Feb 22 2007 Expedition Journal  

Friday Jan 12 2007
10.07. Arrived safe and well at Heathrow - but with the luggage remaining at Madrid! We now hear it has arrived, and will be couriered home.

They were met at Terminal 2 by journalists and cameras from the Daily Express, as well as several family members. Ronnie.s husband was able to bring 2 of their 5 children, who had an emotional reunion with their mother after 5 weeks separation including Christmas.

Fiona and Mike arrived home for an immediate interview for BBC E Mids. Today, which should be seen between 18.30 and 19.00 tonight.

Everyone has had a great time.

Mike summed up: We worked well as a team, and had at times some difficulties, but overall, a very successful completion of Shackleton.s Unfinished Journey. Everyone seems to have exceeded their own expectations as well, which is the icing on the cake.

Newark Base signing off.
Hope you have enjoyed the whole experience with us.
Good wishes to all, Mary & Roger
Wednesday Jan 10 2007
Today has been frantic here in Newark. Wexas travel in London managed to find our team places on a flight to Heathrow. It was all very last minute and communication between London, Punta Arenas and Newark was not easy, with the time difference and relevant phones not switched on.

However, we believe that our team will be leaving Punta at 17.40. local time on a flight to Santiago. They will spend the night here and pick up the connection to Madrid at 14.00. tomorrow, arriving in the early hours of Friday. They are due to land at Heathrow, Terminal 2, at 10. 05.

We are looking forward to welcoming them home. Well done to all of them. What a remarkable adventure.
Tuesday Jan 09 2007
Team recovering in Punta. They are trying to book flights back to the UK but are having great difficulty. Apparently South America is very busy at this time of year. At present, they have been offered flights for January 16th. This is the best offer at the moment. There is a possibility of a standby from Santiago. The problem is not getting from Punta to Santiago, but getting an onward flight to Madrid by Iberia Airways. This could take days. The team will discuss the options and take a decision tomorrow.

The weather is sunny and warm and all is well.
Monday Jan 08 2007
IN PUNTA at last. Mike emailed at 11.00 Chile time:

We are all rather tired, but arrived at 7am (10.00GMT) this morning.
All is well and have met up with Jennie too.
Really need to get some sleep, so short message.
Have been to travel agents, but they are not proving too helpful with changing tickets to earlier dates than currently booked.
More later.

Photo: Inside ALE office in Punta Arenas.
Sunday Jan 07 2007
Phone call from Mike 10.00pm G.M.T. tonight. The call was late as they had been on standby for the arrival of the Ilyushin for most of the day. Apparently the repair had taken longer than expected. Mike reported that the plane was now on its way from Punta and was expected in about four and a half hours subject to weather conditions. The pilot was not sure whether he could put down at Patriot hills because the weather was unsettled and cloud was coming in once again. .....watch this space....

Everyone waiting for the plane is completely de-stressed, and an expert at monopoly. The waiting game is par for the course in this area of the world.

Our roving reporter in Punta, Jennie reports that there were similar delays to those trying to get onto the ice. The expeditions scheduled to fly on Dec. 29th Jan 4th and 10th. and their supporing equipment will now be on the move.
Nice and sunny in Punta too!

Photo: The view our team is longing for - the threshold of Punta Airport runway.
Saturday Jan 06 2007
11.15 icetime: Patriot Hills. Mike phoned to say that the Team are all well, and playing board games, as well as socialising.
Last night, Mike played Monopoly with two climbers who have climbed Everest three times!
There are 45 people currently stranded in PH Base camp, so they have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to talk to people of many nations with the same interests.

It is still expremely windy, with gusts up to 65mph.

No confirmation yet of the completion of repairs to the Ilyushin 76 at Punta.

