs of the pioneer. It’s all about finding ways to push innovation one step further to provide the marginal gains that adventurers need to optimise their efficiency, safety and warmth.  

JFC: The entire clothing system has come on leaps and bounds since 1914. If I had to pick two pieces of kit that have come further than any others, I would go with footwear and the outer layer.

The waterproof/windproof layer has been made breathable with materials like Gore-Tex. They can vent any water vapour from your sweat through the fabric. Heavy rainfall isn’t going to penetrate the outer layer either. That’s why these materials are used in footwear too. They’re even used in sailing and spacesuit design. 

 

SHACKLETON: Is there any kit from past expeditions you now swear by?

JFC: [On SPEAR17] we all had this big puffer outer jacket, so if we were around the tent or stopping for a food break we had something that kept out the wind, and trapped our heat to keep us warm. They were fantastic - it could be -50 and you’d feel quite comfortable in that for a good half an hour just stood around outside, which is pretty impressive.

SB: Now you’ve got technical footwear that you can use for ice climbing. You can put a crampon through it. You can use the same boot for hiking. You can use the same boot for skiing. You can essentially get three-in-one footwear. 

The woolly jumper is timeless. You don’t tend to see people in the UK wearing woolly jumpers so much. Up Snowden or Ben Nevis, you tend to see boys and girls wearing all this Gore-Tex stuff. But head over to countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada… You’ll find they prefer wearing woolly jumper outdoors, going about their daily business, rather than synthetic materials.

There’s two reasons for that: it’s affordable and it’s part of their national psyche. The woollen jumper is the garment they’ve worn outdoors for centuries, so why change it? It’s just how these materials are produced. Also the type of wool is important. The selection of wool is very important, in fact. Merino wool long johns haven’t changed since Shackleton’s time. Maybe they’re a little thinner now, but essentially it’s the same item.

JFC: We had Hilleberg tents on SPEAR17. They were three man tents but we had two people in each which was quite the luxury, and worth taking the extra 3 or 4 kilos of weight. When you get in there at the end of the day, you’re tired and you’ve got quite bulky kit, so it’s really nice to have that little bit of breathing space for you and your tent buddy.

We went through the process of stripping all things of their original packaging and packaging it in little sandwich bags. That way there wasn’t any faffing about trying to undo wrappers when you’re wearing a massive pair of mittens, and you don’t have a load of rubbish bags with extra weight either. So that’s a really efficient way of organising your food.

 

SHACKLETON: Any final kit advice for young pioneers in the making?

SB: One of the most important things you need is a sleeping system that keeps you warm – a red line sleeping bag and a double thick foam mattress to sleep on. It would have been nice to have been able to take the Therm-a-Rest, where you blow air into them and it pumps them up, because they’re lighter and really good insulation. But if you blow even just a little bit of moisture into them, your breath will just freeze inside and break it down so they’d only last a couple of days. We had to take foam mats instead.

JFC: You need your skiing gear, clothing, base layers, socks – enough to be able to change socks every 10 days. The outer skiing jacket needs to be windproof, but just a thin layer - when you’re pulling a 120 kilo pulk uphill towards the South Pole, your body’s generating so much internal heat that really it’s not about wearing loads of layers. It’s just having warm, thin layers which you can vent if you need to or - on particularly cold days - just throw an extra middle layer on.”

SB: Gilets are ideal because they keep your core warm but leave your arms free to ski. Plus they’re ventilated so you don’t overheat.

 
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