Posted by Gaby Dean

Saturday, 02 May 2009 11:14
People living in the UK tend to be obsessed by the weather.  But thousands of kilometres away from the prospect of decent shelter, let alone a hot bath, what the weather is doing becomes something of an obsession.  Especially now, as the team await a re-supply that’s been delayed for several days.

Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley have seen it all, weather wise, on this expedition.

“In February, when we set off, the wind chill factor was fairly permanently, adding considerably to the -40 degrees Celsius ambient temperatures,” Hadow reminds us.  “Now conditions have improved somewhat, it feels safer to look at the impact that had on us.  We were all battling hypothermia.  Our brains definitely slowed down a little.  It was very, very tough.”

Now though, with temperatures a comparatively balmy -20 degrees C, the team are occasionally able to use the weather to their advantage.

“If the wind drops, we can get our clothes dry by hanging them on ski poles,” says Martin Hartley, who had a particular problem with a wet, frozen sleeping bag in the first half of the expedition.   “We dig the poles deep into the ice and hang our jackets over them.  Towards the end of the day, there’s even a slight warmth in the sun that gets them almost dry.”

At the other extreme, however, are the storms that on a couple of occasions have kept the Ice Team tent bound for days at a time.

“Then the fear is that the whole tent will blow away with us inside it,” says Hadow.  “Given that we’re on moving ice and not solid ground in the first place, that creates a feeling of extreme vulnerability.”

The tent remains anchored to the ice in part because of the weight of the three explorers and their kit pinning it down from the inside. The three try to catch up on sleep during storms, but extreme gusts of winds ensure that sleep is fitful.

In recent days, as they progressed northwards until finding the ice pan suitable for the re-supply plane, the team has enjoyed the spectacle of the unique Arctic weather.

“Today the clouds were dancing and shimmering”, says Daniels.  “There was a prism effect with colour in the clouds.  It wasn’t the northern lights, but it had a heavenly, surreal feeling to it.  It was odd, extraordinary.  It was snowing too, which is rare, strange though that may seem up here.  I can’t do it justice with words but I felt privileged to be a part of it”.
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