There are reports that spares and qualified mechanics will be flown in from Dubai.
Saturday Jan 06 2007
E-mail from Jennie Silkstone (the team member who did not recover from the food poisoning sufficiently to go to the Pole.), to her family and friends
Headed: I.m jinxed
Hello all
Well, what a trip I have had. I set of with great plans to go and visit the
volcanoes and lakes in Chile. To cut a long story short for those that can.t be bothered with the detail - after day 1 the boat broke down - we then spent 5 days
waiting for the rescue boat to collect us before continuing the 2 day voyage
on to Puierto Montt.
The ferry company bought me a flight back to Punta which was supposed to be for tomorrow, - but they could only get one today. So I am now back in boring old Punta
to discover that the plane that will bring my South Pole team back to Punta has also broken down, and there is no chance of them being back here till Monday. Hey ho.

On the more positive side I met 2 great people. Irish Vanessa - who swore like
a trooper, and Kylie a funny kiwi, and I spent most of the time with them. I feel like I have know them for years following 8 days confined to a relatively small boat.
After day 1 I planned to go to Bariloche (Argentina) with both of them but these plans were rapidly changed. We plan to meet up in Ireland when we all get back.

The funniest moment was when the ferry docked - most people were like caged animals waiting to get off and Kylie and I were called off first.
As two of the most chilled out people on the boat the moaners were not at all happy - but it gave us great satisfaction!

New Year.s Eve party was like a wedding as there was such a range of
characters on the boat - highly amusing and one I will not forget in a
hurry. Watching seals and dolphins - missed the whales though. Lying on deck on the one sunny day - it poured with rain most of the time

Sleeping lots - the day generally consisted of getting up for breakfast once
my appetite had returned, then going back to bed and getting up for lunch and
then trying to stay awake until a respectable bedtime, I have turned into an eating-sleeping machine.

There were some real moaners on the ferry as you can imagine all getting
together and calling meetings and sending letters to the company and giving
the staff loads of grief and the poor cows had to stand in their lorry for 10 days and were getting a bit smelly!!

All in all I have had a 9 day ferry trip, and flight back to Punta with lots
of food, good company and good views for the total for Ģ5 pounds. We got a full refund and they paid for my flight back - so that’s Ģ200 pounds into my South
Pole fund for next year already.
Now I need to go and arrange my evening’s entertainment!
Jen xxx (Silkstone)
More news of the Ilyushin problems in this link: http://www.mounteverest.net/news.php?id=15444
Friday Jan 05 2007
11.15 icetime: Patriot Hills. Fiona crawled out of bed to phone - very windy so staying in tent.
News of the repair to the plane suggests Sunday for the trip to Patriot Hills (weather permitting) - Monday for the Team to fly out.

Fiona confirmed it was minus 40 C when they did the bikini photo - some goose pimples to be seen no doubt! She will try to get the photo to us.

Everyone is well - reading - chatting etc to pass the time.
Thursday Jan 04 2007
11.15 icetime: It is a whiteout at Patriot Hills, so Fiona got out of bed to phone - and will be back there by the time you read this! Everyone is fine, and sleeping off their exertions. That is the GOOD news.

The BAD news is that the high whale tail styled tailplane of the Iluyshin transport has been damaged by the high winds, whilst on the ground at Punta Arenas. Repairs will take several days, so there can be no flights in or out of Patriot Hills until these are completed.
(see Dec 13 and 17th photos below - even access to the tailplane is a problem due to the height.)

Some expeditions have already been camped for five days, waiting to fly back to Punta.

This is the Antarctic - totally un-predictable - you can never plan ahead with any certainty!

Photo: Are they dreaming of this? As Pooh bear said: An expedition is a long line of everybody............
Wednesday Jan 03 2007
13.00 hrs Icetime.(3 hours behind GMT)
Fiona phoned to say they have joined Mike (who is much better) at Patriot Hills Base camp at 80 25 South, waiting for the weather to abate ,particularly the catabatic winds rolling down from the polar plateau. The planes cannot land or take off safely in the turbulent conditions.

Fiona said they have had a Ball, and had PARTIED TO THE POLE - even though it was minus 30C + as they neared the Pole.
They were rather weary now, since at the Pole they switched to New Zealand time (15 hrs ahead of GMT) and so with their trips around the base, they had only 3 hours sleep before the 4 hour flight back to Patriot Hills (18 hours time difference!)
Fiona sounded very jetlagged.

