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‘Hell On Ice’ Final Script

Two friends set out on the adventure of a life time, to cross a frozen neck of land at the bottom of the world.

Gambling on their own strength and determination, they’ll cheat death more than once.

Pete Bland and Jay Watson will risk everything to cross the Antarctic Peninsula and only one will make it to the other side.

The Antarctic Peninsula has lured explorers into danger for over a hundred years.

Now it beckons farmer Pete Bland and photographer Jay Watson.

The two Australians plan to make what they believe will be the first unassisted crossing of its rugged terrain.

They almost didn’t make it this far. A sponsor pulls out. By the time another is found they are later into the summer season than they planned.

The ice flows they have to cross will be eroding in the Antarctic sun. The weather more volatile.

It is the unpredictability that makes the Antarctic Peninsula one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Sync –

Skipper: See you later guys.

They stake their lives on their experience.

Pete has navigated expeditions to both South and North Magnetic Poles and Jay has participated in 5 Antarctic expeditions.

This is a journey they have plotted since their school days. A dream they have a passion to make come true.

Sync -

Pete Bland: Be back a shadow of my former self.

No matter how tough the going.

No matter how stacked against them the odds may me be.

Sync -

Jay Watson: Well, we just made it up to the top of the glacier here.

Sync -

Pete Bland: Why we do this stuff I don’t know.

Sync -

Jay Watson: Hopefully we’ll get a bit of a ski in on the opposite side after all this up hill hauling - that’s the hope.

Pete and Jay are alone. They do their own filming, haul their own supplies and equipment and have only each other to rely on. The challenges they face are immense.

Their route weaves through every kind of tortuous terrain the Antarctic can offer.

Approximately 300 kilometres of sea-ice, glaciers and mountains.

They can’t afford to skirt around danger. Their tight budget and a delayed start means they have just 23 days to complete the journey and make their agreed rendezvous.

They don’t have the funds to keep the yacht Tooluka a day longer.

More than just transport, Tooluka is Pete and Jay’s lifeline.

They will check-in with the Skipper by radio at regular intervals and there is a mountaineer aboard to lead a rescue party should something go terribly wrong.

That’s the only insurance policy they have. Pete and Jay can’t afford the two hundred thousand US dollars it costs for comprehensive rescue insurance.

Australia’s Antarctic Authorities have advised them not to undertake the journey.

But their confidence in themselves and their equipment is unshakeable.



Sync -

Pete Bland: Whew, what a day. Well the weather’s cleared up. Which is great. We made camp last night and it was complete white-out. But woken up this morning and there’s the most beautiful view. We’ve got 7.9 miles to get across to View Point.

It’s across this here bay here, or the Ducet Bay as they call it here. And um you can see there’s open ice leads through the back of the tent there’s open ice leads. So it’s going to be a day I think were we are going to be using our kayaks.

It’s a good thing that they are sort of aquphibious we can go both on the land and in the water and I can see us having to do that later on today if we are going to get to the other side. Any way, on with the day.


WS view across bay




MWS skiing and pulling kayak


WS skiing and pulling kayak

Their early progress is good and their spirits are high.


WS icy bank


WS icy mountain


But things are about to change as they must cross a bay of broken sea ice.


MWS Pete looking down into sea ice


Just getting down to it will be a challenge in itself.


Sync -

Pete Bland: It’s a fair way down still. Have to go around.


MWS Pete and Jay carrying kayak


MWS Pete lowering kayak over the edge


MWS kayak entering water

Jay is an experienced sea kayaker.


MWS Pete in kayak

Pete’s used to river rowing - its a very different technique.

Sync -

Pete Bland: Edge of my boat above waterline?

Sync -

Jay Watson: Just.


MWS Pete in kayak and ice

And Pete has good reason to be extra careful. He has already brushed with death in the Antarctic’s icy waters.


MWS yacht

3 years ago, on a 2000 kilometre expedition to the Magnetic South Pole, the yacht Pete navigated was crippled by a rope around its propeller.


MS Pete and crew helping him put on protective clothing

Sync -

Mag South Skipper: That’s it.


MWS Pete in water over side of yacht

Mag South Crew Member: Off you go son. Don’t get tangled with the line. Don’t go cutting the trench line off.

For 5 days they drifted through iceberg-strewn sea until Pete volunteered to go over the side.


Pete coming out of water

Sync -

Mag South Skipper: Great man.

