Xavier De le Rue and Lucas Debari are currently on expedition in Antarctica. Follow along with the ‘Mission Antarctic’ expedition while the two share real-time dispatches as they ride some of the steepest and most beautiful lines at the bottom of the world.
It was 9 a.m. when I landed in Santiago, Chile on November 23. Prior to this I had missed a flight and temporarily lost my passport and wallet along the way, so you can imagine how stoked I was to see both of my checked bags come sliding out of the tunnel into the baggage check area.
Xavier and the crew had arrived the day before to ensure there would be no issues with luggage. Having spent a bit of time in Chile in the past, it was quite easy for me to hop on a taxi to the hotel, meet up with the posse and start cruising the city for the last few items on our supply list.
Everyone was stoked to be there and we had a nice dinner before our travels continued in the morning. At 4 a.m. we woke up and began our travels to the Falkland Islands. With the possibility of setting sail that night Renan handed out some motion sickness pills that Jimmy Chin’s witch doctor had hooked us up with. An hour later and for the majority of that day, we were all so messed up that no one could comprehend each other’s words even when speaking our common language of English.
By the time we landed in the Falkland Islands everyone seemed to be coming around. It was a military base that we arrived at and it was only a matter of seconds before I was being scolded and threatened for taking photos of the camouflaged planes.
An hour’s taxi ride later from the military base was the town of Stanley where our boat and captain awaited. I vividly remember coming around a corner and seeing the boat that all of us would be living in for the next month. It looked small at first, however, after investigating the many thoughtfully placed beds and storage spaces it began to feel a bit more comfortable.
Our captain Jerome is supposed to be one of the most experienced sailors in the South Atlantic, which brought some assurance to my uneasy feelings about sailing across the Drake Passage to Antarctica. What seemed fortunate at the time was a 1000-kilometer-wide storm that was in our sailing path. This gave us an extra day in the Falklands to carefully pack up the boat and get acquainted with our living quarters. Spirits were high at this point as everything was coming together quite smoothly. The next evening, despite the storm, the captain decided to set sail and begin our voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula. I was surprised considering the size of the storm spiral on the satellite, but all we could do was trust our fearless leader.
It was only about a half hour or so before we emerged from the protection of the bay and were in the open ocean. Within 20 minutes of that our entire crew was lying down using every bit of mental focus to not vomit or fall out of our beds in the turbulent seas.
The next 72 hours were possibly the most miserable three days of my life. I think I left my little nest of a bed for a total of one hour during this time. I managed to put down a bowl of ramen on day two and a few crackers here and there. Renan is in the bunk across from me and keeps going on about how this is just like suffering on the big-wall portaledge during his epic expedition on Meru the year before.
Simple tasks like unscrewing a water bottle for a drink seemed to be just as difficult as they were for me at 17 thousand feet on Denali. Overall, I was completely over it at this point, the thought of snowboarding on this trip seemed unfathomable, and that wasn’t just me. You should have seen Xavier during this time. He looked like a ghost, vomiting after every bite and barely able to open his eyes. I never saw him move once from his bed. The storm that had granted us an extra day in the Falklands was now pushing us to our very limits of sanity.
Every day is a new day and today, day four of sailing, we awoke to calm seas and much lifted spirits. Xavier is walking around with a smile, we all ate some pizza for lunch, and are now hanging out together in the living area for the first time since we left the harbour. Trying to write this, I just made a highlight-reel catch as my computer flew off the table when we hit a wave. For me, it is the first time in days that I have had some confidence in myself, as well as the expedition. With another two days of open oceans ahead of us, we can only hope that our overall condition will continue to improve.
Thanks for following,