Day 16: Same Same and Different
27 May 2018 | Greenland
Look back at any of my old blogs and you'll probably see a long list of topics that I've covered time and time again: whiteouts, navigation, routines, efficiency and much more. While I like to believe each of my posts is an original idea in a specific moment, much of this style of travel is the same; and therefore, so are my thoughts.
Like today for example. During Diogo's navigation shift some low clouds moved in and the light became flat and we were soon engulfed in a whiteout. Route finding in these conditions is virtually impossible as sky and snow blend together and it's like you're on the inside of a ping pong ball (I've written this before) or floundering in milk (a new analogy - but not mine it's from an audio book). At times, we can't even see the snow underneath our skis!
To ski straight, we use a bracket that holds the compass and then ski, head down staring at the needle on the compass dial. We don't ski in the perfectly straight lines when visibility is good, but we don't ski around in circles either.
Yesterday, I was listening to an audio book about a World War II flight crew that crashed into the Greenland ice cap. They were stranded for several months and endured unimaginable hardships. While I listened, another storm whipped up and I found it difficult to hear about terrible Greenland weather while skiing in terrible Greenland weather.
Despite ending in a whiteout, the day started clear and surprisingly warm (around 10 degrees). The walls we had built in the previous night's gale had done their job and our entire campsite was mostly snow free. On either side, and where the wind whipped around the edges of the snow walls, nearly three foot high framed the tents. Flank the walls out far enough and you can have a fairly wide swath free of blowing and drifting snow. At 30 mph however blowing snow gets through any small crack and a significant amount of spindrift accumulated around the windward side of the first tent (mine).
We are in a good routine skiing and then taking breaks. When it's less windy, it's easy to stretch breaks longer and relax. Dean and Kat are the more gregarious and talkative members of our team regularly asking questions and trying to stimulate conversations while we're stopped. For my part, I am content not saying much and prefer quiet reflection during breaks. Diogo is somewhere in the middle - sometimes head down eating and quiet. Other times, participating in the back and forths.
I saw another bird today. Flying towards us. I was skiing in back so no one else noticed it. It struggled against the wind for a bit (we had an usual tail wind) then landed on the snow. After a minute or so it took off, turned around and headed for the East coast (hopefully).
We are now 160 miles from the eastern edge of the ice cap and have 9.5 days to get there - an achievable goal in good conditions. Of course, this is Greenland and the new snow on the ground will certainly slow are progress some. But this too will change and we have the finish line in our sights (kind of). We think about the end but know that a lot can happen between then and now so we ski, stop and eat and ski some more.