Sunday 22nd January

Dear all

Apologise for my blog suddenly drying up but please let me explain. My journey home became a complete through passage from the South Pole to Pembrokeshire and time was limited. This is how my last days at the South Pole unfolded:

Monday 16th January
We started early with breakfast and then went on a conducted tour of the South Pole Base Station. It was spectacular to say the least. It had been built in 2008 and is vast. It took 900 loads on Hercules aircraft and everything had to be designed to fit inside the Hercules and when it got to the Pole it was simply reassembled. It is so vast they even have a basket ball court, a sound recording studio and a vast canteen. They grow their own vegetables there with hydroponics, they have sleeping facilities for about 150 and in the summer they have to provide further sleeping facilities in a tented village at the back as well.

The staff that we met were all highly intelligent people on graduate placements doing research into all sorts of different things and ologies, climatology, geology, but also research that was way over my head, neutrinos and the origin of the universe. That done we headed back and commenced what was to be a very long day. It was very, very cold with wind chill it was -41°C and I think, with the fatigue that was catching up on me, that was the first day I really felt the cold. I sorted out my kit and had a nap in the afternoon, did several radio interviews and visited the gift shop. After a late supper we went on to the visitor centre, which is actually a building midway between our camp and the South Pole Station, where we met a lot of the American staff. They were very keen to talk, quite reserved, but obviously appreciated different people to talk to.

Tuesday 17th January – the Celebration
At 2.15am we were all escorted to the geographical South Pole for a ceremony. As usual it was bright sunshine and 200+ people attended. There were various speakers and probably the one that was most memorable was Henry Worsely who had just completed the Amundsen trek to the Pole and had arrived about 4 or 5 days before. He quoted from Scott’s diary and spoke so well; it was an inspirational and moving moment. It was bitterly cold and we were all very, very chilled. One of the girls had brought a bottle of champagne and some glasses to toast Scott’s arrival at the Pole, but when she poured the champagne into the glass it froze instantly, there was no celebration at the Pole that night. We went back to the mess tent for some champagne and ironically any food we could find because everybody by this time was starving. At that point, which is why the blog died so suddenly, we were advised by the management that the weather was about to deteriorate quite rapidly so therefore we were to go to bed, have about 3 hours sleep and prepare to be flown out in the morning very rapidly.

After the brief rest, we had breakfast at 7am (still the 17th). We had taken all our equipment to the aircraft that were going to fly us out, a DC3 and a Twin Otter and then, at approximately 8.45am we loaded onto the aircraft. All the kit was stowed because as it was the centenary, there were quite a lot of people leaving the Pole that day including guests that had flown all the way to the pole from various parts of the World to celebrate the centenary.

I came back on the DC3, a 3.5 hour flight to Union Glacier. Everyone was very, very tired and we slept most of the day. I sat next to the senior medic for ALE called Doc Martin and it transpired that his wife was born in Pembrokeshire. What a small world and they come back here every year. We arrived at Union Glacier to a 20 knot head wind but it was -8°C which was just like a balmy spring day after the temperatures that we had endured. We had a celebration lunch and then had to prepare for a flight out of Antarctica the following day so there was a lot of kit to be returned to stores, tents, skis and poles – all sorts of odds and sods.

Wednesday 18th January
A busy morning. After breakfast packed my tent for the last time and we were all on standby for the Aleutian aircraft’s arrival which was coming in from Punta. All our luggage was packed onto a massive sledge to go down to the runway at 10am. We saw the Aleutian fly up the glacier and land at lunch time. It was an incredible site. Then we went down to the runway, loaded up and headed out of Antarctica for the last time. I got to the hotel in Punta Arenas about midnight that night, for a very short night because in the meantime my team back in Pembrokeshire had been rearranging my flight to get me home because, as far as I was concerned, mission was accomplished and actually all I wanted to do was get home. So a short night in Punta and I was back in the airport at 8 ‘o’clock on Thursday morning for the trip back to the UK.

The trip was wonderful, every single flight was on time and I eventually touched down in Heathrow at about 10pm on Friday the 20th to be met by Pamela. We drove home and got back to Pembs at about 2am on Saturday 21st. So arrived home, had a family welcome and lunch and an update which was lovely. We had a quick run through of photographs and back to work Monday morning.

It has been an incredible trip. Now it’s all sinking in and I can enjoy the memories and the experiences that I’ve had. It is something that I’m so pleased I’ve done and I am also hugely grateful to everybody who has supported me, everyone who has read my blog and everybody who has contributed to the Teenage Cancer Trust fund. Please if you haven’t done so contribute whatever you can; I will continue raising funds for some months yet.

That’s it, that’s the last blog, it’s now back to the grindstone. Until next time ………………………

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