Polar Race 2005

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Extreme Steps from Steve East at Checkpoint 2 of Polar Race 2003

Safely arrived at Checkpoint 2 - now covered just under 200 miles, dragging all our supplies in the pulk behind us - they weighed 102 pounds - includes shotgun, tent, food and fuel for our MSR cookers - Thanks to Cotswold Camping (London Branch).

We have stuck with our plan of direct line navigating using GPS and sundial - compasses do not work up here. Mike's (Club sailor navigating) passive map planning has been excellent, as has his cooking skills. (His extra item was a spicy mixture of different herbs) have greatly enhanced the supplied dehydrated ex-army food bags.

Sadly, Norman did not continue with us, and therefore we had to carry all his food as well on our pulks as they were heat sealed in portions of three per meal. In order to finish this second leg of 130 miles, we finished the last 27 in one push - our longest distance so far in one day, all on foot - but it meant walking all day, through the night and partly all the next morning to reach Checkpoint 2 - 23 hours without sleep!

The previous two days were our worst - we had to walk along the right hand topside of Bathurst Island past Airstrip Point to Cape Kitson - we had a very strong headwind blowing at 27 mph straight into our faces with a temperature of -24°C and getting colder - we could not stop to eat or drink as we were hypothermic and getting frostnip while just moving through the blizzard, so to stop and take on food would be dangerous to our health. Prior to Airstrip Point, we had chosen to stay out to sea (4 miles offshore) and had covered 14.8 miles through 5 bands of rough ice rubble and icebergs (which are blue in colour by the way!). Everyone else had travelled along the coastline, which was a greater distance but easier effort. Just to amuse ourselves we then climbed to over the top of Airstrip Point and saw all the spare aviation fuel drums, unfortunately it was a sheer drop on the other side:- gravity, weight of pulks meant we both landed in a pile at the bottom!

We tried to put up our tent but it blew around like a giant kite, even with our pulk rope leads tied to the tent. At one stage because of the wind it was floating three feet in the air off the ground! We moved on a few miles to shelter behind a giant iceberg.

The other teams, Initial Style Explorers and Polar Team, have proved themselves with their speed on skis and sheer endurance with the distance they cover per day, which since yesterday is now in continual daylight - very strange to sleep patterns. The welcome we got from them when we arrived was really appreciated. Since finishing this second leg whilst waiting for the ViP3 team, we as teams have all had a big "cook in" where we had a great meal together using a great mixture of the race food.

Gary and Jock keep our spirits up when we call in every night to confirm our current positions using GPS and satellite phone. The high Arctic is a true world of contrasts - beauty and total quietness and yet living danger.

Signing off - Steve

Steve East of Extreme Steps at Checkpoint 2 of Polar Race 2003
24 April 2022

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