Message fron Laura, First Mate on Pelagic Australis:
“We have had the most beautiful day here today. Dark blue skies, warm wind and blazing sunshine and Miles and I just couldn’t resist going for a bit of a hike of our own. We donned the snow shoes and climbed up over the saddle behind Grytviken to get a taste of what the guys have had this week. It was so refreshing and energising to stand at the top, to survey the mountains and sea below us, to breath in the cool crisp mountain air, to see Pelagic Australis and Grytviken – an old whaling station, almost dots in the distance. A rare opportunity but one that we just couldn’t let slip by. The going was tough as the snow melted and became more and more slushy and like granulated sugar. Even the snow shoes couldn’t stop us falling through to our knees on occasion.
We thought how it must be for the Shackleton team. Would it be easier in skis? How would the pulks* fare in the thick slush? Would the snow be firmer if they were on a glacier? They must be incredibly fit to be doing what they are doing. At 8pm local, the phone call came through, and this time I had a chance to chat a little more to Skip, and to Janey. They are back down at sea level and have a good camp set up on Fortuna beach for the gales forecast for tonight and tomorrow. They have apparently had a BRILLIANT day. The sun shone, it was windy at times, but they said the skiing was fantastic and that everyone was well and happy. Janey said that they have experienced the whole range of weather, that it has been an incredible week and they are all ecstatic to have made the crossing so far. It feels slightly strange to imagine them there, cooped up in their tents waiting for the gale to start, and reflecting on their achievement. I believe the plan for tomorrow is for some of them to hike back up the mountains for some extra skiing, and for others to stay on the beach to get to know the wildlife a little better – or shelter from the wind.
We will take Pelagic Australis round to Fortuna Bay tomorrow once the storm has blown through, and will hopefully have a chance to speak to them on the radio and maybe even drop off a bottle of wine…! The next day they will finish the traverse with a climb over to the Whaling Station at Stromness. It really makes you think how Shackleton must have felt when he came down to Fortuna Bay, hoping to find help, only to hear the whistle from the whaling station, over another pass to the east. These guys I’m sure will find it hard to set off again knowing the comfort of the boat is so close, but they need to ski for just another 5 hours or so and then we’ll welcome them back on board on Friday with a fine meal of steak, Dauphinoise potatoes, fresh vegetables, lemon pudding and wine, oh so much wine, followed no doubt with a dram of Scotland’s finest.
Let’s hope the wind doesn’t blow their tents away.”
* The sledges on which tents, food, and all other supplies are towed behind each skier.