A quiet moment on call has me trying to make inroads into the photographs from our Patagonian explorations last October. Here’s an image that was immediately emotive: A group of hikers on a guided exploration of a small part of the Perito Moreno Glacier as dwarfed by the immense magnitude of the ice. I love the mystery and majesty of glaciers; the idea of such harsh hardness being in constant flux, constantly flowing between accumulation and ablation while appearing immobile. You can explore a glacier for an entire day, convinced of its permanence, and then return the next to find the landscape changed, fresh and beaconing with new discoveries. The mute whiteness from afar disguises endless shades of blue, and the stark purity of the ice unfolds to reveal the pebbles and dirt it has collected along it’s course, like a child of the wilderness who can’t return from an adventure unsoiled.
Yip, the blog has been somewhat silent the last few months. Life, in contrast and by way of explanation, has been very full. I hope to post some more content soon, but rest assured that I am working on it in the meantime. Here’s a random snippet: Fran in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, looking epic (and relieved) in her First Ascent gear, descending from the (closed for winter) Garner Pass.
Dear friends and followers,
It is with a very heavy heart that I have to inform you that we will not be departing for Snow Hill Island in the next few days. We’ve been forced to make the difficult (and costly!) decision to postpone the trip by a season or two for safety considerations. This is not an easy call to make, especially with the heavy emotional, financial and time investment we all have made in the expedition, but we believe it is the right course to follow.
As you are no doubt aware, the ice conditions in the Antarctic are at a record high this year, which has made the approach to the Antarctic Peninsula uncertain within our time-frame. This led to the two team members doing penguin research to withdraw or risk losing their research window this year. After a lengthy discussion and much examination of the ice data, the remaining 6 team members decided to continue with the expedition.
It came as a heavy blow when (only 10 days before departure) one of the core team members was also forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour due to a life-threatening illness in his immediate family. Faced with unusually bad ice conditions and a team now dangerously reduced in numbers, we have elected to postpone the expedition. Effectively, this means we will have to try again next October or the year thereafter.
We see this not as a failure, but as a challenge and change in schedule. We are now in a stronger position, having laid the groundwork for all the logistics, gathered vast amounts of data, done endless preparation and provisioning, and ironed out many potential problems with equipment. The knowledge, contacts and systems we have developed will facilitate our next effort.
For our planned physiological research, we see this as an opportunity to expand the conceptual basis. We have already (in the last week) embarked on two projects which were deferred to get the expedition underway, but will actually enhance our fieldwork. Taking a long view, this may be a blessing in disguise. We have already opened some doors (through the Snow Hill preparation) that may accelerate the research far beyond what we envisioned on this expedition…exciting times ahead.
On a personal note, Franelise and I will still be traveling to the Falklands in a few days, where we will sort out, store, and recover some of the expedition gear. We’ll be meeting with role players there and putting the pieces into position for the Snow Hill Island Expedition to come. Thereafter we’re going to disappear into the mountains and fjords of Patagonia for a well-needed break 😉
We are deeply indebted to the individuals and companies that have been so supportive of the expedition, and will be doing our utmost to meet your expectations now and in the future. We take to heart the words of Roald Amundsen: “Obstacles are merely things we overcome”.
The sea ice is critical to the success of our expedition – too little and we will be unable to cross from the Peninsula to Snow Hill and the other islands safely; too much and we won’t be able to approach the Peninsula at all in the Golden Fleece. We’re all watching the radar charts like owls on a caffeine high. The historical average peak ice concentration occurs in mid- to late September, and then rapidly decreases into October, but year-on-year variation is dramatic and conditions early in the season are not much good for predicting the outcome. Some time in September we will begin to get access to the high-resolution satellite photographs of the region, which give much more detailed information, but it is a stressful time. Three years of planning hanging in the balance…
I’ll post the images here when they are available. The last week has shown some promising decreases in the concentration, but a cold spell can reverse the trend in less than a day. We can expect to see the ice thicken, but hope to see a little less to the west to make us all breathe easier.
Source: PolarView/Universitat Bremen, http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de:8084/amsr2/
Lots of interest brewing about our October expedition, with most people not quite getting the idea 😉 To dispel some of the confusion…
- Yes, it’s a private, self-funded expedition whose primary goal is that we have a holiday…doing some research along the way. Isn’t that how everybody relaxes?
- Yes, we really are going to be as close to carbon-neutral as you can get for flying half way around the world – we are pulling sleds with wind and man-power (and woman power).
- Yes, we will be camping. Refer to my comments about how everyone relaxes.
- No, we are not going on a cruise ship – we are using the wind and taking a yacht down to the ice.
For your interest and edification, here is some info about the Golden Fleece, the yacht we will be using.
Our next project has been getting some positive attention in the US press…
Single-surface ultralight (<1.4kg) paraglider
in development launched in the last week by Ozone. Sounds like a very special animal – official information is here on the FlyOzone site. One has already top-landed on Mont Blanc during testing. Need I say more?
UPDATE: Found this launch video, too. Sureal location, too.
Are you listening, Ozone? This is all I want for Christmas.
I’m going to let this speak (and create goosebumps) for itself.
I hope you noticed the wing is an Ozone Speedster ;p Follow Andy and his incredible journey in real time on Twitter (@PTL2012 and @Andy_Campbell) or visit their website here.
The link to this video has been circulating the flying community, and it explains the thoughts and feelings behind flying powered paragliders so nicely that I have to pass it on. If you have a fast connection, click the settings (cog wheel) and watch it at 720p – it’s worth the wait.