ADOT supported Captain Justin Packshaw who went to the South Pole, these were his words on the experience;
What a trip! I don’t know why but I was rather complacent about us heading down to Antarctica and retracing the last two degrees of Scott’s epic trip back in 1911/12. I just thought that we would arrive, get stuck in and achieve our aim without too many dramas. How foolish I was.
Antarctica in any guise is a formidable arena to do anything in, let alone ski 140 miles into the Pole with three wounded soldiers. She is a powerful and dangerous adversary to take on and complacency is not a wise starting point. Don’t get me wrong, we all trained and prepared very thoroughly and no one more than our inspirational boys from the Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG) Adam, Robbie and Webby who were in thoroughbred nik. What with the historical link with Lawrence Oates and his Regiment (RDG) and the 100th anniversary of the race to be first to conquer the Pole, we had left few stone unturned in our planning. As one would imagine there was great excitement as we touched down on the 88th latitude to start our trip proper.
A thought must be shared for the pilots who are quite amazing and talented – flying there is a skilled art and one needs a lot of experience and big cajonas. Anyway no sooner had the two Twin-Otter planes dropped us and all our clobber in the middle of nowhere, they were back in the sky on-route back to Union Glacier, our last umbilical cord with semi-civilisation flying away from us at 180 knots. We all gazed at each other and then the penny dropped, we were alone, standing on top of 3000 metres of ice where not a single living organism is able to survive, nothing; no bacteria, no animals, no indigenous people. Nada! Man, oh man, this was the real deal.
So this is how we set off; ten beating hearts, ten whirling minds and ten bellies full of emotional excitement and trepidation heading south as we retraced the footsteps of legends from another era. A proper baptism of fire it was too, as we found ourselves trudging into a nasty headwind, tricky sastrugi and pulling uncooperative sledges! Home felt a long way away but home we had to make it. The Antarctic plateau is vast and many forget that it is at 9,000 feet so one also has to tackle the altitude as well as an average temperature around -30oC.
Day one and our team suddenly realised that this was not going to be a stroll in the park!
I won’t go through the next three weeks as I know that it has all been wonderfully highlighted previously in our blog. Suffice to say, that it was full of everything one might imagine that that magnificent continent could throw at us and yes she does have sharp teeth. Very. The team was nothing short of brilliant; humour was never far from anything as we came to grips with functioning effectively and efficiently in a very alien environment. The boys had to contend with much as they were all carrying terrible wounds inflicted whilst on operational tour in Afghanistan all of which played up on the trip. They never complained or shirked any responsibility throughout. Inspirational one and all.
Day by day we etched the miles away until we were suddenly standing at the famous sphere at the bottom of the world, all hardships forgotten. Total elation washing over us; a vast blanket of relief, satisfaction, pride and love for the whole team. It had been a proper slog but we had pulled through together as a group and done it. The only sadness was that Malcolm Walker and Peter Scott were not with us. All in all it was an unusual expedition; unusual in that at every stage from its inception to actually carrying it out, everything came together and the project was met with bright minds and helpful hands. Lucky really.