Pete Bland: You’ve confirmed its ok - Roy?

His brave act freed the propeller, but Pete paid an awful price for his heroism.


MS Pete in bed with monitors

The extreme cold triggered a potentially lethal heart defect. Surgery could have left Pete a paraplegic. Even if successful, he faced a long and difficult recuperation.

Pete took his chances and won.

12 months later, he walked 650 kilometres in 28 days to the Magnetic North Pole.


Still: WS Expedition to North Pole


Still: MWS Pete at North Pole


MS Pete in kayak


MW Jay in kayak

Pete and Jay have been friends since childhood. But on this expedition, they have decided should an accident strike one, the other must carry on and not put his own life at risk.

It is a decision that will be put to the most extreme test.


MWS view from kayak


WS Pete in kayak and ice




MWS Jay in kayak and ice


MWS Pete in kayak and ice

Trekking over the sea ice seemed a great idea, when Pete Bland and Jay Watson plotted their journey from the comfort of their Australian homes. In the harsh Antarctic it takes a day and a half just to get to a large iceberg that may be solid enough to carry their weight.



Sync -

Pete Bland: Well we’ve made it across this side. See if the ice is solid enough to walk on. Looks pretty good.


WS men on ice plain

But looks are deceptive.

The sun is now high and cloud is thinning.


MS skiing across ice

The sea ice is melting from beneath their feet.


MWS Pete crossing some thin ice

Sync -

Peter Bland: We have to be so careful we don’t break the top.


MS melting ice

What makes it so dangerous is that it is hard to see where the fault lines are . They have to find another way.


WS Jay on ice plain



Sync -

Peter Bland:

Thought it was challenging getting onto this bay yesterday when we crossed that ice lee, looked like a river. Well, this little ice lee here looks like a ocean and hum, we have to it to get off this bay now. So it’s back into the kayaks. We better ski-daddle.

The wind and current are so strong, they don’t have a hope of paddling against them.


MWS Jay in kayak with bird


MS Pete practising paddling


MWS Jay pushing off from ice into water


MS Pete looking over at the water

Sync –

No way.


MWS Jay trying to paddle against current


What they don’t notice is that the gap between the iceberg and the land is widening.

They are stuck on a rapidly melting iceberg that is being dragged by the current out to sea.



Sync -

Jay Watson:

Not going to work so we’re going to have to find another way round. We’re going to have to hook around the bay.


MS skiing across gap in Ice


MS Pete trying to pull kayak across ice

The melt is now so rapid they experiment with the kayaks, hoping to scoot across the ice.

It’s not a success.


MS skiing on ice


MWS Pete climbing over ice

There is no choice but to go on. Out running the melt is impossible, it’s like quicksand sucking them in. And Pete is about to relive his worst nightmare.

MWS Pete trying to get out of water

Sync -

Pete Bland:

I’ve got take my skis off.

Jay Watson:

You’re tied in?

Pete Bland:

Pull it tight.

Jay Watson:

Ok, yep.

Pete’s clothing is limited protection against the minus 1 degree Celsius seawater. Jay must get him out before the cold triggers another heart trauma or hypothermia kills him.

Sync -

Pete Bland:

Pull it up. I’ll come up at the end.

Jay Watson:

One more then.

Pete Bland:

That’ll teach me for being ...

Jay Watson:

One more burst ...

Pete Bland: ... 20kgs heavier.

Jay Watson:

Your feet out?

Pete Bland:

I’m out.

Fuck’n ay!

Jay Watson:

Fuck’n ay! Jesus. Enough of that.

Pete Bland:

I’m not that hot I can tell you.


MWS tent and kayaks

The close call is a sobering reminder that one slip can be fatal.



Pete Bland:

Thank God Jay was there, with a rope. Hum, I don’t think there’s ever been a moment in my life where I could say I actually owe somebody my life but I think I can say that today. My friend Jaysie. Then again I’ve saved his arse many times.

Jay Watson:

Yea, we’re even I think.


WS ice plain with seals

Pete Bland:

We’ve hauled out, walked on for a bit and kept on sinking, kept on sinking. There’s water flowing underneath us, we just camped on a bit of ice. Going to have a brew, going to have dinner then get up at three in the morning.


WS Pan ice plain by tent


WS Pan Pete walking off pulling kayak


WS water and Ice


MS Pete PTC, pan to land

Pete Bland:

We’ve made it to the edge of the water on this

floating ice berg, now what we’ve got to do is paddle across this bit of water here and that is terra firma - that is land.

