20th November
Today the winds were well over 30mph, which meant that the experienced temperature was well below -30 deg C, far too cold for science work. As it was the second lie-up day in a row we didn’t want to spend yet more time in the tents reading, writing and playing games; we wanted to burn some pent-up energy. Thirty minutes later, some sledge traces, an eight-man bothy (shelter) and a small sledge had been turned into a kite sledging spectacular!

I lay on the sledge, held on to the ropes and let the bothy inflate into a giant kite. The person standing next to me released me and I sped off down the glacier at speeds of about 15-20 mph. Every teacher had their own style, mine involved going straight, picking up speed and meeting a violent end! All very good fun and it helped to stave off cabin fever.

I am currently sat in the Sports Science Labs of Portsmouth University undergoing fitness tests and cold challenges. The aim is to get baseline data so that, by taking more results when we return, we can see how our bodies have changed in the cold, harsh environment of Antarctica. We have already got one set of results from our previous visit in May.

Reasons to be cheerful:

  • I’m fitter now than I was in May. My VO2 max is now 65.9, up from 63.1. To find out your own VO2 max click here.
  • I am more muscular than I was in May, and muscle is a good insulator.
  • My blood tests have come back normal.
  • I’m packed.
  • Very soon I won’t have to be annoyed about the papers being full of information on reality TV shows instead of proper news.

Resons to be concerned:

  • My weight has dropped by 1kg to 71.5kg (so my headline is wrong, I may have a mesomorph somatotype – I’m muscular – but I’m certainly no mountain). This weight loss is due to having less fat, which would also have been a good insulator.
  • My ECG results (heart trace) have been referred to a specialist!
  • I’ve got to spend the next hour in a walk-in freezer, wearing only swimming shorts and wired up to every type of measurement device possible. This test will tell me at what temperature I start sweating and shivering.
  • Despite hating the programme, I still want to know who wins celebrity ballroom dancing, or whatever it’s called!

Tomorrow is kit check and panic buying day, then Saturday we’re off!

My previous posts have tried to convey the growing excitement that I’m feeling. However, other emotions are rising to the surface as well. Top of the list is nervousness and here’s why:

  1. Two days ago it was 1degC outside. I felt cold scraping the ice off the car, yet 1degC is going to be a ‘hot’ day in Antarctica, one where I might even contemplate running outside in only my boxer shorts, to have an ice bath!
  2. Five per cent of people who have spent time in the Polar Regions or other isolated areas required professional mental health care, while up to 60 per cent may suffer from various psychological symptoms, such as depression, sleeplessness and anxiety, “and also difficulty getting along with their fellow expeditioners — a bit more irritable, a bit more angry, a bit more sensitive.” – Dr. Lawrence Palinkas, University of California http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2007/07/31/polar-health.html
  3. The temperature at Halley station yesterday was -25degC (including wind chill). Halley is on the coast, I’m going inland. Temperatures at an inland base (Vostock) were -48degC NOT including wind chill!
  4. For four weeks I won’t be eating any fresh produce. Can I get scurvy because of that?
  5. I haven’t packed yet.
  6. I am ignorant of many of the risks.