Friday, 25 July 2008
I woke to the shout of former British Royal Marine Gary: “Let’s go, let’s go, lets go!” Simon and Noel were out of their sleeping bags within seconds and as I extracted myself from the tent my heart rate began to race. It was 6:30 am and we were standing on an Austrian glacier in nothing more than our socks and light shorts…
“Come on, don’t just stand there – get on with it!” Another instruction from Gary. “Its about aggression…non-emotional…get in there.”
We ran over the ice and slowed at the edge of the glacial waters. And Gary was still shouting at us. Our run had slowed to a walk and we began to sink into the icy pool cut in the glacier’s surface. Two and three steps and the water was rising. I was holding onto Simon and Noel for direction and one of them slipped as the icy layers broke below him. I don’t know which one fell first as I was being something less than aggressive and non-emotional!
Another shout rained in. “Non-emotional!!” And it was starting to make sense. We just had to go in, it was going to be cold but we had committed to doing it so there wasn’t any point putting a pained expression on – just get on with it.
Moving at speed now we entered the pool and up to our chests in freezing ice filled water we dived in or perhaps more accurately belly flopped in. I have very little memory of the next few moments but after going under the ice we had broken our hold on each other. As I resurfaced I was up and running. I could hear Gary shouting at us and I headed straight for his voice. In fact I’m told that I left Simon and Noel in my wake in the interests of getting out.
As we rose out of the water the next order was delivered. “In the snow, get down…aggression…heads in it and roll roll….that’s it roll in it…non-emotional!” Apparently the snow helps to get rid of the excess water and helps stop the body freezing – at least slows the freezing process.
Three, four , five revolutions in the snow and we were up and running for the tent. Hearts pumping, skin freezing we bolted for the relative warmth of the tent. In the doors of the tent, clothes off and stove on. We had passed our first survival test under pressure.
Last weekend was about learning how to survive if something goes wrong in Antarctica. What to do if we fell in an icy pool; how to deal with a medical emergency; how to stop our team-mates falling down a crevasse; how to self rescue from a crevasse and how to pull a team-mate out. As we skied across the glacier after our final emergency scenario Gary’s words played over and over in my head. Being aggressive is about speed and being non-emotional is about thinking clearly. These are the things that will allow us to survive and Gary, Felicity, Phil, Simon and the two Toms were focused on giving us the skills that could save our lives. Thanks to everyone!