Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The mud report

Waiting for me when I got home earlier from my run was an Amazon box containing (among other things) John Hanc's highly readable The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers, and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon.

I have just read it in one sitting - it is very good, though more along narrative lines and less the mine of information (I am promiscuous, I do not care if it's random curious trivia or useful training tips, it just has to be slightly surprising and shift my worldview a tiny bit!) that I was slightly hoping for.

Anyway, a few small bits that struck me:

- Antarctic tourism was facilitated in the years after the cold war ended by the fact that the crews on converted Russian research vessels ('listening ships') would work for post-cold-war Russian wages, bringing prices down from roughly fifteen thousand dollars in the mid-80s to something still expensive but far more affordable

- Long Island police officer Fred Lipsky's advice: "You can't look at the Antarctica Marathon as a competitive race. You have to look at it as a fast-paced day hike without backpacks, or just a kind of crazy adventure"

- Most useful piece of travel kit which I have yet to obtain: the scopolamine patch for preventing sea-sickness!

- Previous item needed in case of rough seas in the Drake Passage, which was formed thirty to fifty million years ago when the continents of South America and Antarctica split, Hanc writes, and which provides "a gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, a sort of natural 'fast lane' for water to go roaring around the globe"; it is known as the Atlantic Circumpolar Current, and its surge transports 426 million cubic feet of water through the passage every second

- This race is overwhelmingly likely to be all about the MUD, with temperatures in mid-30s - less along BALACLAVA lines (though I must still get one in case it is freakishly cold and windy), and more the GAITER sort of thing!

- One year a skua stole one of the mile markers!

And, finally and (needless to say) most exciting to me, check this out: the ship makes a stop at Deception Island, which was formed by a volcano that remains active: "The volcanic activity below the surface has warmed the waters of its seven-mile-wide harbor to the point that on some days you can swim here" - and some of Hanc's shipmates do exactly that!

Hmmmm, now I slightly have my heart set on having a dip there...


Brent Buckner said...

Not quite swimming to Antarctica, but I read that one ought to at least *bring* swimming togs.

ShirleyPerly said...

Very interesting tidbits!!

Indeed, that item about seasickness is probably why I could never do that race (I'd never make it there!). Funny to hear about the skua and swimming.

Danielle in Iowa in Ireland said...

Okay, I am so behind on blogginess after break and not having internet in Vermont and I am only now realizing that you are running the Antarctica Marathon. OMG that is so awesome! I'm so jealous! My goal is to make it to Antarctica one of these days. The good thing about being a pseudo-oceanographer is that hopefully at some point in my career I can get someone else to pay for me to go :-)