Andrews and Stephenson Antarctica 2023

Day 49

New Years Day 2023!

Happy New Year from Antarctica everyone!

What a way to start 2023. We decided to wait for our new year celebrations until the evening of New Year’s Day. Today we came to a crucial point in the expedition, our route took us across a known crevasse field caused by a change in speed of ice flow. We had a dog leg in our route taking us through the safest part of the danger zone but we still had to be alert and careful. By chance we arrived at the start of the dog leg last night so our mission for 1st of Jan 2023 was to get safely to the other side of the crevasse zone be fore making camp this evening. The sastrugi started off terribly, some of the worst we’ve encounte red (and we’ve seen a lot of sastrugi by now!) but luckily eased of a bit later in the day. All day cloud and mist hovered at our backs threatening our visibility and thus our ability to navigate safely but we kept ahead of it and made it through without any problems. We’ve now just got a pretty much straight line to the South Pole! Today also saw us pass the 1000km mark and we now have less than 400km to the pole! A big day but very satisfying.

To celebrate we have a dram of finest scotch single malt, Fettercairn, curtesy of Whiskey Me (thanks guys, our Christmas Day dram was delicious, can’t wait to see how this compares), an After Eight mint each and some chocolate pudding, luxury!

Have a great 2023 everyone!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 35mins

Distance 22.01kms

Gareth

Average HR 105

Max HR 151

Calories burned 6400

Richard

Average HR 109

Max HR 169

Calories burned 6640

*now temperatures are colder as we get towards the South Pole we’ll be burning additional calories just t o keep ourselves warm!

Day 48

20.3kms today, -20degC and a strong wind blowing.


We started the last day of 2022 speaking to Qantas Pilot Captain Alex Passerini on board New Years Eve Antarctica Scenic Flight. It’s such a privilege to chat to all the passengers and crew onboard and share a little glimpse of our journey and our experiences on the ice.

We’ve been to some pretty dark places these last few weeks with the relentless sustrugi pushing our mental resilience to the limit. We have a couple of strategies to help us through the toughest times.

There used to be two words written on the wall as you walk out of the changing rooms at Twickenham, the home of English rugby, in big capital letters it said ‘Earn It’. I have never forgotten those words when I played. I repeat that short statement to myself every morning when I step into my ski bindings, it helps me mentally prepare for the day ahead and reinforces the fact that I have to get out there and work for every metre.

Secondly, again from my rugby days, the words of Scottish rugby legend Jim Telfer have stuck with me, he said ‘do the extra so your mate doesn’t have to, go the extra yard’. When we’re battling through a tough day I’ll try and go a few extra metres at the end of a session or scale one more sastrugi ridge to take the pressure off Rich on his next lead breaking trail.

There is an Icelandic word ‘Fullsterkur’ that means ‘full strength’ or ‘full strong’. We adopted it in Iceland when we when climbed over the Vatnajokull and paddled the mighty Skjalfandafljot river to the sea. We say it to each other when we need to find those last shreds of strength to get us through the day. It reminds us of great times and along with a smile and a handshake at the end of everyday it brings us together as a team.

So, we may not be able to lift even the smallest of the ancient Icelandic strongman stones but out here, in our world, we are fullsterkur.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 20mins

Distance 20.35kms

Gareth

Average HR 103

Max HR 139

Calories burned 5940*

Richard

Average HR 105

Max HR 159

Calories burned 6100*

*now temperatures are colder as we get towards the South Pole we’ll be burning additional calories just to keep ourselves warm!

Thank you 2022…we may be battling sastrugi and enduring tough conditions but we made it to Antarctica this season and we are living our dream, hoping to inspire everyone around the world to dream big and give challenges a go. There has been a few key people that have made this journey possible, from the entire Antarctica2023 Andrews and Stephenson Expedition team we thank you and wish you a very special 2023.