Ronnie still has bad blisters on one foot, and Caroline has hurt her back but is OK, Polly and Fiona are fine. Spirits are high - and they have promised themselves a lay-in tomorrow morning - unless the Ilyushin 76 transport comes from Chile.
If this happens (weather changes by the hour here) they will have to pack up immediately and fly to Punta - 24hours of daylight here of course.

We hear that Jennie ( who was too much affected by the food poisoning to go with the Team) is still aboard a coastal ferry which has broken down some 100 miles North of Punta.
On Dec. 28th she emailed Janet, her mother: I leave Punta at 3pm today and head to Puerto Natales where I get on board my cargo ship tonight along with lots of cows and things apparently. Then will potter around the lakes and Volcanoes and will aim to get back here for the 4th of Jan which is the date the Team,s flight is due - usually never exactly on time. (I expect her Spanish conversation has improved dramatically.)

Photo: Patriot Hills Base Camp with Twin Otters on the ice runway.
Tuesday Jan 02 2007
10.00 Icetime: Fiona phoned from their tent at the South Pole. They have had a fantastic tour of the Amundsen-Scott base, where Fiona met friends who were there on her solo trip 2003/4.

(Some 400 people work there during the summer months - only about 80 during the seven month dark winter. The sun is below the horizon from late February to early October)

Fiona said that we have been treated so well, and we are having a ball. We shall have lots of tales to tell you on our return.

We have taken loads of photos, and are now about to strip to our bikinis, for a very quick photo shoot at the Ceremonial South Pole - as it is minus 28 C today. This photo will be used to raise awareness of breast cancer.

The Twin Otter plane is due to pick them up at 18.30 GMT today, for their return to Patriot Hills, where they hope to meet up with Mike - unless he has already flown to Punta Arenas.

STOP PRESS: The plane left the Pole at 19.10 GMT.

Photo: Fiona at the Ceremonial Pole surrounded by flags of many nations - on her solo trip.
(Amundsen-Scott Base staff living quarters in background.)
Monday Jan 01 2007
07.00 Icetime. Position 89.50 S 82.07 W. WE CAN SEE THE POLE!

Fiona rang: Yesterday we started out in a whiteout, but gradually the sun broke through, and we saw some fantastic cloud formations. It was a really good travelling day, and we skiied for seven hours, covering 11.9 n,miles.

Then we saw the Pole Dome in the distance, with a horseshoe halo of cloud around it - an amazing sight. We jumped up and down, and did a penguin dance.

During the day the temperature rose to minus 5C. It was really too warm, but eventually the temperature dropped to minus 20C.

We had a tent party to celebrate the new year. We pulled crackers and party poppers and sang Auld Lang Syne. We had a really good time and we are very excited.

This morning, it is cloudless with not a breath of wind, It is so calm that you could light a candle. We are on our way to Amundsen-Scott Base calling first at the Geographical South Pole (which moves), and then to the Ceremonial Pole with all the flags and the Globe on a stick, to do our Girlie bikini act!

MIke too had a New Years Eve party with ALE at Patriot Hills - he continues to improve.

Once again - a very Happy New Year to all of you out there. We are thinking about you - Dick and Jennie.
Lots of love from the girls.

STOP PRESS: THEY HAVE ARRIVED. Fiona phoned at 23.20 gmt
Photo: Globe on a stick at the Ceremonial Pole.
Sunday Dec 31 2006
08.10 Ice time: Position 89.38 S 82.27 W. 7 hours skiing, and 10.8 miles. Only 22 n.miles to the South Pole.

Fiona said we had a really positive day and with a lighter load we can go faster. Although we started yesterday in sunny conditions, it deteriorated all day into a whiteout with the temperature still under minus 30C.

Everyone is in good spirits and wish family and friends a very Happy New Year.
From Ronnie.....Missing you Ivan, love you lots.
From Polly..........See you I D C
From Caroline....Love to my sister.
From Fiona......Shall miss partying, but will make up for it with you all.
.........Southwell Running Club - hope the 10k at Caythorpe went well. Sorry we missed it this year.

