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Stage 3 complete! – Spectre – Transantarctic Expedition

Stage 3 complete!

Date = 22/12/2017
Day 33 (Expedition) Day 38 (Antarctica)
Location = Twin Otter drop off, Depot. A
Coordinates  – S87 58.846’, W131 39.578’
Altitude =  3021m
Temperature =  -24C
Wind speed / direction = 10 – 20 knot ENE sunny / low cloud
Windchill = -40C
Distance travelled = 30km
Distance remaining = 1166km

We have arrived at the place where we were dropped by the plane a little over a month ago. Up on the featureless, deep freeze of the high plateau.

We blasted 30km down the ‘road’ in less than 1.5 hours, although it was very cold this morning. Then everything changed for the last 2km, as we left the smooth groomed surface, and headed into wind. The pulk suddenly felt like an anchor and the snow like cement. It took more effort and frustration to do the last 2km than the 30kms before. Surface, snow, wind, heading and visibility; these are the ingredients that must be aligned to travel by kite. They have been aligned perfectly for the last 120km and it delivered about 6 hours of extremely fun kiting.

Kiting down the ‘road’

But in an instant, a small change in any of the ingredients drastically alters results. A tiny change in direction and the kite loses power, making life much more difficult or requiring a kite change. If the visibility goes, you can go from 30km per hour to zero. And when the wind is blowing over 25knots, life is very stressful.

But we are here at our drop off and can hardly believe we made it so quickly and easily after being becalmed just a few days ago!

And so we have completed phase 3 of our expedition. Immediately it is time to turn our attention to the 4th and final phase. An 1100km kite journey across Antarctica. No small expedition in itself.

We have some goodies stashed here and are enjoying Pringles and about to eat a frozen meal of real food. Outside it is -25C, -35C with wind-chill, but with the tent zipped up it is like a greenhouse and actually a quite cosy +15C.

We are thrilled to have reduced a potential 20 day man-haul to 4 days of walking and 4 days of kiting plus 2 days of becalmed resting. That means we are a full 10 days ahead of schedule! However…

The Easterly wind that has powered our race ahead is now stopping us in our tracks. From here we must head 350km to a point near the Theil Mountains. We developed this strategy based on trade wind patterns that dominate 70% of the time. What we are currently experiencing, and seem to have for much of the trip, are not classic trade winds. It is the other 30%.

Our next target is directly into the current wind from here and with the supplies we have collected at the 2 depots we now once again have massive loads. For the kind of distances we’re facing, upwind tacking is not an option.

Therefore we are considering heading further south, cross wind on the groomed ‘road’. We could even go 220km all the way to pole if we chose, to then come out along the classic South Pole kite route.

Or we could head another 60km south and try to pick up slightly different wind currents before we cross an area that almost nobody has ever set foot in.

Once again the wind absolutely dominates our futures! It is fun to analyse all the different route options and wind forecasts to try to formulate the best strategy.

We are not complacent about the journey ahead. Although we have had a massive boost we could still get shut down by a number of factors.

Jean and Mark

For now we are relaxed, comfortable and savouring the scene (although not the smell!)

[Leo]

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