The White Desert- Part Two
Overland Travel

Words and image by Chris Collard Words and image by Chris Collard

The minutes, hours, and days were beginning to meld together into a cyclical and never-ending dream… of drive, refuel, eat, sleep, and drive. When the sun was directly ahead of us, it was midnight. When it was at our “six”, it was noon. A blurry moment later, it was directly ahead again. For those of us who live outside the polar regions and have regular periods of darkness, adjusting to continuous daylight can wreak havoc both physically and psychologically.

This falls into the realm of a circadian-rhythm sleep-disorder. After 20 or 24 hours of consciousness, the body becomes exhausted, but the mind finds it difficult to shut the system down. In a world without night, do you wake at 05:00 hours to have an omelette, or a cocktail? Nonetheless, I was becoming semi-acclimatised to the routine, catching some shut-eye while bouncing over sastrugi and listening to cyclical rounds of Eric Clapton Unplugged. (I think this was Gísli’s only album).

The skies were clear for the first 10 hours, and we were making good time. The hours were passed in discussing our optional leg to the Ross Ice Shelf and admiring prismatic arrays of light reflecting off 360-degree snowbows, or rainbows. If we maintained our current pace and had no delays, we might cross not only the Pole, but accomplish a full crossing of the continent. Snow conditions on the plateau vary from firm to very soft. In some places, our boots never broke the surface; in others, they left a 6-inch-deep impression.

If you’ve spent much time driving in snow, you know that success is all about flotation. Our vehicles were fitted with massive 44-inch Dick Cepek Fun Country tyres, on custom, 14-inchwide AT wheels. This combination created a broad, flat footprint and excellent flotation. Air pressure ranged from 1.5 bar on firmer snow, to as low as one bar in the softest conditions, or when we got stuck—which did happen occasionally.

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