Land it certainly is.


MS Pete preparing kayak

But it is not where they want to be.


MWS Pete in kayak

Pete Bland: Hey, this is the way to go Jay. No more hauling on the ice, just paddle.


CGI – Route over Antarctica

Every step they took forward the drifting iceberg pushed them 2 steps backwards. They should be coming ashore at the foot of the Peninsula’s Victory Glacier. They are 50 kilometres off course on rugged Vega Island.


WS Pete at campsite


WS Jay washing in water

They clean up, rest and regroup.

The forced detour has cost them 3 of their precious 23-days in which to complete the traverse before they loose their pick-up yacht Tooluka

Sync -

Pete Bland:

Shit. Everything is, everything is absolutely saturated. We are freezing cold. We’re open like this to try‘n get the air going over us. It is drying, all this gear. Oh man I’m so glad to be here. For a while there I didn’t think we were going to make it. Like I never really believed it, but it just starts to cross your mind.


MS Jay drinking


MCU wringing out clothes


WS land

They allow themselves just 3 days to cross the island to a point where kayaking to the Peninsula is feasible.


WS Pete towing kayak

To allow any more time will leave zero margin for the rest of the traverse.

Sync -

Pete Bland:

This is just great. What a camp site hey. End of day seven and it’s all looking a little bit better now.

Pete’s optimism is premature.


MWS Jay walking with ski poles

They walk into a storm that coats the rocky terrain with freezing snow, while cold and fatigue start to take a toll on their bodies.



Sync -

Pete Bland:

So we’re past this bluff, which is the centre of Vega Island.

Now we’ve just got to go down an hour or so and make camp because we’ll get a rock fall if we camp here as tempting as it is. We’re both pretty knackered, I’ve got to say.


MWS Pete climbing icy slope


WS Jay walking across icy slope

It is so cold breathing is painful and joints ache


WS Kayak sliding down slope


WS Pete pulling kayak on skis

Despite the setbacks and lost time, all it takes is a spell of good weather to recharge their confidence.


MS Pete PTC while skiing

Sync -

Pete Bland:

This is absolutely fantastic. We’ve got to the bottom of this bay now. All we’ve got to do is scoot down here, make camp. I’ve got to say this is one of the most beautiful things, apart from my darling wife, that I have ever, ever seen.


WS bay and icy hill


MWS penguins on rock


WS bay and coastline, Jay on rock

Beyond the bay, on the Peninsula, lies Victory Glacier, the route that leads to the Peninsula’s plateau.

If they can get across today, they’ll have just 15 days to complete the first unassisted crossing of the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s possible, but they have no leeway. From now on it’s either success or disaster.


MWS Pete in kayak by icicles


MS Kayak moving through water


MWS Pete in kayak and ice


MS Pete beside iceberg

The closer they get to the glacier however, the colder it gets, the denser the sea ice packs around the bergs.

It looks less likely they can cross the bay in a single day.

Sync -

Pete Bland:

Ok, well, I’m onto this one. I’ll pull the rope in, pull yours across.


MWS Pete hacking away at the ice


But they are not about to give in without a fight.

Taking turns to lead, roped kayak to kayak, they haul each other from iceberg to iceberg.


MWS Pete walking down ice slope

The icebergs are unstable, the current is picking up and despite near exhaustion they can’t afford the time to stop and rest.


Sync -

Peter Bland: Well, there is way off. it’s over here, to the southwest, but we’ve got to get off pretty quick because there’s icebergs coming, they’re going to block our exit route. So we better ski-daddle.

Jay Watson:

Don’t upset the iceberg.


MWS Pete walking over ice pulling kayak

Beast of a piece of plastic.


MWS Jay pulling kayak towards him



Jay Watson:

See how the sun’s going down it’s about midnight. We’re still trying to haul across this busted up sea ice. But we’re nearly in sight of land and we’re just pushing hard now. There’s no point in stopping so - just got to keep hauling these yaks - we’ll get there.


WS Pete pulling kayak across ice




WS Jay in kayak hacking at the ice



Pete Bland:

So we’re only about 100 metres from Victory Glacier and we’re into this pack ice zone. It’s the end of the day. We’re very tired and cold, and all we want to get ashore and get onto land. Jay’s there taking the lead now, trying to get to the next shelf, little plate of ice and then what we do is haul ourselves across it and then we go to the next one and then do the same again, and again and again and again. Anyway, hopefully the next update is from the land.


