Monday, 2 January 2017

Rudd of the Antarctic


Very much under the "...and any other matters that take our fancy" remit included in our flexible blog title, here's a transcript of a compelling interview on today's The World at One

It surely does the world good that people like Lou Rudd are still taking on the explorer's burden and going where (almost) no man has gone before. 

Good luck to him and his team



Shaun Ley: A year ago Henry Worsley, a former army colonel, collapsed just 30 miles from achieving his objective: completing the first ever solo crossing of Antarctica. Inspired by his example six army reservists are right now attempting to cross the Antarctic. They reached the South Pole on Christmas Day and estimate they're about three weeks from completing the journey. Only six people have ever managed it before. Lou Rudd, the expedition leader, spoke to me a short while ago while sheltering in his tent, sixty miles north of the South Pole - for those who follow such things, Latitude 90 degrees S. 

Lou Rudd: We set off on the 15th November on the coastline of Antarctica - a point known as Hercules Inlet. The first stage of our expedition was a 730 mile journey to the South Pole. We'd estimated...we'd given ourselves 50 days to do that and we actually got there in 39 days and 23 hours and something. So lot's of challenges on the way, but, yeah, we successfully reached the South Pole on Christmas Day, which was absolutely fantastic.

Shaun Ley: Can you give us some sense of what it is like there?

Lou Rudd: At the moment we're pretty high. We're high up on the polar plateau. We're still climbing. We're currently just under 10,000 ft. Daily temperatures are averaging -40 now - which makes everything that little more tricky with hand, face, you know, that kind of stuff, all got to be constantly covered. We're doing a 10-hour shift every day. So we leave the tent in the morning at 09:00, clip on our skis, connect with our pulks - which is essentially a big sled weighing about 80 kg with all our food, tents, cookers - everything we need to survive basically in Antarctica - and we're achieving about 17, 18 miles at the moment per day. We've been going nonstop now for 49 days. 

Shaun Ley: Poignant for all of you because of the death of Colonel Henry Worsley, who died in January this year after having come so close to achieving his objective as well. How much has that been in your thoughts?

Lou Rudd: We changed the whole aims and objectives of our mission to make it a tribute to Henry. Me and Henry were very close friends. In about two weeks time we'll reach the point where Henry ground to a halt. We're going to do a memorial service and we've got a plaque and some things to do there. As a team we want to carry on and hopefully complete the journey on his behalf. 


Shaun Ley: It must be a strange feeling to do this knowing that if you complete your objective you'll still only be one of, what, a dozen people ever to have traversed the whole of the Antarctic?

Lou Rudd: We've got a few hundred miles to go yet, so we haven't pulled it off. But if we do it...if the five of us make it across to the far coastline of Antarctica then, yeah, we'll be in a very select group. 6,000 people now, I think, have summited Everest and 12 people have walked on the moon but, yeah, so far only 6 people have done a full foot traverse of Antarctica . And we're beginning to realise why as well! You know, we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached the South Pole and mentally...99% of expeditions finish at the South Pole and to make that mental leap, to get to the pole and think, right, actually this is just over half way for us now, and to set off again back into the wilderness it was a real mental leap of faith to get out. But we're six days out from the pole now and potentially about 20 days from reaching the coastline on the far side - which will be absolutely amazing.

Shaun Ley: The time of year it is, I just wondered if you'd made any New Year's resolutions Lou? 

Lou Rudd: Yeah, New Year's resolution? Not to do anything as extreme as this ever again.

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