Dispatches From the South Pole, Entry 7: Breaking Routine

Posted by: Geoff Gloeckler on December 21, 2011

The Polar Vision team has been moving towards the the South Pole for more than three weeks now, covering a distance of nearly 350 miles. Here’s the latest update, this time from Andrew Jensen.

There is a minute each morning right after we wake, we lie in our sleeping bags and hear the wind pounding the sides of our tent, our legs and back are still sore from the previous day’s long march. Our stretching produces a cracking noise as the condensation that has frozen to the sides of our tent breaks. You stick one leg out of your zipper and an especially large gust of wind violently shakes the side of the tent. “Maybe we can resume the march again tomorrow, after the wind has died” one thinks. No such luck!

Now that we are well past the halfway point of the expedition, the initial euphoria about how lucky we are to be in this beautiful land has waned and day-to-day expedition life is the norm. We wake, eat the same identical breakfast as yesterday, we ski for nine hours, and make an identical camp, eat today’s identical dinner after today’s identical lunch.

There are a few points of light during these routines. We recently answered phone questions from Holy Well Primary School in the UK and the Perkins School for the Blind in the US.

The Holy Well questions were what you would expect from students at a primary school; questions to gain understanding about what a strange and unfamiliar place the world is. Have you seen any penguins? Do you have a tent? Is it very pretty there? The questions from Perkins School for the Blind were a little more poignant. How did Alan learn to ski? How does he eat his food? What does Antarctica sound like? Behind all these questions was the question the students were really asking themselves’ “What am I going to do with my life?”

This is how Alan started the Polar Vision challenge; he focused on what the challenge was going to be about and wanted people who were going to be here with him, through the hard times, as well as the good. We had 40 days of intense fundraising, prepping, training and planning which matched every day we were going to be on the ice. On a number of these 40 days we all wondered whether the trip was even going to happen. So we have built a team that we know will get to our goal and we are not concerned about those bad days.

The other day, I rolled over in my sleeping bag to hear Richard being told about a 10 year old boy who has low vision like Alan and was diagnosed a year ago, he was telling us via a blog message how he is planning to be the second visually impaired person to ski to the South Pole. Alan, Richard, and I took a moment to be inspired by this boy and to acknowledge what we were achieving in our challenge.

I want to be surrounded by people who share in my satisfaction of those moments and find with me the strength to continue. We still have several hundred miles to go in worsening weather, with blistering feet and tired arms and backs. Even though every step I take towards the pole will be the hardest steps, I know if we keep having moments like the ones with Holy Well and Perkins schools we will make it.

In late September we introduced you to team Polar Vision, Alan Lock, Richard Smith, and Andrew Jensen, three recent MBA grads who are trekking to the South Pole to raise awareness for visual impairment. While on their journey, the team will be filing periodic blog posts. This is their seventh post.

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