We would like to thank our generous sponsors and community partners that have contributed to making this journey possible

Day 47

The sastrugi epic continues! It’s getting colder now as we steadily climb towards the pole, for the last couple of days it’s been about -19deg Celsius with a 25kph wind making for very cold temperatures. We’re lovely and warm in our tent and whilst skiing but it does mean we get cold quickly during our breaks and have to guzzle our food as quickly as possible.

We’ve now passed 86deg South but with the sastrugi so bad this year we’ve mentally steeled ourselves they might continue until 88deg South, another 200+ km, a sobering thought! Our attitude is to remain positive, do our best everyday and get ready for a dash to the Pole if and when conditions finally improve!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h

Distance 18kms

Gareth

Average HR 105

Max HR 152

Calories burned 6430*

Richard

Average HR 110

Max HR 166

Calories burned 6427*

*now temperatures are colder as we get toward s the South Pole we’ll be burning additional calories just to keep ourselves warm!

Day 46

The unrelenting sastrugi continued today and we spent most of the time balancing on knife edge snow ridges. For seven days now we have seen sastrugi for hundreds of kilometres in all directions. It’s actually quite an incredible sight. The largest are easily 2 metres in height, gnarled and scoured by the wind, impressive and intimidating. For the majority of the 145 kilometres we have skied through the sastrugi fields they seem to blend in to each other leaving no flat ground at all. Where we can, we try to go around them but we are almost always left with no option but to find path of least resistance and go over the top. It would actually be quite fun if it wasn’t so physically and mentally exhausting, or so painstakingly slow to make any progress. We skied for 9.5 hours today and made 18.25kms, although well below what we need to be doing we are proud of ourselves, it’s hard going and we’re giving it everything we’ve got.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 25mins

Distance 18.25kms

Gareth

Average HR 110

Max HR 170

Calories burned 6850

Richard

Average HR 108

Max HR 172

Calories burned 6732

Day 45

The gloomy low clouds of yesterday became thicker and darker in the evening and overnight the wind got up, bringing snow. We woke this morning to the wind dropping away but whiteout conditions and a thin layer of new snow. The first half of the day was marked by us stumbling forwards through dense sastrugi unable to see a thing. We crashed and stumbled along, skis slamming into an ice ridge or off a drop blindly in the impenetrable white murk. Eventually the sun started to burn the cloud off and it turned into a fine sunny day, at least allowing us to better navigate our way through the maze of ridges. The new layer of snow feels like it’s been mixed with sand and the drag on our sleds has increased enormously. A very tough day by all accounts and one we were both glad to get over. Life is much better now the tent is up and we’re having a good rest and a brew, chicken noodle cuppa soup all round!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 28mins

Distance 17km

Gareth

Average HR 109

Max HR 168

Calories burned 6001

Richard

Average HR 105

Max HR 157

Calories burned 5841

Day 44

Five days of heavy sastrugi and today white out conditions. Only 20kms today.

Navigating sastrugi in white out conditions is extremely challenging. You can’t see anything in front of you apart from a wall of white. The snow blends with the horizon and it is impossible to distinguish any features at all. Ordinarily on a sunny day you would see waves, trenches and ridges running away to the horizon in every direction. Today these obstacles were hidden behind a dense white curtain. We would only see them when we were standing directly on top of them. We spent the day carefully negotiating ridges, holes, trenches and often drops of up to one metre, our skis dangling precariously over the edge while we shuffled to find a safer place to advance. Although not dangerous navigating this terrain (essentially in the dark) it would be easy to break a ski, a binding or, even worse, a leg. So it was slow going as we made our way through the maze of sastrugi. We have passed the 900km mark and have less than 500km to go until the South Pole. Hoping for better conditions tomorrow.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 25mins

Distance 20kms

Gareth

Average HR 97

Max HR 168

Calories burned 5863

Richard

Average HR 102

Max HR 154

Calories burned 5596

Day 43

It was amazing to have some Christmas pudding and whiskey last night, both were delicious and it was so nice to eat and drink something different to our usual routine food!

Today the sastrugi continued much as before, though we did have a good smooth surface for about an hour in the middle of the day. It didn’t last long though and we were back into fiercely rough sastrugi soon enough as a ground fog descended onto the ice for the last few hours of the day.

