The weather at overnight camp has deteriorated, rather than improved. The temperature is hovering around minus 30C, but the average wind speed has crept up to 45 knots with gusts of 56 knots; visibility is about 3m and there is heavy drifting snow, so there has been no chance for travel today unfortunately.
It has, however, given the team the chance to catch up on other tasks and duties. On Sunday we asked you to send us your questions to put to ice team leader, Brian Newham. The most popular three were selected, and here they are, complete with Brian’s answers:
Question One: How did you have to change your team tactics as a result of Sir Ranulph’s untimely departure? (by Valerie Ivens)
Followers will know that the original intention was for Ran to ski the whole way across the continent. At different times one or other of the rest of us would have skied with him. The choice of who skied with him would have depended on what other work there was to do elsewhere – for instance, the doctor is doing a very extensive medical research programme so there are times when he needs to devote his time to that etc, etc. So with Ran leaving the team we felt that we could no longer realistically aim for one person to ski the whole way – we each have our own roles to play, so something had to give. As a result this is no longer an attempt for anyone of us to ski the whole way. Ran’s skiing also provided an opportunity for him to tow the Ground Penetrating Radar, which we use when required to help us detect crevasses ahead of us. One of us now has to fulfil that role.
With Ran in the team our travel time was going to be limited by the number of hours per day that he could ski but now that has changed and once we get onto the plateau and away from the difficult mountain area where we are now we hope to be able to take full advantage of good conditions and travel for much longer periods.
Question Two: If digging out the cats and getting them moving every morning is such an ordeal, why not just keep moving and take it in shifts to sleep and drive? (by Tom Holliday)
This is certainly our intention once we get onto the polar plateau, and we expect it to make a considerable difference to our daily mileages. As you suggest, it will eliminate a lot of time currently spent getting the vehicles running and warmed up each morning and, very importantly, it should save quite a bit of fuel as they won’t be sat idling whilst they warm. up until now we haven’t done this because the route through the mountains is quite tricky with such heavy vehicles and loads and many sections are a lot safer if we pass through with the benefit of daylight, which is diminishing very fast. We are currently trying to get through the most difficult section of the route so far and once beyond that we should soon be keeping the vehicles running.
Question Three: Why aren’t there any Ice Girls in your team? (by Jools Vergne)
I have worked with women in both the Arctic and Antarctic and they have covered a very broad range of roles – mountaineers, doctors, pilots, steel erectors, managers and numerous different scientists. You may be interested to know that the British Antarctic Survey has just appointed a new female director and that just shows how much they are part of the polar community. In terms of our expedition I think it’s a great shame that we don’t have any females on the Ice Team and it is not because of any conscious exclusion. Our team was built around the need for the very best skills alongside the right characters and temperaments in each of the various disciplines that we needed. Beyond that it was an open book and we would have considered anyone, male or female, who filled those requirements. It just so happened that we ended up with an all male team. I guess when you look at it pragmatically it was always more likely, but not certain, that the skilled tradesman – the two caterpillar mechanics and the welder/fabricator – would be male simply because there are, unfortunately, a lot more male tradesmen around than female but both my role and that of the doctor could very easily have been filled by a female. As I say, it was simply a matter of finding the very best and most suitable person to fill each position and its a great shame that some of them didn’t turn out to be female.