Hell on Ice

Two Australian polar explorers attempt the ultimate South Pole adventure—crossing the Antarctic Peninsula, a feat never before completed without sled dogs or mechanical assistance.

Produced by NHNZ

The Antarctic Peninsula, a jagged finger jutting away from the Antarctic continent towards Cape Horn, is a dangerous lure for polar adventurers. Prone to volatile weather patterns, unstable sea ice, sheer glaciers and crevasse-riddled mountains, no one has ever managed to cross this peninsula unassisted.

It is considered one of the last great challenges for adventurers who rely on courage and strength alone. It is a challenge two friends, farmer Pete Bland and photographer Jay Watson, are determined to overcome.

Pete, the first Australian to reach both North and South Poles without assistance, and Jay, a participant of five previous Antarctic expeditions, are attempting to overcome the odds and cross the Peninsula in just 23 days—with only basic survival tools, kayaks and skis.

But despite Jay and Pete’s extensive experience, their latest adventure is shrouded in controversy. Australia’s Antarctic Division considers the trek perilous and fears the chartered yacht Tooluka is not adequate to ensure their safety. They want Pete and Jay to take out an insurance policy costing US$200,000 to cover all eventualities, including air evacuation. However, the Division cannot force Pete and Jay to take out the insurance, and the men certainly don’t have the funds to pay for it.

Regardless of the Division’s fears, Jay and Pete are determined to walk their way into the record books. In the tight timeframe they must climb the Tarrabine Peninsula, descend the Mondor Glacier, cross the melting sea ice, climb the sheer Victory Glacier and cross to Charlotte Bay. The weather is notoriously unstable in late summer; in just a few minutes total white out can occur.

The challenge is particularly dangerous for Pete. Just three years ago, while on an Antarctic adventure, he dived into the ice-cold sea to free a snarled propeller, an heroic act which led to a major aneurysm in one of his heart’s main arteries. Another incident like that and Pete could be dead.

Hell on Ice follows the pair’s controversial adventure from start to finish to share in the frustration, exhaustion, and disaster as they attempt to survive 23 days in one of the world’s most extreme and inhospitable regions.

While setting up camp in an avalanche zone, with just days to go before completing the challenge, Pete is swept off his feet by several tonnes of snow racing down the mountain-side and tossed to the bottom of a deep crevasse, where he lies for five hours until Jay locates him.

This is the worst nightmare for any adventurer in this remote area of the frozen continent, especially those with serious coronary conditions without insurance.

Before Pete and Jay set off on their expedition, they both agreed that if one of them fell victim to the deadly environment, the other one should press on and continue to the other side of the Peninsula.

But help is several hundred miles away, and there’s no way Jay can leave his childhood buddy in such a desperate plight. Pete lies at the bottom of a crevasse that is as deep as a four story building. For three days, Jay keeps Pete alive with his body heat and company until rescuers arrive.

Finally Pete is flown to by chopper to a Chilean base for expensive medical treatment, while Jay undertakes the final leg of the journey alone, in a last ditch attempt to be the first person ever to conquer the notorious Antarctic Peninsula.

Luckily for Pete, Chile refuses payment for his rescue so he only has the medical bills to meet. Unfortunately for Jay the presence of the rescue party denies recognition for an unassisted traverse, so the ultimate Antarctic challenge remains undefeated.

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