SPENDING a night in a tent in temperatures reaching minus 70 proved to be a challenging way for one Whaley Bridge man to pay tribute to Captain Scott and his team of Antarctic explorers.
Dr Alexander Kumar, currently stationed at the Concordia base, and two of his colleagues decided to camp out on the centenary of Scott’s death.
“What an experience. It was awful. Three of us had slept outside through the night in a tent in minus 70,” said Alex, who grew up in Whaley Bridge. “Camping holidays in France as a child had not prepared me for this.
“Before we left in the evening, one member of the crew had made identification tags for each of our jackets, so in the morning our remains would be more easily identifiable. This was the Antarctic sense of humour. It exists at every station.
“A few of the group approached me sheepishly to ask for some of my personal items in the case of the unthinkable – the laptop, banjo, but the cleverest had asked me for the pin code to my bank card,” he said.
Alex was joined by Sebastien a French Glaciologist and Igor, a Russian Meteorologist.
Frostbite was the biggest danger the group faced. In such low temperatures if you fell asleep leaving a portion of you exposed to any patch of cold, you would lose it – as the saying goes, ‘you snooze, you lose.’
Wrapped up in numerous layers including a full Expedition Down Suit on, thermals, balaclavas and even sleeping bags fit for Mount Everest, they still felt patches of cold.
Alex panicked when he woke up and found his right arm was numb. He feared it had become frostbitten and that he had left it outside the sleeping bag.
“Within a few seconds of giving up hope for my arm, I quickly realised I had slept on it and it was numb for that reason only. It must have been the extreme cold on top of the hypoxia, cooling my brain to the point that you couldn’t think straight.
“Upon reaching the station, the artificial warmth had never felt so good. No wonder nothing can naturally survive these conditions. Nothing lives outside the station – no wildlife, no flora, no fauna.
“God only knows how Scott and his men did it, night after night. We all agree, it had been a wonderful yet bloody awful experience – one that I will never forget.
“But we did it, for Scott and his men, and that was the important thing.”