Cold Feet

A Teacher's Tale

Aug 2007

Norway Training

From the 10th to the 17th of August we spent a week carrying out our final (and major) training for the expedition. We made our way to Newcastle to catch the ferry to Bergen during the morning. Everyone but me made their way there together in the minibus. I stayed here in Royston to see my son on his return from a three-week rugby tour of South America with his school. As is ever the way with these things, a delayed flight from Santiago meant that the boys did not arrive back in Cambridge until after midnight. Even so, it was great to gossip and see all the photos before a brief two and a half hours in bed, then up to catch the first train out of Royston for an early arrival in Newcastle. The journey was smooth and painless until my arrival in the City. Here some unhelpful directions from an official in the Metro ticket office, sent me on a huge round trip on the railway and a long hot walk along the North Shields shore before I finally caught up with the others in the queue for the ferry. We were also joined by Jim Franks and Richard Wyllie from Brook Lapping again.

We were able to use the 24 hours on the boat to carry out the final preparations and discussions before we leave for Punta Arenas in Chile on the 3rd November. In addition, we were accompanied by a team of two film-makers from Brook Lapping; a company that is filming the expedition for the channel; Teacher’s TV. The scrutiny and interviews gave us a chance to reflect on the long sequence of events that has brought us all to this stage.
Arrival in Bergen

The team arrive in Bergen

As well as the 24hours on the boat in each direction, we had about four or five hours drive and a long hike to the Austerdalsbreen Glacier. Here we camped on the ice for two days, learning how to cope with the rather uncomfortable conditions (although much warmer than anything we will experience in Antarctica)!

Four wise monkeys deep in conversation on the way to the Glacier

We were able to trial methods of moving around safely on the ice and the scientific experiments that we will carry out while we are away. We also had to test the communications systems that we will use to send reports back daily from Antarctica and to communicate with teachers and pupils at our schools while we are away. After a fair number of teething problems in the difficult situation on the glacier, we managed to make the systems work satisfactorily and we believe that it will actually be easier in Antarctica.

Carolyn demonstrates the finer points of moving safely while roped together

We also learned and practised techniques for rescuing one another in the event of a fall into a crevasse. Hopefully, these are techniques that we will never need to use but we have to know how! All of this was carried out under the instructions of our two experienced Antarctic veterans, Carolyn Bailey and Carl Alvey, who will be supporting our work and looking after our welfare on the Union Glacier and in the Ellsworth Mountains of Antarctica. It was really good to meet up with Carolyn and to find out how we would all get on. I think that we were all pretty nervous to meet with each other and anxious to make a good impression on one another. I think that Carolyn will be a great asset to the expedition and particularly sympathetic and experienced in the problems of being female in that sort of environment. I also feel happy to know that if, by some awful chance, something goes wrong out there then we will have Steve back in the UK and fully able to intervene and arrange help.

Steve Bull was there to oversee the training and to make sure that the Film team were supported. Richard seemed to work very hard and I was very amused to put my head out of the tent on the last morning on the ice and see him setting up his tripod for "the camp wakes up" bit. Richard is expected to fly out onto the ice with us and record the early stages of the expedition. We may also be asked to record video diaries of our experiences.
The journey back to Bergen was pretty tedious at times but the sights of spectacular waterfalls, fjords, mountains and those long, long tunnels formed a reasonably engaging background to lots of chat and funny stories.


Yes, I really did photograph this on the drive back to Bergen!

On the boat the evening was enlivened by a fairly rough old squall. By the time we got to Dinner, two members of the team (Carl and Carolyn) were already hors de combat. The rest of us made a brave start but, one-by-one succumbed to the violent motion of the boat. The funniest thing was watching Amy watching the expression on Steve's face as he gradually changed colour and had to leave the restaurant. I wasn't far behind him, having to abandon all hope of a dessert and the last of a rather nice red wine! Some of the others toughed it out magnificently but we all felt that Phil had cheated by taking anti-sickness pills. Fortunately, we all seemed bright and well for breakfast but the storm meant that we were three hours late arriving in Newcastle.

Finally I returned to my family late on Friday after a very poor train journey marred by cancellations, delays and overcrowding.
Up at 5.00 am to drive to Cornwall!
I worked out that in 10 days I had spent only two nights in the same bed and that was on the glacier! Time for a good rest and lots of surfing.