David Grann tells the story of modern-day fifty-five year old British polar explorer, Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Edward Henry Worsley, on his attempt to traverse Antartica in 2015, solo. This is one of the most brutal environments in the world. Nobody had attempted this feat before.
By the middle of January, 2016, he had travelled more than eight hundred miles, and virtually every part of him was in agony. His arms and legs throbbed. His back ached. His feet were blistered and his toenails were discolored. His fingers had started to become numb with frostbite. In his diary, he wrote, “Am worried about my fingers — one tip of little finger already gone and all others very sore.” One of his front teeth had broken off, and the wind whistled through the gap. He had lost some forty pounds, and he became fixated on his favorite foods, listing them for his broadcast listeners: “Fish pie, brown bread, double cream, steaks and chips, more chips, smoked salmon, baked potato, eggs, rice pudding, Dairy Milk chocolate, tomatoes, bananas, apples, anchovies, Shredded Wheat, Weetabix, brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, toast, pasta, pizza and pizza. Ahhhhh!”
He was on the verge of collapse. Yet he was never one to give up, and adhered to the S.A.S.’s unofficial motto, “Always a little further” — a line from James Elroy Flecker’s 1913 poem “The Golden Journey to Samarkand.” The motto was painted on the front of Worsley’s sled, and he murmured it to himself like a mantra: “Always a little further … a little further.”
A key finding of the Adventure Travel Survey UK, produced by Wanderlust magazine, and released last week, shows that 30% of adventure travellers surveyed intended to take more trips this year compared with 2016 and 42% intended to spend more on travel.
The research showed that 74% planned to travel to more expensive destinations. The destination which topped respondents’ bucket lists was Antarctica, followed by New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the Galapagos.
The travel industry survey showed an increase in solo travellers taking adventure trips, growth in multi-generational travel groups, and instances of two friends travelling together.
More than 2,300 consumers completed the survey, including Wanderlust readers.
Antarctica is the quietest place I’ve ever been. I walked alone to the South Pole, and in that vast monotone landscape there was no human noise apart from the sounds I made. Alone on the ice, far into that great white nothingness, I could both hear and feel the silence. (I had been forced by the company who owned the aeroplane that flew me to the northern edge of Antarctica to bring a radio. The last thing I did in the aeroplane was to leave the batteries in the garbage bin.)
Everything seemed completely flat and white, kilometre after kilometre all the way to the horizon, as I headed southward across the world’s coldest continent. Underneath lies 30m cubic kilometres of ice, pressing down on the Earth’s surface.