Pole of Possibility: Captain’s Blog 1, 8th Dec 2022

Condensation is beaded on the inside of the windows this morning and the distant hills are white. Snowfall, perhaps the first of the Scottish winter. I popped to my car to empty it of yet another parcel for Antarctica and had to tug hard at the door to break the icy seal. I long already for the sun, even for the promise of warmth that rises after frost. If a Scottish winter is this bitingly cold and hard to endure, how on earth is Antarctica going to feel?!

On the wall of my kitchen is a world map, and for the first time as I look up at it, I see it doesn’t even have Antarctica on it. Maybe a big white blob across the bottom of a picture was deemed by the designer not to suit the eye, so it has been deleted. And it feels that going to Antarctica will delete life for a while. There will be nothing more important to think about other than travelling to our objective, the Pole of Possibility. Survival and safety in an extreme and unfamiliar environment will be our daily focus.

I feel a bit sick this morning, and my head is banging from muscle tension as a result of hours on the ski-erg in the gym. As I’ve been wimping out of the cold training outdoors every day, there have been some hours indoors discovering weird and wonderful gym gadgets: the cross-country skiing ergometer and the static handbike that I’ve been pedalling in reverse. Ouch, what are those tiny muscles screaming in the back of my shoulders and why have I never discovered them before? It constantly surprises me that I can be using my arms all the time and yet still find muscles to hurt with just a tiny shift in the width or angle of an exercise.

We had our last team meeting last night to go through our packing list and checklist of pre-Antarctic things. So now it is down to last minute shopping for missing items and spare screws for my sit-ski, along with final decisions on how to offset our carbon and make sure we are carbon negative, at least triple-offsetting our footprint. We are happy to have agreed a partnership with Trees for Life who do good quality work rewilding the Scottish Highlands and are going to offset with them.  We are also going to put some offset into a blue carbon initiative as coastal ecosystems are a more rapid way to help mitigate climate change. Geological offset projects such as Carbfix in Iceland are also something we are looking at, as carbon dioxide is turned back into rock is a longer-term solution to climate change mitigation.

Meanwhile, my sit-ski and handbike are parcelled up thanks to a kindly man at Forres White & Co. removals who donated packing materials, and I feel the mix of scared-excited rise in me. Our journey south begins on Monday 12th December, with more preparation time in Patagonia before entering Antarctica on the 18th.  This feels like the culmination of a lifetime of learning about mindset tools to stay centred, calm and strong, and on managing paraplegia in extreme environments.

Most of all though, I feel grateful for this incredible and unique opportunity, for all the support we have received, and excited about discovering the deleted continent and sharing what we learn through the film.