As you would expect, being a polar explorer is extremely difficult. For one thing, the Arctic is one of the most remote areas on the planet, and help isn’t simply a phone call away, as it is in most places. If trouble comes, you are on your own! And of course, the main problem is the cold. Temperatures can drop to -60°C! This is so cold that some things freeze instantly. One day, I was chucking out the waste water from cooking, and as I threw it, the liquid froze in mid-air and fell to the ground, a dead weight!
The cold means that things must be protected, even inside the tents! Even 1 minute exposing flesh can start frostbite, a horrible condition where extremities like fingers and toes freeze, turn black, and have to be amputated. Protecting yourself means everything is challenging. Every night, when I get into bed, I have to go through a strict ritual. First, I have to take off my clothes down to my thermals, while still wearing my mitts. Obviously this is quite difficult, because mitts are massive and puffy. After that, I have to get in 4 layers of sleeping bag! The first layer is a thermal bag, a bit like a crisp packet, to stop moisture leaving my body at night and freezing around me, then I put on a fleece, a thick heavy outer layer, and, if it is really cold, a further thick outer layer. And putting all this on ahs to be done with mitts, of course!
It is hard getting to sleep, even once I am in my sleeping bag. In the summer, it is light all day and night long, due to the planet’s tilt, so I have to cover my eyes with something, e.g. a hat, to have any chance of sleeping. In the morning, when I get up, the day starts straight away. Each member of the team has to pull a sled weighing an incredible 200 pounds, and that is just the minimal amount needed for survival be! 200 pounds is the weight of about 5 12 year old children! 10 hours of the day is spent travelling, pulling the necessities like food, shelter and scientific equipment. The sleds must be pulled over anything, including sharp ice rubble, steep ledges and even floated across rivers like a raft! But, of course, while travelling, the great beauty of the Arctic can be seen. A vast plain of ice, the sun reflecting off them, is one of the greatest sights in the world.
At the end of the journey, it is time to set up camp. In nice weather, around – 30°C, this can be ok, but at -50°C, in the driving winds, after a day spent pulling heavy sledges, this isn’t fun. At least when it is up, it is a bit warmer. Food is normally high calorie things, like Mars bars, that have been sliced and put into bags to stop them freezing, otherwise they would break your teeth! An electric fence is set up around the camp, to deter any curious polar bears. Once, when I was going to the toilet tent outside the fence, a polar bear appeared, so I had to leg it back over the fence before it got closer!
It is always a bit sad coming back home after visiting the Arctic, because nothing feels the same. However, it is nice to have some warmth! The whole point of Arctic exploration is to conserve and protect the Arctic. The Arctic is incredibly important in the world, as it helps control the climate. But unfortunately it is melting. That is why people explore the Arctic and brave the challenges; to discover more about how fast it’s melting and why. The Arctic is worth saving!
By Jake L, as part of the Colyton Grammar School Polar Challenge Day. Pupils were asked to write a blog post describing life on a polar expedition, using what they had learnt during the day.