Mike is still at Patriot Hills, and hopes to be able to stay for the few days until the team returns - but he may have to return to Punta, although weather is still preventing flights. He is improving slowly.

Photo: Typical camp site from last trip. Skis upright in snow as extra tent pegs, - in case it really blows.
Saturday Dec 30 2006
08.00 ice time: Position 89.27 S 80.53 W. Fiona phoned. They managed four miles after Mike was airlifted out.

Today it is sunny, with no wind. Ice conditions are good, so thay hope to make good progress.

Ronnie and Carolyn have blistered feet, but are coping fine.
The team are sad about losing first Jennie and now Mike, but are determined to put their Best Skis Forward.

No news of Mike.s movements from Patriot Hills yet, as for safety reasons, he left both satellite phones with Fiona on the ice.

As soon as we hear more, it will appear immediately.

STOP PRESS: 09.15 ice time. Fiona has just heard from Mike who is safely in Patriot Hills. He has confirmed that getting out was the right decision, as he is still in considerable pain. He may go on to Punta, but bad weather has stopped all flights.

Photo: Fiona with the satellite phone in the tent. Previous expedition - plasters for frostnip.
Friday Dec 29 2006
14.00 ice time: Position 89.23 S, 82.16 W.
Mike phoned to say that he had injured his back yesterday, and it is now so painful that he cannot continue. Fortunately ALE had a Twin Otter already on the way to the Pole to land and take him back to Patriot Hills. (via the South Pole)

Mike told Mary: Everything is sorted, as we have planned for this type of event before we started, so the Team can continue the Journey with as little delay as possible.

The team put up the tents after only 3 miles, as Mike could not walk. In all, they stayed for 3 hours to see Mike away.

Fiona now takes charge of course, so they are an All Girl team.

They hope to do about 4 miles before camping for the night.
Thursday Dec 28 2006
07.45 Ice time: Mike phoned Position 89.10S 81.32W 8.6 miles yesterday. It was harder to travel, and it became cloudy and the temperature dropped to minus 30C.
There were lots of sastrugi up to 40 cms high, and the light patterns as we looked forwards were amazing.
Everyone is loving it. Ronnie is finding it challenging, and has a few blisters, but is OK. We are all thinking of Jennie.
At the end of the day, with a light breeze from the East and the intense cold we were a bit shattered.
Today we had to thaw the tent poles apart with our hands, as a result of a lot of frozen condensation.

STOP PRESS. 19.00 ice time. Position: 89.20 S, 81.36 W. Mike phoned to say they had best day yet - 9.6 n.miles. As they climb to the polar plateau it is getting colder. Minus 30C and below now.

Photo: A ski equipped (fixed below the wheels) deHavilland Canada Twin Otter turboprop - the workhorse of the Antarctic continent.
Wednesday Dec 27 2006
Mike did not phone on Boxing Day, as they had an 8 mile day.
Position now 89.02S 81.48W. Weather conditions are good, making easy skiing. Temp minus 25C. They found one of Fiona.s campsites from her solo expedition, recognisable by her tent guy marks.

They had a Boxing Day party yesterday, eating the Christmas Cake that Mary(Mike.s mum) had given them. Everyone is well - they hope to be at the pole in 6 days time, including today. The altitude has not affected them too badly - just a few headaches.

We had heard from Jennie.s mum that she was safely in Punta and having a party time with the Ilyushin pilots - the team were glad to hear that she was safely there and reasonably well.

Photo: The pole is over there somewhere.........

Note: Longitude degrees at 89.00S are now only 1.2 miles(1.93km) apart, compared to 60 miles at the equator!
Monday Dec 25 2006
Christmas Day: Position 88.54S 84.15W.

Received the latest news at 22.15.hrs. G.M.T.(Currently they are keeping 3 hours behind GMT)
Team have had a good day with excellent travelling conditions. They covered 6.2 nautical miles in 4.5 hours skiing. They were fortunate enough to see a fabulous parhelion and took photographs.

They have now set up camp and are about to experience a polar Christmas dinner. Mike says he is expecting one or two surprises as Fiona has a very heavy bag. Maybe tomorrow we will discover the contents of this mysterious bag.

