Our intrepid explorers were finally able to board their flight out of Constable Point on a twin Otto bound for Iceland. The airport was closed on Monday and Tuesday due to the inclement weather so they were quite relieved to be given some respite to be able to depart this evening.
They were the only passengers, just the way Callum likes it!
I am sure they were filled with mixed feelings as they banked over Constable Point ….
The following message was received from them as the flight climbed to cruising altitude: “passed over massive Scoresbysund heading west. Vast heights of Watkins Mountains diminishing behind us as we head out over the Greenland Sea.”
When the pain and fatigue subside they will reminisce over what can only be described as a brutal and unforgiving journey. Jo will produce some award-winning photographs and Rod will regale us of tales of his lectures to the gathered polar bears!
Just when our explorers had settled down into their routine of base camp and daily expeditions, Mother Nature decided she had other plans! Rod received a phone call from Tangent Expeditions to advise that a massive snow storm was on the way, which necessitated them being evacuated immediately. They were advised in no uncertain terms that the snowmobiles would not be able to reach them if they waited any longer.
Rod would not have been pleased!
Unfortunately, Mother Nature is a cruel mistress! There could be no argument about the matter and so they set about packing up and waiting for collection. The snowmobiles arrived on Sunday evening and they set off on what they described as the most miserable bitterly cold three hour ride back to Constable Point.
It proved to be a wise decision as the weather arrived when they were putting up their tent at Constable Point (no Hilton for our hard-as-nails explorer couple!) they experienced a whiteout (this occurs when the snowfall is so dense that you can hardly see six inches in front of you!)
Weather permitting, they are scheduled to depart today by way of a charter flight on a Twin Otter to Iceland. We await word today as the airport was closed yesterday (Monday) due to high winds and the inclement weather. As Callum said: “The victor holds our happiness in its hands”
They are blissfully unaware of the drama going on back home in South Africa but we will be happy to welcome them back home with the expectation of great tales and photographs that could be enjoyed over a glass or two of some fine wine!
In the meantime, the polar bears got quite emotional at the thought of their departure …
The weather has deteriorated to the extent that Tangent Expeditions have advised our intrepid explorers that they cannot collect them at their proposed finish point on the route.
When they travel alone (sans pesky sergeant major expedition guide) they fortunately have the freedom to change their plans on the fly. So our explorers have elected to make their present position their base camp.
They will then set off every day with a picnic blanket, tea, biscuits, safety gear and the trusty rifle to seek out and explore remote valleys and mountain ranges. Not too sure about a picnic in these frigid temperatures! That said, our intrepid explorers are finally enjoying themselves and surely that is what this is all about.
Rod said that their “stumps have now become wings and they are soaring”. I for one am pleased that they are able to finally take in the beauty of the terrain. I expect Mrs Callum will be taking breathtaking photographs.
Gordon Butchers penned the following poem in reference to Greenland:
A harsh terrain,
Of icy glaciers
And tundra plain,
With thick pack ice
And drifting snow,
Where northern lights
In darkness glow.
A home for reindeer
And arctic hares,
And polar bears.”
I have just received word that they are presently at Lat: +71.182883 Lon: -022.026933 (Altitude 728 feet).
They celebrated Jo’s birthday and Rod – ever the romantic had hauled her gift along with his gear as well as two dinkies of suitable plonk (not dissimilar to Pomeroy’s Claret). He had to warm up the frozen bottles to allow the wine to defrost (he said that the temperatures were well below -40C taking into account the wind chill factor). Rod sang happy birthday to Jo in what can only be described as a voice that sounds like John Cameron Fogarty on his gruffest day! Coincidentally, the weather prevented them from setting off so Jo was able to spend the day recuperating, quaffing some plonk and nibbling on chicken korma expedition food.
I asked Rod to describe the environment. He responded by describing the area as “desolate and unforgiving”. They press on and we shall continue to mark their progress. Stay tuned ….
With the growl of George Thorogood and the Destroyers: Bad to the Bone cast as background music, at least in my mind, the Callums broke camp and moved on into the snowy abyss, hauling their gear.
There is no respite from the weather, in fact it gets more brutal. Jo gave the following report:
“Extreme cold inhibiting progress. This morning tried breaking camp. -26C with 15 knot wind. The wind chill effectively meant that the temp. was -35C with the wind chill factor. Callum lost feeling in left fingers despite thick gloves. Howled like a girl 🙂 Excruciating pain defrosting them.”
In fairness to Callum, the blood is effectively crystallising so the pain is in fact excruciating. Some (read: Brad Conlon) would say worse than child-birth!
How would he defrost his fingers in the middle of the journey? They do break for a hot cuppa at appropriate times. This would allow them to snap a few photographs.
Rod has planned something special (his original idea of reindeer stew was shot down in flames) for Jo’s 50th birthday today (26/03/17). Not many folk can say that they spent their 50th hauling gear across the ice cap! You can send Jo an sms wishing her a special 50th (contact me if you don’t have their satphone number).
Finally, I should mention that the upshot of the extensive snowfall is that they haul their gear and plough through the snow like an old school farmer ploughing his field! Rod may have another career as a plougher of fields!
Why would they do this you may ask. Well the short answer is that they are bad to the bone!
Our intrepid explorers spent a few days acclimitising to the weather. Rod described it as bitterly cold. He bought a beer to celebrate Jo’s birthday and it is frozen solid. He also had to effect some running repairs to their stoves but eventually they were in a position to set off.
Now that sounds easy enough, but it is worth reminding you that they are on skis and they are hauling their own kit.
The thick snow (much thicker than the above photo which simply shows the manner in which one hauls the gear) has limited their progress. They managed 5kms in 4 hours!
Rod reported as follows: “No respite from the cold. More thick snow. Camped in starkly beautiful valley on a frozen lake, many metres below thick snow. Hard cold day!”
They take precautions when they set up camp by erecting the outer peremiter polar bear alarm system. They also position their skis et al in an upright position to ensure that they can be located in the morning!
The Callums arrived to glorious blue skies (not a cloud in the sky) and a balmy -21C! I thought I would give you a perspective of Constable Point which really operates as a base camp of sorts for expeditions to Greenland.
They will then receive their logistical support in Greenland from Tangent Expeditions, who are very experienced at running these Greenland expeditions. Crucially, they will receive the compulsory rifle and ammunition which is required to ward off any over enthusiastic polar bears!
Believe it or not, Constable Point has its own Hilton Hotel!
If you focus in on the sign, you will note that it is rated as -1 star! That seems appropriate if you have to dig your way to the reception!
Perhaps a last moment of relative comfort before heading out to the icy wilderness …
The Callums will be taken by snowmobiles out across Hurry Fjord to the starting point for the crossing of Liverpool Land.
The satellite photo of the area for 21 March 2017 reveals extensive snow