WS Jay hacking at ice in kayak


MS pulling kayak across ice

They make land just in time to see the sunrise.


WS tent

Though desperately tired, the two friends are still in good spirits and take time to record their thoughts before hard-earned sleep.

Sync -

Jay Watson:

Some of the early explorers have been and like Otto Nordenskjold, Wally Herbert and been around these areas and.

Pete Bland:

Yes, somebody’s dirty socks


MS Pete and Jay in tent


Jay Watson: Dirty socks hanging around.

Pete Bland:

My poor diary but, a photo of my little daughter. Little thing.

And we’re the first ones to do it unsupported.


Jay Watson:

I can see why.

Pete Bland:

I can see why too. I wouldn’t say no to a bit of support right now.

Jay Watson:

Exactly. We need the dogs now.

Pete Bland:

Dogs and the helicopter.

Jay Watson:

You bring the chopper in.

Pete Bland:

There it is. I can hear it.

In a few hours they face an 1800 metre climb of Victory Glacier.


WS tent in snow




MCU end of kayak

Pete Bland and Jay Watson wake to a white-out obliterating their route to the Antarctic Peninsula Plateau. They should sit it out but have 3/4’s of the journey to complete in just 15 days.


MWS kayaks covered in snow


Pete packing gear into pack

Jay Watson:

We’ve got to get up the top of the mountains here, so we’re just, hum, loading all our gear. Basically putting them all in packs.

Pete Bland:

There’s that sock I was looking for.


MS putting on snow spikes

Jay Watson:

We’re do an hour up. Takes about 1/2 to get back down again. Take another load up and hopefully on the third load we’re be able to just take the kayaks straight up. We’re have a path - and a safe route up, hum, we’re just keep coming back and forth until we get it done.

They choose the least steep route to ascend and navigate by a hand held global positioning system. It locks onto a satellite that confirms their location to within 10 metres. In whiteout, on a glacier, up a sheer mountain face - 10 metres is a wide margin for error. They drift off course. When they finally realise it, they are faced with a far steeper route to get back on track.




MWS Pete climbing snowy hill



Sync -

Pete Bland:

There’s some weight in that baby. Oh boy, at least we’re heading in the right direction.


WS men climbing snowy slope


Ws men climbing snowy slope – closer to Cam


WS men climbing snowy slope – closer to cam


MS men take a break

Oh, we’re doing it by rope length by rope length. That was one rope length. I cold have gone a couple more, I wasn’t really puffed at the end of that one.

Jay Watson:

You whimped out. You piked it.

Pete Bland:

So, we’re going to go back and get the other yak. The reason we’re going rope length by rope length is that it’s such a white-out, it’s only probably about 2 rope lengths and you couldn’t even see the yaks, the kayaks, and that that’s got all the tent and food in it. We’d be lost without ‘em, so we’re lost with ‘em.


WS mountain, Z/O

On the fifth day since commencing their ascent up Victory Glacier, they climb through the white-out and onto the Antarctic Peninsula Plateau.


WS men walking across plateau


MWS men walking across plateau, PTC

Sync -

Jay Watson:

Be on this plateau where we ...

Pete Bland:

We’re home and hosed now.

Jay Watson:

Should be traversing down hill.

Pete Bland:

Don’t want to speak too soon but we have got to the top of the Antarctic Peninsular. And, I’ve got to say ...

Jay Watson:

Never thought we’d get here.

Pete Bland:

Oh, there were times. There were times. Holy cow.

Jay Watson:

Awesome view isn’t it?

Pete Bland:

That is just amazing.


CGI – pan over route across Antarctica

They will follow the plateau as it weaves through mountain peaks to where the Peninsula falls away to the opposite coast.


WS track through snow

The snow is packed and flat. The best travelling surface they have had so far. It gives them a chance to reflect.



Jay Watson:

I think you need an inner energy an inner, inner spirit that can handle these sort of conditions and these sort of environments and sort of battling every day to get ahead and hum, in difficult terrain. I feel confident in my environment I guess.


MS Pete walking and looking at compass


Pete Bland:

You do anything to keep your mind occupied. I count to three hundred, and then look at my compass, and then do it again. Keeps my mind from wandering too far.

You have to focus one step at a time.


