27th November 2019, Day 1
After all the preparation and waiting Jenny finally got started after being dropped off at Hercules Inlet following a short plane journey from the ALE (Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions) camp at Union Glacier.
Hercules inlet is on the North coast of Antarctica (not surprising as anywhere on the coast is North!) although the sea is frozen over with around 200m of ice on top so there was no chance for a quick dip before setting off.
The Journey ahead will continue over ice for more than 700 miles.
Note for aspiring young explorers: Navigators usually measure such trips in Nautical miles and this links nicely to the degrees latitude (those are the horizontal lines on the globe) when heading South. 1 degree is 60 Nautical miles and From Hercules Inlet (80 degrees south) to the South Pole (90 degrees South) is 10 degrees or 600 Nautical miles. That makes a Nautical mile about 15% longer than a regular mile.
The first 2 or 3 days require some careful navigation to avoid crevasses but after that its pretty much a straight line heading due South. The route is considered quite flat and there is no climbing required but when pulling a sled with all your supplies a rise from 200m to 2800m above sea level at the pole means Jenny is skiing uphill double the height of Britain’s highest mountain (Ben Nevis). Skis are not usually great at going uphill but Jenny has attached some special “skins” to the bottom of her skis to add a bit of grip. She is also aided by some special advanced Ski boots made by ALFA in Norway.
Getting there at all will be tough with the severe weather (with the prevailing winds blowing against her) and Sastrugi (small ice ridges) making pulling her heavy sled uphill even harder, but getting there in world record time (that’s 38 days) is a big step further. To have any chance of achieving this, everything that Jenny takes has to be as light as possible. As examples, instead of eating regular cheese, Jenny carries “Mooncheese” which has the water removed and she wears the latest technology in lightweight cold weather clothing (called Futurelight developed by The North Face).
Jenny’s food supply is the only fuel for the journey and her expedition title “Solo to the South Pole powered by Atkins” is chosen to reflect her use of the Low carb Atkins peanut butter bars and chocolate cups to help provide that fuel (They also taste brilliant – here I must confess I helped Jenny in the sampling process when we were packing the sled and managed to purloin a few spare bars for my trip back to England)
Despite all the preparation and training, it’s the weather that will also dictate how quickly Jenny can progress. Last year’s attempt saw an unusual amount of snow and as this is so rare in Antarctica, the sleds are not designed for it so she simply got stuck every few minutes. This year the weather is looking better so it’s a big fingers-crossed that we don’t see any storms coming in.
Jenny sent some messages back through her satellite phone last night to confirm she had safely completed day 1 and was enjoying her first camp meal after melting some fresh snow for water.
The challenge this year is spiced up thanks to another Woman, Wendy Searle, who set off a day before Jenny on the same route. She is also attempting to break the speed. We were lucky to meet Wendy in Punta Arenas ahead of the trip and she is amazing. Both are advocates for women in sport so it’s great to see them leading the way.
Posted by Jenny’s Dad and Expedition Manager – We are hoping to get some blogs direct from Jenny soon so watch this space