BSES HQ receives expedition field updates weekly so check back every Monday to see what has happened in the week gone by.

Tuesday, June 16

In The Beginning

YE Diaries by James Settrey

The start of this expedition could be seen as the day I went to the meeting in Newcastle on what BSES were planning, the days I spent acquiring equipment, or the weekend camping in Scotland. For me however it was the explosion of energy and mad panic at Heathrow airport. It has been seven weeks since I stood side-by-side with the other young explorers (YEs), some I half knew from previous meets others complete strangers; in the queue for tickets.

Strangers at Heathrow Photo M. Kittle

When I think back on that day my memory plays as if on fast forward. The tickets were handed out, the heavy bags checked, then we were off flying to Copenhagen, then Oslo, (each time getting the same airplane safety procedure on how to manually inflate our lifejackets, etc.) then finally Longyearbyen. It was cold, and dark, with air so crisp that it stole the breath from your lungs; coughing and spluttering we walked across the small airfield to the terminal. There was no need to check passports, or go through security, we simply collected our bags and were soon on a bus on route to the hostel which would be our refuge for the next 4 nights. The hostel seems luxurious to me now, four bathrooms (with a shower), kettles, central heating, and nice soft, warm beds; although I’m sure may have seen it differently at the time.

It was whilst at the hostel the Fires were chosen, an identity which seemed so important then, has little influence now as every YE is a friend. I do remember, though, that it was with Isbjørn Fire that I set off to Base Camp One (BC1). The journey still holds some memories; our first ‘snowed in day’ when Ash dug a hole, which only purpose seemed to be to trap his tent partner Ben in; and the first taste of downhill pulking. Though many of the jokes, and funny moments have been lost to newer ones, the feeling of excitement and wonder that accompanied me throughout that first little adventure still remains.

Base Camp One itself brought with it an interesting problem, which had been worried about by many since they left the comfortable bathroom facilities of the hostel. Although some (myself included) had braved the cold behind, and lack of privacy which came with the snow dug toilet, others were holding out in hope of something more civilised at base camp…cometh the ‘toilet tent’. It offered more privacy, and some protection from the elements, however it didn’t have the view, or the ventilation, of the outdoor toilet!

Time, however, at BC1 was brief and soon we were off (in our Fires) once again, Polarrev ski toured to the Blackbreen Glacier, whereas myself and Isbjørn left for the Foxbreen Glacier. It was here that the real first Base Camp was founded, we settled in the edge of the terminal moraine, pitched tents and tentipi, and began the science work.

Isbjørn surveying on the Foxbreen Photo R.Payne

Again my memory of this time does not account for every joke, laugh and tease, indeed it is from this time one of my worst memories of this trip comes from. Tied by rope in a group of five, one probing the depth of snow, another GPSing, and one more noting the information. The problem which occurred you may have already spotted…three jobs, five people. I was left to envy Emily, who was meant to be the other redundant YE on the rope, but managed to clinch the prestige job of shouting “stop!” ever nine meters. It took a long time to make it back down to the bottom of the Foxbreen, and by then I was almost broken. Although time has a way of making even the darkest moments seem not so bad, and now looking back I get a strong sense of pride that I was able to help ‘map a glacier’.

No comments:

Post a Comment