MS kayak as it is pulled


MWS men climbing face of mountain


MWS Jay testing snow

We’ve just come to a halt here because, well, that’s why we’re roped up Jay just found a big cravasse. We would have walked straight across that.


CU hole in snow

See, that’s what you don’t want to fall down.


WS yacht in icy bay


WS men climbing hill with skis

Far below the Plateau, the Tooluka’s crew take in the sights expecting in 7 days to collect Pete and Jay from Charlotte Bay.


WS view from boat

Sync -


Jay, Pete, Jay, Pete, Tooluka, Tooluka, Jay, Pete.

But there is a change of plan.


CGI – pan over Antarctica map

Instead of the gentle but slow decent to Charlotte Bay Pete and Jay decide to make up time and take their chances descending a near vertical mountain face to the closer Charcot Bay.


MWS men packing kayaks

It is a fateful decision.


CU packing kayak



Sync -

Pete Bland:

We’re packing up now and we’re head down over here, onto the Gavin Ice Pierre de Monte. From there we’ll veer round to the west to our agreed pick up point which down there in Charcot Bay. So, we’ve agreed with the yacht Tooluka that she’ll meet us there. So, today we head down. It will be good to get out this cloud and actually have some visibility. So, Charcot Bay here we come.


CU rope running through caliper


MS pulling kayak on rope


MWS kayak on rope pull


WS bleak hazy conditions

In the best of conditions this would be a difficult descent, requiring all Pete and Jay’s ice climbing and abseiling skills.


MWS Pete in snowstorm

In a snowstorm, with no more than basic equipment, it is nerve wrecking. But once commenced there is no going back.


MWS Pete on snowy hillside


MCU Ice screw

Sync -

Pete Bland:

We just secured this ice screw into this frozen sort of ice block that’s vertically above us, then that is connected to Jay, which we’ll then use as our security and we will have to leave that up here as I lower myself down on it.

‘Cause you’ve got half this length again.


WS Jay on snowy slope


CU hand letting out the rope

They lower the kayaks with their supplies and equipment.



Now it’s just me so I’ve gotta hook on down there ah, to this ice screw here and that’s what’s going to, supports me as I lower myself down. Here we go.

But as pete descends, jay is unable to hold the weight of the kayaks.

Jay Watson:

We got the kayaks to here and then I had to let them go.

Pete Bland:

Oh, shit!

Jay Watson

Couldn’t hold onto them. There support wasn’t, we did have enough support for them and its just too heavy.

Pete Bland:

Oh, Jaysie.

Pete Bland:

Gone, gone, gone ...


WS side of snowy mountain

Jay Watson:

It’s gone a long way down anyway.

The kayaks plummeted with such velocity Jay risked being dragged off the mountainside.


WS looking down mountainside

Sync -

Pete Bland:

If you look down there you can see one of the kayaks - oh there it is, already down there. And actually, down there I think is something else, either my pack or the other kayak.

Pete’s pack contains most of their food supplies


MCU pin and ropes

Sync -

Pete Bland:

We’re all secured on one pin ‘cause that’s all we’ve got left now. We only bought two pins on the trip.


MWS Pete abseiling down mountainside

Got to find it before night fall.

The kayaks contain their tent, sleeping bags and stove. Without their equipment they face an icy death in Antarctica’s freezing night winds.


MWS pack in snow

Very good news, we’ve found my pack its down there


WS Pete throwing rope towards cam


MWS pan around kayak and bags

Jay’s kayak was lowered down pretty successfully, no worries.

Pete’s kayak, however, is smashed to pieces.

Sync -

Peter Bland:

There’s half the kayak and all the contents are strewn everywhere.


MWS pan across icy rocks

They recover most essentials but with only one kayak they will have to carry supplies on their backs. It’s not their only complication. A massive crevasse, as deep as a ten-storey building is high, cuts right across their route to the coast.


MWS pan across campsite

Sheltering from the violent winds, they set camp below a ridge and hope to find their way through in the morning light.


MCU Jay in tent writing

Jay records the events of this dramatic day.


MWS outside of tent in snow

Sync -

Jay Watson:

Tent was taking a battering and snow was building up. Tent was on such a lean and the pressure on the side of the tent that we decided that we needed to reinforce the tent. Pete decided that he wanted to head out which was good for me.


MWS inside of tent

After several minutes, Pete fails to return. Jay investigates.


WS snowy mountainside

Sync -

Jay Watson:

I couldn’t see him at all and then I saw the avalanche scar that had peeled away from the mountain.