All is well. They send Christmas Greetings - to everyone.

Photo: A parhelion from last trip. (Refraction of sunlight through ice crystals in the air.)
Sunday Dec 24 2006
Christmas Eve: 13.30.G.M.T. Team hope to get aboard the Twin Otter in ten minutes to start the 525 miles approx. flight to their start point. On the way, they will land at the Thiel Mountains for a refuelling stop - approximately a two hour journey. With a bit of luck, they are hoping to meet up with Correne Erasmus-Coetzer and team lead by Denise Martin an experienced Canadian guide. This team were recently re-supplied by air at the Thiels, and have stayed for two days to rest.
(Mike has been mentoring Correne for a while now, and he is really looking forward to seeing her in action.)
There will then be a further one and a half hour flight to their start point.

The position of the landing (at approx 8000 ft asl) on the Polar Plateau depends entirely on the weather conditions and terrain, so there will be no information available until the next phonecall. At least they are partly acclimatised by the time they spent at 2600ft asl at Patriot Hills camp.
Everyone is eager to start the trek after the many delays they have experienced.

Sadly I have to report that one of the team members, Jennie, has had to be evacuated back to Punta Arenas in Chile. Although recovered from the recent bout of food poisoning, she has not regained enough strength to allow her to continue the arduous trek ahead, espcially risky for her at high altitude. The team gave her a party last night, and waved her off this morning. Needless to say everyone found this rather upsetting.

We now have to sit back and wait for the next bulletin. We wish them well as they start Shackletons Unfinished Journey to the South Pole.

22.00.hrs. Team have landed on the Polar Plateau. They managed to see Correne and her team at the Thiels as they had hoped. Currently, they are camped at 88.483S. 86.07W. having walked 3 miles. The temperature is -28C and it is a beautiful day. The team set up the camp in 34 minutes, pretty good going. All is well.

Happy Christmas to our families and friends.

Hurrah at last!

Photo: Their view with the sun lower nearly to the horizon.
Saturday Dec 23 2006
14.00.hrs. News from Mike, Fiona, Jenny, Ronnie, Carolyn and Polly at the bottom of the world.

Day 7 at Patriot Hills bouncing off the tent walls. Never in a million years did we imagine we would still be here, but do not worry, morale is sky high with Ronnie in Ronnies world keeping us fully entertained. We remain hopeful that the weather will clear. Thinking about you all on Christmas Eve eve.x x x x x x
The rock steady crew are gradually getting fatter- except Ronnie.

Photo: The stunning view from their tents.
Friday Dec 22 2006

Little to report as the weather is still not suitable for a flight to the Polar Plateau.
Weather forecast expected in half an hour and a further one this evening so there is still a chance of a slot today.
If they can start the trek tomorrow there will be a good chance that they will be able to achieve their objective. The situation is being monitored carefully.

We at home can only watch this space and pray that all will be well soon.
Thursday Dec 21 2006
14.15: Mike phoned from Patriot Hills. Jenny is the only one not fully recovered, but the weather is still unsuitable for their flight anyway. They are training each day to pass the time, and are very keen to start their journey.
Morale is good, but everyone is a little frustrated by the weather.

Fiona has decided to christen her sledge PUDSEY and CAKESLICE. Mike wasnt sure why.
News from other expeditions that several people have been evacuated with altitude sickness.

Steve Bull photo. Twin Otter on the ice showing mild sastrugi.
This is the terrain (about the max. permitted for the ski plane to land) they expect at 88.23South when they start on foot.
Wednesday Dec 20 2006
14.20. G.M.T. Mike reports that the team is still in Patriot Hills. Ronnie and Jennie have not yet fully recovered from their food poisoning episode. Needless to say their flight to the polar plateau cannot go ahead until there is an improvement in health. No-one is in danger but safety is always the main priority in this hostile environment. Just hope there is better news soon.
Tuesday Dec 19 2006
14.30. Mike phoned to say that four of them had food poisoning for the last 2 days. The base here at Patriot Hills includes a hospital tent.
Caroline and Polly were not affected. Mike thinks they picked up the bug in Punta Arenas. Their camp was nicknamed the Leper Colony by the others at the base!

