Here in the middle of nowhere


We arrived at 89 South two days ago and the first thing that struck us was that we were really in the middle of nowhere. It was a clear day and visibility was excellent and looking around in every direction 360 degrees there was absolutely nothing, I mean really NOTHING! Not a mountain not a tree nor a hill or shrub, not a bird nor a fly or ant or life of any kind, just an endless expanse of blue on top, white on the bottom and the sun that never goes away (thank God), it just simply does doughnuts overhead never setting beyond the horizon. The plane pulled right up to our camp that had been set up the day before by the first group, dumped us and some supplies off, then very unceremoniously about-faced, took off and left us! We turned around looking at each other, no one said anything because no one needed to. We were all thinking the same thing… “what the hell are we supposed to do now?” and “what on earth are we doing here!?”

That night we had a very welcome hot cooked meal in the dining tent then tried to settle into our sleeping tents which are doubles. I got into the sleeping tent that first night and couldn’t do anything but shake for the first fifteen minutes it was so cold, my brain was telling me to move and unpack my sleeping bag and get in it because that would make me warm(er) but I was frozen in place, it wasn’t until my brother Mohamed kicked me and asked me what I was doing did I start to move. But it’s so cold down here that the most basic tasks take forever to do. Mohamed almost broke a tooth with his tooth brush, the bristles were frozen solid. After a few hours in the tent, body heat and the sun’s radiation made the temperature quite bearable.

The next day (yesterday) we had a hot breakfast and set off on our skis. The initial plan was to only do 5km on the first day to help us acclimatise to the altitude, but because we were running a day behind due to the broken down aircraft we did 10km.

The skiing… Uff! It was tough! Not physically but mentally for so many reasons. 10km yesterday took us 6 hours including a total of 1 hour stopping time along the way (we would stop every hour to eat and drink), so our moving pace is 2km/h which is slow. It’s tough because there are no visual cues to indicate progress of movement, no hill or tree to aim for as a mini goal before you set your next, you can see so far ahead and you are walking (skiing) in that direction and there is nothing there, it’s like you are going somewhere you can see and your eyes are telling you there is nothing there when you get there. In fact it feels like you are not moving at all, it is complete sensory deprivation, like standing in front of a picture and in the fore ground there is a figure on skis looking away from you and the background is flat white bottom and blue ski, then staring at that picture that doesn’t change for 5 hours and yesterday was a short day. Today we were supposed to do 15km (due to technical difficulties with the support team we were made to stop after 5km) and starting tomorrow 20km per day.

On a positive note we are getting better and more efficient at everything, putting up and taking down tents used to take close to 20 min each, now we do it in just over 5 min. Managing the cold, what to wear, how to stay warm, all these things are becoming more and more like second nature. Our pace skiing went from 2km/h yesterday to 2.5km/h today and our average time per stop has come down, so things are getting better. It’s Dr. Jeff Lunt’s birthday today, I’m sure he could think of a thousand better places to spend it, but for now we’ll just try our best to make it as enjoyable as possible.


Here in the middle of nowhere
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7 Responses to Here in the middle of nowhere

  1. Mohamed Alireza says:

    hey guys! just wanted to wish you all a safe and enjoyable journey…this is indeed an adventure of a lifetime!
    we are experiencing it through your dispatches and the fantastic pics that are coming in…so please keep em coming…
    my best wishes to all!

  2. Yousuf says:

    Enjoying the read tremendously, HWZ I knew you were a great writer on certain subjects already 🙂
    It seems like a trip of a lifetime enjoy

  3. RET says:

    Greetings Zahid Expedition Team!

    Like Sultana, the first thing I do (over my bread and butter) is check in on your adventure. Every update is appreciated and leads inevitably to a day dream of being there with you. I’ve been doing a little outside reading as well on past expeditions to the polar regions and I want to share what I imagine to be an apropos quote:

    – It seems as though we are in some other world, and yet the things that most concern us are most trivial such as split lips and big appetites. At one moment our thoughts are on the grandeur of the scene, the next on what we would have to eat if we were let loose in a good restaurant. – Ernest Shackleton, during his attempt on the South Pole 1908.

    There are few indeed who could commiserate but you are in good company! Keep the updates coming and enjoy the journey because it probably won’t look much different when you arrive (I’ve got a quote from Scott for that but I wouldn’t want to spoil it!).


  4. Dave Maddrell says:

    Hi all, well done so far!!
    I want to wish Jeff a very Happy and warm Birthday…if that’s not too much of a contradiction.
    Dave Maddrell

  5. Hamza says:

    Awesome read Toom…..You’ve really captured the essense of the trip. I am sure travelling becomes fully appreciated once the trips are over. You’ll only remember the ups of the trip, while the downs become stories told many times over. Keep up the adventure spirit, we’re all living through your dispatches.


  6. J. barry Morrissey says:

    Truly fantastic adventure. could write for any newspaper in the world. Great stuff!!!!
    Waleed…..I know you have that collapsible golf stick on you. I expect a photo of the first man to hit a golf ball over the South Pole on this site when you arrive.
    Best of LUCK guys!! Is Everest next?

  7. Sultana says:

    Hi my Will, Toom, and Mo
    First thing I do every morning is log on to read the latest dispatches, Toom your writing and descriptions of both the landscape and sensory experience make for awesome reading:) I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to keep going like this for hours on end without any reference points, makes the 45 minutes on the treadmill a sensory feast.
    Allah ma3akum and you will come out of this that much stronger.
    I guess despite hating to know you are so far away and in such an environment, I am so proud of you all.

    With all my prayers
    P.S Toomi keep them coming, and tell Mo we want to hear from him too!

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