Cold Feet

A Teacher's Tale

Jul 2007

Bless the experts

Amy and I were able to spend the morning (and a fair stretch of the afternoon) with two of B.A.S.s finest. Sandra McInnes and Pete Convey spared no effort in sharing their expertise and advice. A session in the herbarium, where Pete showed us the sort of materials that we might hope to find, got us both very excited. (Bizarre, I know, but enthusiasm is infectious!). Pete was also able to show us pictures of landscapes in the Pensacola and Shackleton ranges that were a reasonable match to the sort of terrain that we should find in the Ellsworths.
Although it is clearly not going to be easy, it is also clear that we should certainly find something. The huge collection of materials were an extraordinary testament to Pete Convey's collecting skills. Equally, Sandra seems able to find tardigrades in dust anywhere on the planet and we were introduced to great pictures of the usual suspects. I can hardly wait to see what we can find.


Today involved a long drive up to Nottingham. Unfortunately, a stretch of the A52 was out of action for some serious roadworks and so I was a frustrating few minutes late reaching the Cotswold Outdoors store there.
Here we were all finally kitted out with the magnificent Scarpa 8000 boots that we will need in Antarctica. The boots are designed in several interlocking layers and with a snow valance just below the knee. They need to be able to take crampons and ski bindings and will be essential when we head up into the mountains. These boots are a staggering £550, although Cotswold are giving us an impressive reduction as part of their sponsorship of the expedition. They will cost each of us £390. However, returning with all my toes is a big priority and I don't think you can put a price on your health in such a dangerous environment.
Teacher's TV were on hand to film us being fitted for the boots and to interview each of us who were there. Amy, who had already been fitted successfully in Harrogate, was absent for a Metallica concert!
We retired to Phil's old local for a drink and some experimentation with the communications gear that we will use on the ice to link up with our schools in the UK. We also had some serious discussion about the make-up of the team that will go to Antarctica. It now seems that Teacher's TV are keen to go with us to Norway in August and may even come out for the first few days to Patriot Hills; our first stop on the Antarctic continent. Steve believes that he can better look after our interests and safety from the UK, rather than coming with us for the whole duration of the expedition. He has found a couple of superbly qualified people, one of whom might replace him as leader.
We all felt a considerable tension about this change of plan. On the one hand, his arguments about the need for the change seemed very sound. On the other hand, we like and trust Steve and have confidence in his and Carl's abilities, as a well-balanced team, to look after us in this extreme environment. We would all need to develop, very quickly, a similar confidence in whoever took over. We only have the trip to Norway to achieve this. More about this in the future, I'm sure!
I managed to get back to Hertfordshire by about 5.00 pm. and brood on all the developments of the day.

Edwinstree Talks

I have just given a couple of one-hour sessions to groups of Year 7 students at the next-door Middle School. I told them all about the recent training and gear and showed them some suitable pictures. They asked lots of questions and were great audiences. We also had a go trying on the clothing. Only at the very end of the last session did I get asked the question that I had been expecting: "How do you go to the toilet?"
I said little except to point out that we couldn't leave anything in Antarctica. They're expressions of horror were very gratifying.
Sometimes it is better not to give too much detail!