Antarctic Expedition – Day 12: Our protective wall collapses with the first gust of wind!
(*Note: there’s been a little delay between writing and publishing this post, so the storm we feared has already arrived!)
I’ve been cautioned to “surrender if it gets too hard” but the fact is that you can’t give up when Nature takes over! Who’s coming to get you in the storm? Nobody! There’s no town nearby, nada. You’re simply lost in the great immensity and all you have is your own energy to protect you from the brunt of the storm that will hit us this Tuesday 🌪️.
How do we protect ourselves? With walls of snow. Which we double, because the stronger the protection the more likely we’ll come out unscathed. But luck is not on our side, despite 60 hours of titanic work over 3 days with Vanessa, at the first stormy gust, our tent starts to shake violently and it’s obvious that it won’t hold up in the face of the big storm that’s coming.
Vanessa puts on her Everest jumpsuit and heads out to face the elements in order to assess the situation. Her findings: the whole back of the wall has collapsed. Fairly logical, considering we had started at that point and knew nothing about it!
So, we replace our 10kg blocks of ice with 20-30kg. The job takes us 5 hours in super difficult conditions (i.e. our sunglasses are freezing!) in order to fix the collapsed wall section as well as strengthen and protect the rest of it.
We have a well-established system: I cut the ice with a saw, extract the blocks with a shovel, transfer them to a sled (no more than 2 or 3 at a time, otherwise it flips upside down), and then bring them 60m away to Vanessa, who is the site manager—a true perfectionist who recreates the wall to maximum satisfaction.
At 9pm, the wind picks up and the tent doesn’t move. We’re feeling secure! 👊
I’m super proud of us. I’m definitely not complaining. No one forced me to come here and freeze myself and face the fear of nature’s violent elements. I also find that we live in such comfort on a daily basis that we have forgotten that sometimes we do not have the time to rely on others, and that we have to rely on ourselves. For example, there wasn’t a moment today where I thought about surrendering to the one thing I probably needed most: to curl up in my sleeping bag—but NO! Up and out! We are stronger than we think.
🚑 On the health front: the extreme cold triggered menstruation for the girls. Really not cool, considering the conditions! I actually burned the inside of my lower lip because of the cold. Not dramatic, but when it opens and bleeds when I eat, drink, or breathe—boy does it hurt.
Great question! ❄️ Last night, the perceived temp was -37°C so yes, we were very cold! We have an expedition sleeping bag (North Face Inferno -40°C / -40°F) and we sleep dressed but especially not too much! Otherwise we are cold. What’s vital is to always sleep with a hat and protection around the throat. The big secret is to get FULLY changed and put on dry clothes before bed, even if it’s super cold. It takes 30 minutes to warm up but that changes everything.
Tuesday is set to be the worst day with high winds💨, biting cold and swirling snow. Here’s to hoping that our half igloo will be strong enough!
On we go!
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