Liv: I was sure that Ann was furious with me. It had been my suggestion to trek closer to the moraine of the glacier, closer to the edge, where I had thought it might be smoother. I was wrong. We had wound up in an area even worse than where we had started. We were stuck in a place where two other glaciers met the Shackleton. If these glaciers melted completely, the area would be churning with waves and rapids. The same forces were present, except that the turbulence was frozen. Everywhere we looked, the ice rivers were colliding, slowly grinding against each other and the ground.
Before our trip began, I had talked to the Australians who had traveled in the opposite direction up this glacier two years ago. When they traversed it in November, early summer in Antarctica, everything we were seeing had been covered with snow many layers thick. And heading uphill provides a clearer picture of the terrain that lies ahead. Ann and I were the only living beings to navigate down the glacier. We were arriving at the end of the Antarctic summer, when twenty-four hours of sunshine had been melting this place for three months. It had changed dramatically.
Still, I was annoyed with myself for picking this path, frustrated that we were losing too much time, and, most of all, I was sick of my sled. The tow bar, a short ladder section made from titanium meant to keep the sled in line at a set distance behind me, had broken shortly after we began our trek, so I was pulling my sled with a rope. There was nothing to stop the sled from drifting from side-to-side or crashing into me. When I headed downhill, my sled came chasing after me and slammed into my legs if I did not leap out of the way fast enough. I started to think of the sled as a living thing, an animal stalking me, waiting for my weak moments. Sometimes, I could feel it shimmying behind me, jerking against the rope like a wild horse. I became very good at hearing the sound of the runners skittering on the ice as the sled attacked. I could tell whether it was coming from my left or right, and then jump! - just as it was about to hit me. Beaten, it would slide past sullenly to wait for its next chance to push me into a crevasse. I wanted so badly just to let the damned thing fall into one. I kept thinking how satisfying it would be to listen as it shattered into thousands of pieces. I began to think about just letting it go; but instead of following that negative thought, I remembered the good things the sled contained, items that had sustained me for so many days: my fleece jacket, my warm down sleeping bag, the stove, and all the cups of hot chocolate. Not to mention the tent! We walked on for two more hours after Ann had fixed her crampon. Then we stopped for a scheduled interview with CNN on the satellite phone; but there was breaking news, so our interview was bumped. It was funny to think that the rest of the world was so accessible to us through this modern technology, and yet, if Ann or I were to be injured in this area, no plane could land here to save us. The terrain was too rough. We were completely connected and completely isolated at the same time. When Ann had finished the phone call, she looked at me with an expression so tired. It was better that the interview was cancelled. Describing our difficult situation to thousands of television viewers would not have made her feel much better. We didn't know which way to go. We had lost so much time in this mess. I suggested that we make camp there. Perhaps things would look better after some sleep.
We set up our tunnel tent on a ridge barely wider than the tent itself. Ann's flap opened to a deep crevasse. We had only four ice screws to secure the tent, so we searched for rocks the glacier had churned up and chunks of ice to weight it down so that it wouldn't be carried away by the wind (along with us inside it) if a strong storm should come. Ann gathered ice to melt for drinking water while I lit the stove to make dinner. We sat down to hot soup and a can of crushed potato chips apiece, followed by rehydrated fish stew and more chocolate. Tired and discouraged, we decided to call this place we had stumbled into "Hell."
From No Horizon Is So Far by Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen and Cheryl Dahle. Copyright Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen and Cheryl Dahle 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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