13 days after Amundsen
“God only knows how far Scott has come today,” writes Amundsen, revealing the pressure his expedition felt from their competitor. “Oh, I’ll be damned if he’s even set off yet,” replies one of the others. “You must realise it’s too cold for his ponies.” We have no competitors. And we keep telling ourselves we must run our own race and start gradually.
Today we skied 23.6 km. That doesn’t sound like much but it took us nearly eight hours, including breaks. We are now 263 km behind Amundsen, who started 13 days before us. At our current pace we will never catch up with him. Not without good sailing winds. Vegard optimistically tried sailing this afternoon, but was blown sideways rather than forward. The wind must change quarter. Catching up with Amundsen will now require that we attain a daily average of 30 km – assuming we will not be forced to lie low because of the weather. And we have to climb 3,000 metres up to the plateau. Still, our doubts about whether we will arrive in time for the jubilee celebration at the South Pole are nothing compared to Amundsen’s worries about Scott.
Today we passed what Amundsen called “filthy terrain”, an area of huge crevasses where they were hard pressed to find room to pitch their tents between clefts that each opened into a “gruesome abyss”. We saw no gaping crevasses like those Amundsen described. We had studied the satellite images ahead of time and charted a path west of the one “the Chief” chose, so we are safe. Our heartfelt thanks go to Stein Tronstad at the Norwegian Polar Institute for helping us plot out a secure route.
S 79 20.419, W 164 59.355