We’re sitting in the tent again after suffering a really cod day – one of the coldest we have had so far. The thermometer showed –33?C, but a strong chill factor in the form of a 5 meter per second easterly wind made it far colder. An extra wind jacket saved me today, but my feet didn’t get warm until half the day was over. After five hours my toes finally thawed, and then it hurt like hell. After ten hours we were exhausted and chilled, bus some days are like that.
Today we reached a milestone, N86?14’. That’s the same latitude Nansen and Johansen reached in 1895. Of course we don’t hope to repeat their entire feat – they turned south at this point and finally had to spend the entire winter in the Arctic. Their record and ordeal in Frans Josef Land has always been an inspiration for my own expeditions. It’s been a point of reference. By the way, our longitude is now E95?13’.
This day, too, started in an unusual fashion. At 4am, one hour ahead of schedule, we were rudely awakened by a noise outside the tent. It was our friendly polar bear paying us a visit – the same one who stalked us most of yesterday. When it heard us, it withdrew, but again it came back as we were packing up and followed us most of today as well. Finally we shot it again with the flare gun, a third time. Since then we haven’t seen it.
For two and a half hours we followed a frozen lead due north, a perfect surface and completely flat, and that really helped us gain some distance. We chalked up 25 km and are very satisfied. Following that lead, we saw the fresh track of a mother and two cubs. Then suddenly they were standing there in front of us. They were skittish and ran off as soon as they spotted us. That gave me cause for reflection; up here I guess everybody eats everybody – eat or be eaten – and polar bears can be fearsome cannibals. At first glance those three polar bears seemed afraid of anything that moved. But we were very wrong. When we were setting up camp, they abruptly appeared almost right next to us. The cubs just sauntered over as if to say hello, while the mother watched from a safer distance, and we had to talk sternly to scare them off.
As we sat inside the tent, we heard a rustling sound outside. It was one of the cubs again, gleefully exploring the contents of Mike’s pulk – he must have something really tasty in that pulk since the bears keep coming back. But its curiosity was too close for comfort, and it was only five feet from the tent when I fired the flare gun at the scoundrel. That’s what it took se send it darting to safety somewhere out on the ice.
No, I don’t think Mike’s tasty snacks are the reason for all the bears. It’s the frozen leads and the movement in the ice. We’re in the midst of their hunting grounds, and the holes in the ice indicate that there are plenty of seals around to prey on. We hope to move out of here as soon as possible, north of where the polar bears frequent. Because it is really bothersome to not know whether it’s safe to get some shut-eye at night.
We don’t exactly get an abundance of sleep, rarely more than seven hours – and we need that after long days of pressing onward, always pressing on.View 3 comments