We knew this route had a reputation for bad sastrugi and it seems, from talking to other expeditions around Antarctica, that this is a particularly bad sastrugi year after some big winter storms, so no wonder they’re so bad here. It does mean we’re working incredibly hard each day to do a fairly modest distance, finishing our days knackered and frustrated. It’s likely we’ll be in sastrugi territory for at least another six days so there is nothing for it but to get our heads down and get through it.

Another repair job this evening, Gareth had to pull so hard to get his sled over a ridge today he snapped the bungee elastic in his traces, a testament to the roughness of the terrain (and Gareth’s horse-like strength of course!).

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 26mins

Distance 22.29kms

Gareth

Average HR 113

Max HR 169

Calories burned 6280

Richard

Average HR 111

Max HR 160

Calories burned 6020

Day 42

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas from Antarctica everyone! We had some lovely satellite phone calls with our New Zealand family last night on their Christmas morning and spoke to our UK and Chile-based family today. So nice to be able to hear our loved one’s voices and know they’re having a great Christmas though it does make us a bit homesick!

As for our skiing, well Antarctica decided to treat us to another day of truly terrible sastrugi, never ending waves of ice, no real gaps between them so a constant jerking effort to make progress. We finally got our tent up quite late tonight so we’re going to really enjoy the little Christmas pudding we brought as well as some much deserved whiskey; here’s to a few less sastrugi tomorrow, cheers!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 45mins

Distance 22.35km

Gareth

Average HR 115

Max HR 172

Calories burned 6735

Richard 

Average HR 117

Max HR 172

Calories burned 6657

The guys were so excited to find a little inflatable Christmas tree in their Christmas Parcel. They have been on the ice for such a long time it’s the small things that really count.

Day 41

Christmas Eve in Antarctica! No rest for us today though, we were still up and skiing before 8am this morning and the sastrugi have continued with a vengeance. A very rough surface punctuated with some big sastrugi up to 1.5m in height often blocking our path. Where we can we go over them but sometimes they’re just too big and jagged so we have to go round. It’s truely punishing terrain, heaving our sleds up ridges where they constantly jerking us backwards or running up behind us, no two steps are the same. It’s tough on our kit as well, the sleds bang down the other side of the ridges with great force and my poor old spoon, so long it sticks out of our kitchen bag, has broken again, another repair job coming up!

We’ll be celebrating our Christmas tomorrow evening after another day’s skiing but Merry Christmas to all our family, friends and supporters in Australia and New Zealand who are already into Christmas Day, have a great day folks!

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 15mins

Distance 22.25km

Gareth

Average HR 120

Max HR 163

Calories burned 6964

Richard

Average HR 118

Max HR 165

Calories burned 6767

What do you pack polar explorers whom have scrutinised every gram in their sleds for Christmas?

A lovely 120g Classic Christmas pudding (to share) some freeze dried vanilla ice cream

and 60ml of Glentauchers Scottish Whisky (to share) from the amazing company https://whisky-me.com that make pouches of whisky they ship all over the world.

Our lovely Christmas treat has been decorated by our families to remind us of home. My daughter Lucia has asked Father Christmas in her Christmas card to stop at our camp and give us a hug from her on this special day. I hope we don’t have to share our rations of Whisky and pudding with him!

Day 40

After combining our sleds yesterday they ran well over the hard surface this morning. We spent the day battling uphill amongst massive sastrugi. Huge waves and ridges of hardened snow forming peaks and troughs across our path. We went up and down them hauling our sleds and around them if they were too steep. From where we are camped there are sastrugi as far as the eye can see. We were expecting to encounter sastrugi like this further South at 85S or 86S, we will probably have these conditions now for a few hundred kilometres. We’ll just keep going as hard and as far as we can everyday.

Suunto Stats

Skiing Time 9h 15mins

Distance 22.3kms

Gareth

Average HR 112

Max HR 152

Calories burned 6340

Richard

Average HR 115

Max HR 147

Calories burned 6580