The mass-training of twenty dogs day in, day out could run a little thin and so I thought I'd chat about some of the other aspects of life here in the land of the midday darkness. And then I'll probably talk about dogs again – they're fairly important.
We've had a load of great questions on Twitter, by email and on our blog and I've tried to answer them as we go along, but I thought I'd pick up on a few. Firstly, the temperatures here. Winter in this remote part of the High Arctic clearly involves a serious lack of light, with 17th Feb being the date we expect to see the sun again. For the currently shelved Dark Ice Project (see previous posts for more details), the added latitude meant we were to be chasing a sunrise later, around 19th March.
During the polar darkness (and polar twilight for the final few weeks of winter) the temperatures and weather are remarkably stable and 'mild'. For this northern region of land on Earth, winds are usually sub-10mph and temperatures fluctuate between -30deg and -15deg C. In the spring of late February and March, we expect for it to chill down below -30deg and even below -40deg. Forget stories about arm-joints seizing up or urine freezing mid-flow, but chocolate does end up like wood at these temperatures! We keep warm by keeping moving, protecting our faces and hands with the best clothing from Montane, Bridgedale and more – much of it designed to not be waterproof but super-breathable to let our moisture escape. Compare this to the Antarctic summer currently drawing to a close (with the warmth of 24hr sunlight) where expeditions have been reporting around 0 to -10deg at sea level and -25 to -30deg C on the high plateau.
I've been asked about sleep and our mental reactions to the endless darkness and lack of indication for the beginning or end of the day. We have all found things different but personally, I've found that my sense of the daily cycle is, unsurprisingly, a bit wonky. We have been going to bed mostly based on our working day and whether we're on the ice or settlement-based, but it can vary from 9pm to 2am. We are certainly following in the local custom of needing more sleep than normal. I usually need seven hours per night to fully recharge my batteries and recently this has been more like nine or even ten hours. I'm finding though that I'm very energetic long into the evenings and have to remind myself to sleep. The knock-on effect is that I'm finding the mornings a lot trickier!
We're having big discussions about potential speeds that we can travel at this season on the sea ice and later, on the icecap. We're not going to be telling you our plans for a while yet – a little mystery is good for the soul – but it's all about weight vs. speed, as ever. Some local hunters have managed 100km in a day with their teams, six days a week or 63km in about five hours (against our twenty hour 'on-foot' effort). Our upcoming training journeys will tell us more but we have to look to a sustainable slog instead of a lightning sprint (hint hint).
A little news on the dogs. They're in two teams; one team can go in a straight line on their own and the other can't – room for improvement. We're considering a move from seal meat to arctic halibut for them and Lyka has confounded all our harness/collar anti-chewing devices and so is on a chain...
The team-lists are:
Dog with no name
Enrique (potential lead dog)
Little Black Dog (LBD)
Jason (Statham) and Leon (the Hitmen)
Comedy Dad (potential lead dog)
Jack (Comedy Son)