The first sign of trouble was not the crevasse field or the mirage of an American radar station on the ice sheet that might have suggested distress. No, the first hint something was amiss on the trek across Greenland by identical twins was a report of "niggles"—a British term for slight pain.
Ultimately, Hugo and Ross Turner, 25, were forced to abort their 340-mile journey across the Greenland ice sheet 11 days into their expedition when Hugo's unexplained knee injury failed to improve, according to their blog on the expedition website.
On the seventh day, guide George Bullard reported the team had "a few niggles" with their backs and knees, and that Hugo had a slightly sore knee.
Two days later, the team reached the abandoned American DYE-2 radar station on May 7 with Hugo in excruciating pain. The Twins wrote on Facebook, "So lucky we made it!"
A doctor from an American military camp (personnel were practicing aircraft ice landings) tended to Hugo. The twins and Bullard wrestled for 48 hours over their options, one being that the guide and Ross would continue on without Hugo.
A warning from the American military ultimately made the decision easy: Two polar explorers farther ahead of them had just been rescued; one lost both legs, the other had serious face injuries due to frostbite. In blizzard conditions and temperatures far below freezing, the decision was made.
On May 9, The Turner Twins aborted the expedition, which was designed to raise awareness and funds for Spinal Research and help study the effects of modern equipment. The trek ended after 130 miles and just over 10 days.
“We agonized over the decision to cut the expedition short,” Hugo said. “I clearly could not walk so there was no option for me and I know the others wanted to go, but it just was not safe. There was little option but to get out.
“I have never been in such an extreme environment. Every decision you make is a life-and-death one. There is no room for error, and when things go wrong, they go wrong very quickly.”
The decision left Ross “hollow and empty.”
“It is devastating after all our work and all the support everyone has given us,” he said. “I don’t regret going. I have seen some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen up here. But it is also the most terrifying place any of us has ever been to.”
Wednesday, for the first time, the team posted photos on Facebook from their aborted expedition.
Photos included compelling images of the biggest crevasse the team encountered (above photo), along with images of how they traveled and what their camp on the ice sheet looked like. Another showed Ross lining up a golf shot—the oddest image of them all.
Perhaps the most intriguing images were of the abandoned radar station, used by the U.S. during the Cold War with Russia. Ross reported it being five stories tall and capable of housing 40 to 50 people. It was abandoned in 1988.
The Twins' trek was part of a study by the Department of Twin Research at King's College in London to determine how modern clothes, food, and equipment protect the body in conditions such as those the twins faced.
Hugo was outfitted with modern cold-weather gear and skis. Ross donned an outfit similar to what polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton wore 100 years ago, ate the same kind of food Shackleton did, and used wooden skis.
It's unknown whether enough data had been collected for the study to draw any conclusions.
As for the future, The Turner Twins plan on a return trip to Greenland for another attempt to cross the ice sheet. Hopefully they’ll have better luck.
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