We touched down at Barneo base Friday afternoon, a small outpost of humanity in the middle of this great frozen ocean. It's created each year to serve polar explorers, scientists and now, Save the Arctic activists. Our arrival was disorienting, buffeted by strong bitter winds while searching for our own sleds amongst many at the back of the roaring aircraft. My initials ('JT') seemed small and hard to see, amidst the cold and noise, confusion and nerves.
Soon we were ushered towards our heated tents, canvas barracks with six camp beds on either wall. The base is a strange place, hovering between timezones. No one checked our passports when we arrived, because no one owns this land (yet). Our safety briefing was short and finished with a warning to look out for newly broken gaps between the ice and roaming polar bears — a strange new reality we are living in. The mess tent is filled with Russian condiments, which sadly I cannot understand. I poured horseradish all over my toast, before quickly replacing it with something like wasabi. Both were unfortunately binned in favor of a biscuit.
After a full day there we began to adapt to the cold outside. Number one rule is don't take your gloves off, even for 20 seconds. Avoid walking into the wind. Don't leave the tent without all your gear. Concentrate; focus. Cold management is a science more than an art — it requires discipline and tenacity.
For all that, we're loving it. A short ski yesterday helped us get ready for the days ahead, and our guide's description of the ice floes and pressure ridges as a 'playground' made good sense. Renny's eyebrows turned white, and Ezra had to be reminded to wear his facemask (he's like a kid at Christmas out here). Seeing these amazing people as part of a real life polar expedition team is really something. Some are jubilant, others quiet and somber. We all have two jobs here — to complete a challenging polar expedition and to represent millions of people who want to see the Arctic protected. The two are linked, and we have talked many times about how much these voices help push us onwards.
That's easy to say now — the fun hasn't yet really started. But come Monday morning, when we're waking up in a tiny tent to -25 degrees C and a roaring headwind — we'll be thinking of you. Spare a thought for us, and our fingers.