“You’ll be home for Christmas won’t you Daddy?” The six-year-old’s voice sounded a bit troubled, and the sentimental father at 87 degrees south felt tears sting his eyes when he talked to his daughter by satellite telephone.
Helmer Hanssen and Oscar WistingHelmer Hanssen and Oscar Wisting in “the Commissariat” as their workspace had been dubbed. It was one of the many rooms that were excavated in the snow around Framheim. The room was used as a machine shop and a storage space for equipment. Framheim at the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, 1911. Photo: Unknown / Owner: Norwegian National Library, bldsa_NPRA1101

We feel rather isolated here in our four-man existence. True enough, we are in contact with the outside world, but every kilobyte we download via our Iridium link-up takes time, and there are limits to the amount of information that can reach us. We hear they have had extremely mild weather back home. It certainly hasn’t been like that here!

It goes without saying that the five men who crossed this plateau 100 years ago lived in a wholly different world. They had sent their last letters with Fram and couldn’t expect responses until the ship returned in the new year of 1912. And polar history abounds with tales of men who were parted from their loved ones for long periods. Helmer Hanssen writes: “In mid-March I disembarked in Tromsø to be at home for 14 days. At home, a new little son had arrived. I had to say farewell to the boy and my wife and head off on a journey that was expected to last two or three years, but ended up lasting nearly four years.” Perhaps it isn’t so strange that a radio reporter had trouble keeping the doubt out of his voice when he learned that Oscar Wisting has signed a contract for a seven-year expedition under Amundsen. He asked: “But what did your wife say?”

But back to the six-year-old’s question: we are doing our utmost to make it in time for the South Pole Jubilee celebration 14 December, and to be on the Christmas flight home. The past few days have been taxing, and if the unfavourable weather continues, our Christmas prospects look bleak. But we remain optimistic and trust that we will have a day or two with wind in our sails!

Position: S 87 10.180, E 179 10.160
Temperature: -29°C
Wind: 10–12 m/s from the southeast
Elevation: 2953 metres
Distance traversed: 24 km
Distance behind Amundsen: 105 km
Total distance traversed: 995 km
Distance remaining to the South Pole: 316 km