Breaking camp

“We soon understood that ‘The Butcher’ was not a charitable place,” wrote Amundsen, “at night the temperature plunged and violent gusts wrought havoc on the plains beyond.” Oh, yes, we most certainly agree that this is no inviting place. Two days in a tent. Cold, the air full of snow. We wanted to move on.
Vegard Ulvang preparing food in a tentVegard turns weatherbound days into red letter days with his magic in the kitchen. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

We looked enquiringly at each other when we woke up. The wind was still tearing at our tents. Thick swirling snow still blew along the ground. And the visibility was nothing to write home about. But we wanted to continue on our way. Two days of lying still was enough. Besides, we were reading aloud from Amundsen’s book last night: “This is the fifth day and the wind is worse than ever. We were all in agreement. ‘There is nothing worse than lying weatherbound like this,’ said another: ‘It saps the strength more than skiing from morning to night.’ Personally I am of the same opinion. One day is pleasant, but two, three, four and – what we now faced – five days, no, that was too awful! ‘Shall we give it a try, then?’ No sooner had the suggestion been voiced than everything was agreed, unanimously and with jubilation.”

Amundsen left from “the Butcher” on a course due south and soon found himself in the midst of an area that has been called “the Devil’s Ballroom” and “the Devil’s Glacier” – names so portentous that they have prompted us to choose a curving route and give Amundsen’s problem areas a wide berth.

After a couple hours of skiing, the weather eased off and it eventually became a beautiful day here on the Plateau, but on one point we must agree with Amundsen. The skiing conditions are horrific: “A sledding trip through the Sahara would not have offered a worse gliding surface.”

Position: S 85 52.100, W 173 10.680
Temperature: -29°C
Wind: 4–8 m/s from the southeast
Altitude: 2800 metres
Distance traversed: 34 km
Distance behind Amundsen: 104 km
Total distance traversed: 845 km
Distance remaining to the South Pole: 466 km