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The Last Desert 2012 Blogs
Final Stage
30-Nov-2012 03:43:23 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

We all got back on board around 5:30am after camping out overnight. All competitors had to spend a night on shore in either a tent or bivi. I went the bivi option which was the best choice as it only took a few minutes to get going after stamping down a flat sleeping area. Some less experienced campers took 45 minutes to get their tents up which provided some commedy to some cruel minded competitors. We camped between a glacier and a penguin colony, both of which were very noisy night. The glacier made noises all night; we were warned about carving which is when a big slice of ice falls in the water and creates a big wave. We were camped above the last carving line so felt semi safe. The penguins made loud penguin noises all night.

The initial spot for the run, planned at 8 hours was waved off due to weather. We steamed for a few hours and found a more protected spot. Managed to get in a pretty social 2.5 hour run around a fairly small loop. The loop crossed a penguin "highway", so a fair bit of the run was interupted by penguins crossing the track, at one stage one wandered down the track for a while holding up most of the field, a bit like a safety car in a motor race. Very cute.

A bit sad to finish as it was an absolutely unique event. We have all got our medals and are making up for five nights or so of walking past the bar which was off limits previoulsly.

All in all not the toughest desert, however the conditions when they turn bad down here are absolutely unforgiving. I have a massively increased respect for the early explorers whose ability to survive down here is beyond human.

Steaming home.
Stage 3 - 2
28-Nov-2012 07:42:14 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

Relatively a very pleasant stage. A short 1.2km course, 600m or 15 mins straight up the hill and 600m or 5 mins down for a bit over two hours. The crampons got a good work out. The weather was very friendly, the biggest concern was getting too hot on the climb and then freezing on the descent.

We pulled up at the beach in the zodiacs which was covered in penguins. They are totally unafraid of humans and walked amongst us just like little people as we unpacked. They seem to prefer standing on top of hills and it is fantastic watching them slide down on their stomachs. The course ran next to a glacier which is full of crevaces, spectactular to look at. BBQ on the outiside deck for dinner tonight, the crew thought it was a good idea....

We are all off camping on the mainland shortly in either tents or bivvies, it should be an experience.
Stage 3 - 1
28-Nov-2012 07:42:02 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

Recovered reasonably well from yesterday, the calves are still pretty sore though. Looking at everyone else limping we all seem to have the same injury.

Saw a pod of Orca's this moring a 100 metres off the ship.

The plan for the day is a few hours of running this afternoon, back on the ship for dinner and to get changed and then camping on shore over night. Time to see if the sleeping bag does as advertised.
Day 3
27-Nov-2012 05:51:48 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

We steamed over night from the finish of the first stage to what was meant to be the second stage at Deception Island. We cruised in through a very narrow opening to the bay which is actually a volcanic crater. It last blew in 1972 and before that 1932 so for those who like number puzzles you can guess what should be happening sometime in the next 30 days or so.

The plan for the day was for a 10 hour or so session to get as many km's in as possible.Unfortunately the weather conspired against us and we arrived in 40 to 50 knot winds which made launching the zodiacs too dangerous. Another ship in the bay was dragging its anchor so the wind was certainly howling. We then upped anchor and moved a few hours further south to Trinity Island to try to get some running in.

Blue skys and no winds greated at around 2pm, so the plan was to get to shore as soon as possible and do a 5km loop until 8pm or so. Again bad luck struck, this time the area we were to use for the course had been overrun by penguins. Animals have right of way down here and the Captain determined that there were just too many penguins in the area where we wanted to run so in order to abide by the conventions governing tourism down here so we weren't allowed to race. Instead everyone pilled into the zodiacs and we spent a few hours on shore walking around. The penguins are very tame and will walk quite close to you. Have taken about 600 penguin photos.

The scenery is also unbeliveable at Trinity Island with the first sighting of mainland Antarctica. Huge snow cappped mountains, icebergs the works.

We are sailing again overnight to the next running spot, I imagine that weather permitting it will be a long day to make up for what we missed out on today.
Stage 2
26-Nov-2012 03:51:10 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

That was tough, 9.5 hours running a 3.3km loop up a hill, down a hill and being blasted by Artic winds. The mind is a bit wobbly so ignore the poor flow.

The Positives

We are in Neyemer Passage which is unbelievably beautiful
Massive mountains both sides of a 1km wide waterway
We have stopped running
Pushing an iceberg away from the ship when we were coming back in the zodiacs tonight

The Negatives

A camera which froze in the cold
The start of every run before a path is established and you fall through to your knees. Even better when your heel lands lower than your toes and you give the calf muscle a good stretch 20 times every minute - by the way you are meant to fill in the holes so the penguins don't fall down them
Not getting your clothing right, I left it a bit long to put an extra layer on suffered for quite a while whilst I warmed up
Having to take your gloves off to open your food, any more than 30 seconds and your fingers freeze

Tomorrow we are meant to do two 25 km circuits, one in the morning and then move somewhere for another run in the afternoon.

Best wishes to all, looking forward to getting back to Summer.
Day 1
25-Nov-2012 02:11:13 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

The first day was a 12 hour section on a 14km loop. I managed to get 5 loops out however finished pretty exhausted.

Most of the day was with blue sky with low winds. Unfortuntately the downside of this was the snow turning to ankle eating slush after the first four hours or so. The first two laps were pretty easy on hard baked snow and managed to keep up a decent pace without using too much energy. However once it got to midday the snow fell apart very quickly and in some sections was just slush. Falling into holes up to your knees was not uncommon or fun. Putting all that aside the scenery was beautiful.

Saw a good variety of penguins who have no fear of humans at all.

Going to and from the ship to shore is via zodiacs and you need to wear gumboots in case you need to wade ashore. Amazing how quickly the hands froze between getting your shoes off after the race and getting the gumboots on. MIne didn't defrost until I was back on the ship for sometime.

Have just pulled up for Day 2, a 10 hour day is planned. The weather today though is pretty bad, 50 knot winds and rough seas, so not sure if we will get ashore until the winds drop off.

Matt
Pre-race 2
24-Nov-2012 10:32:33 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

Well I spoke to soon, the seas picked up substantially after I wrote my blog yesterday. Spent most of the night trying to avoid being thrown out of the bed due to the rolling of the ship.
They are starting to calm down now at lunch time. Still difficult to make your way around the ship, certainly have to have at least one hand free to hold on to handrails etc. Fortunately for me I have had sea sickness at all so far.
We are due to make landfall tomorrow around 4am and the current plans are to have us racing a few hours after that.
Matt
Pre-race
23-Nov-2012 01:37:50 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

So far so good on the high seas. Nearly a day into the journey down. Waves of 3 to 4 metres which is viewed as "mill pond" in this part of the world. The ship is great, very comfortable.Having said that it moves around a fair bit in these easy conditions, you certainly need to hold on to something when walking around. In big seas I hate to think how hard it would be to move.
The first day has been set at 100km so nothing like working your way into the event. Although as the organising team say it is all subject to weather. The favorite world in regard to any planning is flexibility.
In Ushuaia
22-Nov-2012 02:52:23 AM [(GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney]

After nearly two days of travel and negotiating the transport strike in Argentina have made it to Ushuaia. A very pretty town on the water surrounded by snow capped mountains. Have had to break the cold weather gear out already. Our ship arrived overnight, of the four in the harbour unfortunately it is the smallest, let's hope the toughest. Off to the race briefing in a couple of hours and then on board to start the trip down south.
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MATT MCLELLAN
The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2012

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MATT MCLELLAN
The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2012

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A unique opportunity to see one of the more remote
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