Abandoning everything – the career, the home, the security – is something very few people ever do. But most dream about it. A software engineer working in comfortable San Diego, earning a respectable income, does not appear to be a likely Antarctic explorer. Sitting in a gray cube inside of a gray building made for a very gray life. Linsdau wanted to use his creativity to push forward his dreams rather than someone else’s. He saw himself working long hours to make someone else rich. As a reward for the time taken from family and friends, there was the constant threat of layoffs at any time. Most he had survived, a few he did not. There was always another person waiting at the door, happy to deal with the vagaries and uncertainties of corporate life, someone who accepted being a disposable human resource.
In early 2012, he knew that it was time to cash in and go all out to make it to Antarctica. This book is not just another story about slogging through hardships. Based on countless discussions with coworkers, friends and acquaintances, Linsdau knew he needed to make the Antarctic experience accessible to the general reader. To do this, the book approaches the obscure world of polar trekking by exploring the following fundamental themes:
- Working for the man
- Pursuing one’s dreams
- Accepting change
- Never giving up
- Using skills for something completely unrelated
Last night I took a break from waxing the skis, testing to see how long the wax would last from the previous day. There felt to be more drag without waxing, but it was difficult to tell. Thirty-five-knot winds meant it was impossible to sense if there was more or less sled drag anyway. Waxing the skis felt pointless. The wind was strong enough to whip snow off the grounds making for frustrating navigation. It was impossible to see past a few hundred yards from all the powder flying by into the air.
After noon, the weather grew exciting, as the wind blasted past 50 knots, causing the snow not only to hover above the ground but to blow far above my head. I longed to be in my tent. When the wind reached gale force, I had no choice but to stop, turn around, and protect myself. Even with my parka fully zipped up and the fur ruff wrapped tightly around my face, I felt my cheeks beginning to freeze. There was not much I could do when the winds exceeded 50 knots, other than hang on. Although I was able to look south while facing the ground, I was blind to where I was headed. Unlike a whiteout, where I could use the compass to continually perform corrections, this Beaufort force 10 wind made navigation impossible.
I simply was unable to move.
Each time I turned away from the gale, I was rudely shoved northward, as though the continent told me to quit and go home. Several times I saw my sleds rammed backwards in their tracks. It was something that, if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed. The bully beat me back. More than once, I was compelled to stop, stumble back to the sleds, use them as a shield to hide and inhibit the skin-freezing assault. I felt pathetic as I cowered behind the only shelter for hundreds of miles. I wanted to pitch the tent and call it a day. Yet I knew there was a real chance the wind would rip it out of my hands, sending it sailing away. My only option would then be to watch it tumble as tears streamed down my face. Instead, I opted to curl up in a ball against the wind when necessary, then ski when I could. I was going to move southward no matter what, in spite of the 50 knot winds.
By 3 p.m., my right quadricep cramped up, became sore and protested the strain.
By 4:30 p.m., my left Achilles throbbed, as though my boot was not fitted properly. Pushing against the wind was beginning to tear my body apart. It made the sleds feel as though they were 100 pounds heavier. And, to finally top it off, clouds occluded the sun, throwing me into a whiteout.
“You idiot wind! Stop it and let me move south,” I screamed into the wind with contempt.
The roar was so intense that I could not even hear my own voice, the wind ripping it away from my mouth before my ears caught the sound. Even though I was blind, unable to see where I was headed, I pushed forward to gain another mile.
I refused to give up.