An avalanche, its rumble masked by the wind, has swept past the campsite without touching the tent or Jay.


WS avalanche snow fall


MWS inside of crevasse

Pete is not so lucky.




MWS inside of crevasse, pan to WS Jay with ropes on ice face

Jay Watson’s best friend lies at the bottom of a crevasse.

Jay Watson:

The avalanche took him out. He went down about 40 metres before going over a cliff edge, down into a crevasse which was another 40 metres, he was a long way down.


WS looking down into crevasse

There is no one else to help. The yacht Tooluka and her crew are still four days away. Jay and Pete have already agreed that should an accident strike one, the other wouldn’t risk his own life to attempt a rescue.

But this expedition has been forged in comradeship and a determination not to give in.

Jay won’t turn his back on his friend.


MWS inside crevasse

Jay’s rope is too short abseil down to Pete. He must find his way into the crevasse on foot.


MS Jay abseiling


MS Ice in crevasse

It leads to a maze of cracked ice, massive ice boulders and fractures.


Sync -

Jay Watson:

The movement and crunching and noises in it, it just felt alive really. These deep veins blues and whites and stalactites, ice formations coming off the side of it.


MWS Jay with Pete in the crevasse

It is 5 hours before Jay reaches Pete, impacted into the ice and unresponsive.


WS Ice in crevasse


MS Icicle falling


MWS Jay with Pete in the crevasse

Jay fears the worst.

Sync -

Jay Watson:

I thought he’d broken his back then I didn’t get any response. He couldn’t move his whole lower body. That initial confronting look and stare of Pete an unknown and remote and distant look in his eyes, that’s something I haven’t seen before.


MS Jay by Pete


MS skipper on yacht


Jay, Pete, Tooluka standing by.


MS men in yacht listening to radio

Radio voice Jay:

I’ve actually been with him. I had to climb down for several hours myself to reach him. I have set up the tent. I have up the tent. I’ve put a sleeping bag around him and a bivy. He is in great pain when I move him. I think it’s fairly serious over.


Yea. Roger Jay. Over


MWS crevasse

Since his massive heart trauma in Antarctica three years ago, an artificial valve has kept pete’s blood circulating. Jay has no way of knowing if the valve or Pete’s heart has suffered in the fall.


MWS icicles


MWS tent in crevasse


WS yacht bow sailing through pack ice

Skipper Roger Wallace takes the Tooluka through pack ice on a moonless night seeking a site to land a rescue party.


MCU ice in water


MS skipper in yacht

Roger resists calling for outside help which is bound to be expensive and controversial. Pete and Jay are here against their government’s advice and they don’t have rescue insurance.


MWS tent in crevasse


MWS ice in crevasse


MS Skipper in yacht

If Pete survives the night the Skipper will reconsider.


WS icy rocks


MWS tent in crevasse

With Jay huddled beside him to impart body warmth - Pete does make it through the night.

Jay Watson:

At this time Pete and I were in the bottom of the crevasse, in the tent often getting avalanched on. Just noises all around us of cracking great glaciers and more avalanche coming down on top of us. Pete slowly was getting better, he was responding more but still could not speak and move. He was in credible discomfort hum, but he was incredibly strong. The fall he took was just phenomenal fall and the impact must have been incredible for him to be even alive is a test of his strength and spirit.


MCU Pete asleep in tent


CGI yacht and map of Charcot Bay

The Tooluka anchors in Charcot Bay. It looks deceptively close to the crevasse on the map. But the terrain is steep and thick with soft cloying snow that will make walking frustratingly slow.


MS men inside yacht

The landing party is led by John Kelsal, a mountaineer experienced in alpine rescue. With him are geographer and bush walker Nigel Collins. And Jay’s brother Andy, an art teacher with limited trekking experience. Andy is recovering from a chest infection, but insists on participating in the rescue.


MWS rubber dingy over the side of the yacht


MWS 3 men in dingy


MWS man on boat with ropes


MWS Andy pulling ropes


MWS men on shore, dingy approaches


MCU skipper on the radio inside the yacht

Sync -

Skipper: Cruise Marco Polo, just standby.

Roger decides to call in extra help. If Pete is to survive, he needs all the help the Skipper can muster.

Marco Polo, Marco Polo this is Tolooka


WS Marco Polo in distance

The luxury cruise liner Marco Polo, responds. They have a helicopter aboard.


