It was always set to be one of the biggest days of my life and not just because it also happened to be my 41st birthday. For today we held the final trials for Snowbird 6 closely watched by the national and international media. We took off from Docklands this morning with the vehicle performing admirably, albeit an hour or so later than planned. After months of hard work in Hereford Snowbird 6 was doing exactly what she was designed to do, with the two drums spinning at approximately 90rpm and putting us through the water at 5mph.
Fashionably late we powered through the water in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The press immediately mobilised themselves and some thirty or forty camera lenses hung out of every open window to get the perfect shot of the vehicle in action. We circled Snowbird and headed for Cadogan Pier for the press conference.
Things were going so well I almost did not notice that Graham was slowly getting lower in the water. Disaster – we had sprung a leak! With no other alternative we made for the shore as quickly as possible, going around the pier and just avoiding a moored boat. The great thing about Snowbird is that she truly is amphibious and as we approached solid ground, the screws grabbed onto the pebble bed and hauled us up. One lever forward and one lever back enabled the screws to rotate in the same direction, shooting us sideways and straight up onto the beach. Relieved we dismounted and found our leak around the rear of the drum – we had just made it.
And now we had to face the hungry media waiting mid-river on the press boat although I don’t think anything could have prepared Graham and I for the barrage that awaited us. As we mounted the staircase of the boat, camera lenses flashed and questions were fired at us with tremendous enthusiasm – ‘Are you going to call it off’, ‘Is it all cancelled’, ‘Can you possibly recover from this situation’. The questions seemed endless.
You may think that this was a disappointing experience for us but nothing could be further from the truth. The sense of adventure and the knowledge that a huge challenge lies ahead is daunting yet exhilirating at the same time. Life is all about challenges and having the strength to accept mistakes, learn from them and move forward. This is the true spirit of adventure, and this is what Ice Challenger is all about.
So now to business. Tonight the engineers are to reconvene for a meeting to assess the situation and to get Snowbird 6 from 90% to 100% reliability. It is clear that we have to do this before it is shipped out of the country, if the Expedition is to be a success.