The Abominable Peters made camp. At his age, he needed to rest, but then he had always known the value of leisure. No one ever thought of him as a slave to work. They thought of him with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and a smile on his face, all throughout his tenure as one of the great explorers of the frozen continent. He had mapped its coast. He had climbed peaks no one thought possible. And now, at 78, he was back on the ice, headed for the holy of holies: the South Pole.
He melted ice in his pot over a gas flame. Then he crumbled his pemmican, a dried meat substance pounded into coarse powder mixed with melted fat and raisins, into the pot, stirring it into a broth. He added dried biscuits and let them absorb the heat. This was the famous hoosh, a meal that had sustained him in his many years in Antarctica.
He supped at the hot stock and received its warmth, its protein, its nourishment. It kept him going. The point of his expedition was to keep going. All he knew about this latest attempt on the South Pole was that he had to keep going.
The Abominable Peters detected a shape in the blizzard. He edged towards it, and saw what it was: the Hipkins Team, bowed and bent, making slow progress in the blizzard.
Hipkins was alerted they had company. He turned, and howled at the Abominable Peters, “I don’t need you!”
The Abominable Peters howled back, “I don’t need you either!”
He watched the Hipkins Team carry on with their slow, uncertain march, checking on maps, shaking their compass, wandering in circles. Frostbite had set in. Their hands were black. As the whiteness surrounded them, the last thing he could see was a black hand. And then annihilating whiteness.
The Abominable Peters detected a shape in the blizzard. He edged towards it, and saw what it was: the Luxon Team, cheerful and upstanding, making steady progress in the blizzard.
Luxon was alerted they had company. He turned, and howled at the Abominable Peters, “Oh, hello! How’s it going?”
The Abominable Peters howled back, “Pretty good, thanks! Can’t complain!”
“Might see you at the Pole!” Luxon howled.
“Maybe!” howled the Abominable Peters
The two teams carried on, sometimes in sight of each other, sometimes not, at all times conscious of their presence.
The Abominable Peters made camp. He took stock of his provisions. The pemmican was running low. So were the dried biscuits. He lit the gas and stared into the flames.
The truth was he did not know whether he would reach the Pole. He could not be sure he had everything he needed. He trusted his experience, he had absolute faith in his instincts, but the march was harder than ever. He had to get there in October. There might not be another chance.
For a small while he wondered what oblivion looked like … But he cleared his head and raised his chin. This was no time for an existential crisis. He needed to rest, that was all, and eat.
He detected a shape in the blizzard. He licked his lips: a penguin.
He supped at the hot penguin and received its warmth, its protein, its nourishment. It kept him going. The point of his expedition was to keep going. All he knew about this latest attempt on the South Pole was that he had to keep going.