WS rescue party on icy slope

The rescue party only has a door from the yacht to use as a stretcher. Their packs laden with supplies, they travel at less than a hundred paces an hour.


WS rescue party on ice


WS Antarctica coast line


MS skipper on the yacht

Skipper Roger Wallis goes on air again, a call he has been dreading.

Sync -

Skipper: Hello Jules, it’s Roger.


MWS yacht by icebergs

It’s to Pete’s wife, on the family farm in Australia. He provides just basic facts, unwilling to speculate on Pete’s odds of survival.


MS ice in crevasse


WS Marco Polo sailing through the ice

The Marco Polo sails to within half a nautical mile of the Tooluka and dispatches her helicopter.


WS helicopter over icy water

Sync -

Radio operator Marco Polo:

We’ve got your position so we’ll send up the helicopter here now and we’ll see how far we can go.


WS icy crevasse

The afternoon of the second day in the crevasse, Jay hears the helicopter approach.

Sync -

Jay Watson:

It was after three sometime, I think that hum, I heard the first buzz of the helicopter and soon he spotted me and he was hovering above me and the hole Pete was in, and ah, soon after he disappeared again.


MWS helicopter in the air

The pilot fears setting off another avalanche with the helicopter’s rotors. He seeks a site away from the crevasse to land but low cloud makes it too dangerous.


MS skipper in the yacht

Sync -

Radio operator Marco Polo:

So what’s the altitude of the clouds right now.

Pilot Marco Polo:

The ceiling is around 900 feet at the moment and it’s quite moist. The ceiling if you touch it, the blades are going to ice up and ah, I would be a little reluctant to go up above it even if I found a small hole there appears to be a shower coming up from the north. here. So, I think we’re just going to have to stand by and wait for this lot to clear off a bit.


WS crevasse area

As night falls, thick fog stops the rescuers in their tracks. They know from their GPS Pete and Jay are just a frustrating 1000 metres away.


MWS foggy tent site


WS foggy mountainside

They listen to the rumble of avalanches through the night.


MWS helicopter flying

They wake to the sound of the Marco Polo’s helicopter. Again it is turned back by the weather - and it is unlikely to return.


MS skipper in yacht

Sync -


The situation at the moment is the Marco Polo is just about to leave...


Skipper radios Jay the disappointing news.

Sync -

Skipper: and ah, it is possible that ah, the chopper may still go up. Don’t be too hopeful at this stage. We have a back up plan anyway, the Base Frey, over on King George Island, is coming in about 3 hours. Just hang in there. Help is on the way.


WS icy mountain side

Though the fog is still thick, the rescue party carefully edges towards the crevasse.


WS man walking in fog

Then the fog thins just enough to see Jay walking towards them. He has not slept, he has had little food - but he has kept his best friend alive.


WS icy crevasse

Now the challenge is to get Pete out of the crevasse.


MS skipper in yacht

Sync -


Base Frey, Base Frey, Base Frey...

Skipper locates further assistance, from a Chilean Antarctic base.


Sync -

Frey radio operator:

Could you please tell us what kind of rescue equipment are you using.


MWS Pete on rescue board


It is a flat board, approximately 2 metres by .5 metres.


MCU Jay pulling rope

Pete’s rescuers have to accept that a helicopter has no chance of getting close enough to the crevasse to winch him to safety. It’s up to them to get him out.

Sync -

Jay Watson:

We literally tied him down as solidly as we could to the stretcher. It was a piece of wood that was, some handles and things had been cut out of. It was the yacht stretcher. So we strapped him to that. We set a pulley system up from outside the hole, 2 people were up top and 2 people down below and we sort of guide him up the vertical slope - fairly roughly and hauling him out obviously against the ice wall.


MS Pete on board


MCU Jay pulling rope


MS Pete on board


CU Jay’s hand guiding rope


MCU Pete’s feet on board


MWS helicopter flying

Topside they hear the Chilean helicopter approach - but it too decides that landing near the crevasse is risky. It turns and leaves.


MWS men towing Pete on board

Moving Pete to a safer landing site puts even more stress on the injured adventurer.


MS Pete on board


MWS men towing Pete on board

In a white-out. Strapped to Jay’s kayak, he flips and is dragged face down 50 metres before his rescuers realise Pete’s predicament..

The morning of the fourth day after the accident - the weather finally gives Pete a break. Chilean Base Frey’s helicopter is again dispatched. It has just enough fuel for the journey and back.