By chance, the weather was bad over the last two days at their half way refuelling base in the Thiel Mountains , so they could not have flown out.
They hope to climb the Patriot Hills beside their camp this afternoon to see the fantastic view of the Heritage Range 20 miles away.
They will be landing on the ice to start their journey on foot at 88.23S, due to the many sastrugi at 88.00S making it too rough for the Twin Otter to land. This is about 8000 ft, or 2440 metres asl., so will take them a little time to become acclimatised.
The flight should take about 4 hours plus refuelling time.

They may go this evening, dependent on the forecast. (24hr daylight there)
(Note. The South Pole is 9301 ft or 2835m asl.see above)

Photo: The sign erected outside the American Scott Amundsen base at the South Pole. Who needs GPS?
Monday Dec 18 2006
Fiona called 15.00 hrs. G.M.T.

Still in Patriot Hills as it is too cloudy to fly. We decided to have a gentle day practising skiing techniques and chilling out-literally. We are in good spirits and having fun, we even had a lie in today. For those of you who are interested, the flight from Punta to Patriot Hills took four hours.

Love to families and friends.

Patriot Hills. Photo Steve Bull previous expedition.
Sunday Dec 17 2006
Fiona called16.30 G.M.T. Team at Patriot Hills Base.Time there is 13.30

All well, making last minute adjustments to equipment. There is a 50-50 chance of flying to their starting point tomorrow.

Polly says Hi Mum and Dad. She is busy making a flag.

Morale is high. Love to everyone.
Hopefully there will be more news tomorrow.

Steve Bull photo previous expedition.
Saturday Dec 16 2006
Brief call from Michael 3pm to say team on standby for take off to Patriot Hills base camp on Antarctica.
They were hoping that the wind would drop and that a delay could be avoided.
As no further phone call was received, we presume that the team is now camped on the Antarctic continent.
Tomorrow is scheduled as a training day, where everyone practises tent erection, packing and pulling sledges - usually about 5 miles to get the feel of harnesses, boots etc.

Photo: from last expedition.
Friday Dec 15 2006
from Mike: All sledges packed and kit now on the IL76. (Russian transport jet - see photo below)
We seem to have a very cohesive team at this stage, which is nice to report.

Some interesting people down here as usual.
Thursday Dec 14 2006
Have now finished packing all the rations. Team morale is high. Everyone getting on really well. The girls have all bought pink headbands, scarfs and bowers to wear with their bikinis at the Pole to promote awareness and fundraising for Breast Cancer.
--- Anyone wanting to sponsor the team in aid of this cause, please donīt be shy and get in touch...
Fiona says "Mike has agreed to go pink for the day, he seems to be fitting in quite well as the tripīs honorary girl...!!!" All is well.
Wednesday Dec 13 2006
12.00: Arrived in Punta Arenas at the southern-most tip of Chile. Miseal collected us at the airport and we are now at Hostal Fitzoy which is very homely. We are now enjoying the jet lag of being 5 hrs behind UK time.
Mike reports that they have all their gear, including that which was sent on ahead, so no worries.

Photo: Punta airport on previous trip.
Tuesday Dec 12 2006
Flying from Madrid to Santiago. Customs in Santiago was slow and we made the check in with 15 minutes to spare PLUS all luggage. We were very lucky as Lan Chile airline held the plane specially for us. BIG Thank you to them.
Monday Dec 11 2006
The team met at Heathrow with all their gear and sledges. Security at Heathrow was unbelievable. It took 4 hours from arriving, to getting on the aircraft. Had we been any later we would never have made it. The funny moment of the day was immigration find the sloe gin in one of the bags and refusing to let us take it - though we tried very hard - so nothing for it but to drink the whole litre on the spot. WASTED comes as the only fitting description and gorgeous the actual taste... We ALL wobbled our way forward to the check in gate and no one missed out on the headache that followed. But did we laugh!!!
Madrid was tight on time and again just made that connection and on to Santiago.