Hello everybody. And it’s a very happy hallo to you all because right now, I’m calling you from the Ross Ice Shelf, that’s right, the SPEAR17 team have finished our Polar expedition. After 66 days, two hours and forty-five minutes I think it is, we’ve finally successfully and joyfully completed what’s been a long expedition, and even longer in the planning. We woke today as usual with joy in our hearts as it was our final day. Knowing only 15 nautical miles away we’d cross the edge of the continent and step out onto the sea ice. Adding our five names to the list of only six who make up those who have accomplished the traverse of Antarctica. There have been more people who have walked on the moon than have walked across the seventh continent.
As with much of our journey, we appear to have been blessed with luck and the sun shone down on us today as we walked alongside each other, talking and smiling our way to the very end. What an incredible journey it has been, and a true testimony to Lou’s leadership. I’d like to say a big thank you to Lou to allowing me to be a part of his team, and to share this experience with him and the others. So thank you Lou.
This has been a journey of two parts. The first started as we set off to the Pole. With strong legs and full of vibrant energy, we dragged our heavy sledges up and up onto the Polar plateau, and pushed ourselves hard to reach the Pole on Christmas Day.
….. The ensuing merriment lifted our spirits when we made it there. All we had to do then was just walk down the other side of Antarctica. If only it had been like that! We refilled our pulks with food and fuel and set off from the Pole – our now weary legs and lighter bodies felt the strain as we climbed ever higher onto the Polar plateau. The pulks sticking to the snow surface underneath. It was almost as though those unspoken words passed between us as we looked at each other – ‘Oh, whose idea was this? Finishing at the Pole seems like a much better plan!’ However, those words were never spoken out loud, and there was not a wavering of stamina of anyone in the team.
So we carried on across the expanse of the great frozen plateau. For 16 days we went on and on with little sign of the terrain giving us any respite, until finally we saw the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. What a sight! We were full of hope, full of hope that we’d start descending to a better place, where the temperature was more survivable, the air’s easier to breathe, and the ice would just glide us downhill.
How foolish of me. As we made progress, we went from obstacle to obstacle, our weary bodies attacked each one with gusto, only to be drained as the sledges then needed to be dragged over the same obstacle. But for me this is where the fun really began, the joy of adventure ignited after being sapped by monotonous days of white nothingness.
Our descent of the Shackleton Glacier has been by far the highlight of this expedition for me. Each day there was new and different terrain to navigate, and challenges came at us thick and fast, and not without their risks, and as hope of making rapid progress down this friendly glacier dissipated, it was quickly replaced by the feeling of excitement that comes with facing down some of the slopes.
Eventually we made it, we made it to the safety of the Ross Ice Shelf, away from crevasses and the cold katabatic winds, oh the joy. What I will remember most about this expedition is the team that I’ve had the privilege to be with. At every turn and at every moment, there was a smiling face that was more willing to look after you than they were themselves. No matter how tough things got, the selflessness of these guys and their ability to endure, has made this expedition such a success.
These guys I’m sat with are not only four devilishly handsome pulk-hauling machines (yes I’ve got pictures to prove that) but they’re also people who’ll remain friends for life, and that’s worth more than a name in the history books.
As we camp now on the far side of Antarctica, waiting to be picked up, I share my joy with you at having been part of SPEAR17. And I must also give a huge thank you for all the support we’ve had following our expedition. It’s been really special for us to receive messages of support from you, and to hear through Wendy that we’ve managed to share our journey with you as well. I’d like to say thank you to all our sponsors and to the British Army; you placed great faith in Lou and this expedition, and your backing made this all possible.
Thank you also to Bourn Hall and to Ortho Barnes for your sponsorship, thank you to my friends and family for your messages, which have been a joy to read while I was out here, and a big thank you to my girlfriend, Holly, I cannot wait to see you when I’m back.
Thank you as well to Henry Worsley, whose footsteps we’ve followed and the route he inspired us and challenged us to take and the legacy he’s created. What’s next for us? Well hopefully we’ll be picked up by ALE and flown to their base at Union Glacier. Once there, we’re going to eat all of the food they have and then jump onto a plane to Chile before they realise!
There’s certainly some recovery to be done, and fortunately we have some time in Chile before we get back to the UK to give us that chance, that chance of at least looking like half the men we were when we left before we’re reunited with our families and our partners.
Well, that’s all from me, I’m sorry to bring this exciting journey to an end, but we’d all happily carry on if there was further to go, but we’re also more than happy to know that our pulk-hauling days are now at an end and it’s time to have a shower, and use it many time before we get back to the UK. Thank you all, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible when we get back at some of our charity fundraising events and others. Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, if there’s something that requires just that little bit more, just think: Onwards.