How did you prepare and train before the crossing?
My whole life is a preparation. Staying physically fit and strong but nothing unusual. It is just a lifestyle that is normal for me.
Did you begin the expedition with enough food to complete the whole crossing? Or did you stop somewhere to replenish supplies?
I left Pangaea with enough food for 3 months. I did not stop to restock supplies. Turns out I brought too much food with me which ended up being unnecessary weight. But you never know in Antarctica, better taking too much than not enough!
What food did you bring with you?
My warm meals were "Trek N' eat" lyophilized food, and my snacks included dried nuts, chocolate, homemade brownies, chips and dried meats from South Africa.
How many calories did you need on average per day?
Daily rations reached up to 8800 calories. (As a comparison the human body needs about 1785 calories per day in order to maintain the basic functions like body temperature, growth, metabolism, etc.)
During the traverse you had to deal with temperatures that dipped down to -40° Celsius. With extreme negative temperatures like these, using the bathroom is quite a challenge. How did you tackle this?
Using the bathroom in extreme temperatures is always a challenge, so I always try and reduce my liquid consumption during the day to avoid going to the bathroom too often. At night, I drink liters of water to hydrate myself enough for the entire day. At night, I pee in a bottle, which I use as a hot water bottle, to keep myself warm at night.
Did you cross paths with any other people during the crossing?
I crossed paths with people when I arrived at the South Pole. The South Pole was part of my itinerary, so it would have been very difficult for me not to encounter people on the way. Staff at the station was aware that I was on my way and left a message for me to drop by and say hi!
How did you keep yourself motivated?
A music playlist my wife Cathy prepared for me.
Were there parts of the expedition which you enjoyed? Or was the whole expedition just an exercise in pain tolerance?
I enjoyed all of it. Even the disappointing and challenging moments were exciting. It is only when I live outside of my comfort zone and push my limits that I really enjoy living. Nevertheless, the entire expedition did include a lot of physical and some mental strain, but if I don’t enjoy it, then there is no point for me to do it!
What was the worst moment of the crossing?
Every day I had moments of disappointment and relief. Those are the highs and lows of each day. But to name a few disappointing moments: Losing my cooking equipment, the start of frostbite on my toes, breaking through a snow bridge into a crevasse, kite being blown away in the wind. Injury to my right shoulder and then having very little use of my right arm, breaking my skis, very difficult terrain with nearly impassable Sastrugi fields for the last 400km of the traverse.
What was the best moment of the crossing?
The great moments were finding a solution to all the moments mentioned above. It was also an amazing moment to see the mountains climb out of the ice in the beginning of the expedition, and then to see the ocean and Icebergs come closer at the end.
During the traverse you had to deal with winds that reached as high as 300km/h. How did you navigate your route? What navigation equipment did you have?
I roughly planned my route ahead of time. Based on past experiences in Antarctica, and insight and information from explorer friends of mine, I came up with this route and then tried to follow it when possible. Because I was also using wind power, sometimes I would let the wind take me forward even if it meant not following the exact route. In these conditions, nature decides for you. In terms of equipment, I had a GPS, an inReach explorer (which I lost at the beginning of the expedition), a satellite phone to coordinate with my team and give them my GPS positions.
What are some of the dangers which you encountered on an adventure like this?
Obviously the cold, extremely strong winds, crevasses, human fatigue, and human mistakes.
Did you have to repair any equipment?
Yes, almost every day I would have to repair equipment. Either I would have to detangle the cords of my kites, or sow the torn bag of my sledge or sow my torn kite due to extreme winds. My first pair of skis broke at the beginning of the expedition, as they were unrepairable luckily; I had a second heavier yet more robust pair which lasted. I also lost my pot and utensils in the second week; I therefore had to improvise new cooking techniques.
What emergency protocols did you have in place? Did you have any dedicated emergency gear?
I had an emergency locator transmitter in case of emergency. But due to the distance, rescue would not always have been possible. My team followed my progress everyday as I would manually send them my GPS positions.
What do you need to be successful on an expedition like this?
You need knowledge, experience, careful planning, mental and physical preparation.
What equipment did you take for the crossing?
3 kites of different sizes, extra lines, 1 pair of SCOTT touring boots, 1 pair of Alpha walking boots, 2 pairs of SCOTT skis, 1 pair of skins, SCOTT ski poles, helmet with visor, Petzl crampons, Petzl ice axe, ice screws, 1 Hellsport tent with spare poles, 1 bivi spare tent, Exped sleeping matt, -30C sleeping bag, cooking stove 2L, MSR GXK 2 stove, repair kit, pump, eating utensils, thermos vacuum flask, water bottle Nalgene 1L, fuel bottles 1L, spade, lighter and matches, big and light down jackets, vests, pats, shorts and socks, GoreTex jacket and pants, wool underwear, globes, mittens, balaclava, neck warmer, sunglasses polarized, goggles, communication tools, solar panels, camera equipment, first aid kit, homemade high-calorie day snacks and TrekN’eat food.
Over the course of 56 days and 22 hours you had covered 5100km using kites and skis. Would you do this trip again?
No I would not do the same again. It is always nice to come back to places that you have been before, but you need to distance yourself by sailing away. You have no power of Antarctica, Antarctica has power over you.
The Antarctic crossing is part of another audacious first — the attempt to circumnavigate the earth via the two poles. What plans are next for the Pole2Pole expedition?
Now I am back on my boat Pangaea in Tasmania, Australia. The next step is to sail to New Zealand where we will conduct overland adventures and environmental projects; we will then sail back up to Australia where the same will occur, and onto Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, followed by India where I will attempt to climb the highest unclimbed peaks! Next, Asia, Kamchatka, the Arctic, followed by Greenland and back to Europe where the expedition started. The Pole2Pole expedition will last until 2018.