MS Pete on board flipping


MWS men towing Pete on board


WS view of land from boat


WS icebergs in water

Sync -

Base Frey radio operator:

The helicopter, Galileo from the area, has only one hour left from this moment. So I guess this is the only opportunity to make an aerial evacuation, over.


MS skipper in yacht


WS view from yahct


WS helicopter over coast line


WS Jay packing gear beside tent

Jay Watson:

A perfect blue sky, which was the first one for quite some time, so it was quite amazing it happened that way. But, obviously thankful for it ‘cause it allowed a clear path and a easy flight for them to get in and out.


WS mountain in sunlight, pan down to helicopter landed on snow


Still: MS Pete by helicopter

It takes just minutes to whisk Pete away from the pick-up site. He has company. Jay’s brother Andy is suffering chronic pain; the stress of the rescue has aggravated his chest infection and is threatening his heart. But Jay remains. He has decided to complete the journey on foot.


Still: WS Helicopter flying


MWS helicopter flying



Sync -

Jay Watson:

He’s just been flown out, we’re just packing our gear up. I’m going to haul out with the guys, take the last of the gear and try and finish this epic crossing of the Antarctic peninsula and Pete will be with me and we’ll finish this off together and he’ll be with me in strength and spirit.


WS icy mountain side

As Jay sets off, there is a rumble from the mountain.

Jay Watson:

There’s this big avalanche that sort of came off the side of the mountain and billowed where the accident site was as if the mountain was cleansing itself of what we’d just done. It was sort of fitting finale. We turned around and wandered off.


MWS Jay towing kayak


WS Jay walking off towing kayak


WS icy mountainside

It is early evening when they reach the cliffs above the coast. Antarctica gives Jay one last reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.


MWS Jay climbing over edge of cliff

Jay Watson:

I thought it would be just a nice sort of walk out and we would be finished and things and I got to the edge of the cliff and looked down at the yacht, the small speck of yacht and I then realised, you know, I still had so much more to do to get down I wasn’t, my mind set wasn’t ready to have to do that but, I regrouped and down climbed.


WS snowy side of mountain


MWS side of snowy hill, kayak free falling

Half way down, out of sheer relief that this epic journey is finally over, Jay releases his kayak to free fall to the sea.


MWS kayak free falling


MWS Men climbing down last part of mountain side


MWS Jay climbing down ice


Woo-hoo we have coastline

Skipper: Where have you been?

Jay Watson:

To hell and back, to hell and back.

Jay Watson:

Good to see you.

Skipper: Welcome, well, done.

Jay Watson:

Sorry and thank-you.


MWS boats in dry dock


WS busy street scene


WS housing by coastline

Two weeks later Pete’s wife Julia and daughter Olivia await Pete’s arrival on the Chilean mainland. Julia has flown in knowing Pete has regained consciousness at the Frey Antarctic Base Hospital, but knows little else about his condition.


MWS plane arriving at airport


MS Plane arriving


MS Pete lying inside the plane


MS plane on runway

Julia also has the strain of meeting Pete’s rescue and medical bills - she fears it will cripple the family financially.


MS Julia and baby waiting for plane


MS Pete on stretcher exiting plane


MS Andy waving to Pete

Sync -

Andy Watson:

You’re a legend buddy. Well done mate. I’ll see you at home.

Jay’s brother Andy returns to Australia for treatment. It will be 14 days before Pete is fit enough to fly home for his further treatment.


MS Pete, Julia and baby reunited


MWS Julia entering hospital

Sync -

Pete Bland: I’ve had a lot of x-rays and I’ve got 4 broken ribs. Hum, my whole left leg has been reset and my, ah, my, my hip has been reset. So, I’m just taking that easy and I’ve got a suppressed fracture in my mind - in my right side.


MCU Julia and Pete together


MS Pete, Julia and baby cuddling


MS Pete in bed PTC


MWS Pete and Jay in Antarctica on mountainside

Pete recovers steadily, his heart unaffected by the ordeal. Pete's wife Julia says the Chileans refused payment for their part in the rescue but she pays the medical bills. That the expedition was undertaken despite the Australian Antartic Division's caution stirs controversy and the presence of the rescue party menas Jay can't claim an unassisted journey.

But they don’t consider themselves reckless. They knew the risks and accepted them. They may not have earned a place in the record books, but thanks to an unwavering self-belief Pete Bland and Jay Watson have cheated death.





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