Posts in category Last Degree Expedition 2006
The expedition is over. We landed safely in Longyear yesterday! The plane came on schedule and it was a happy bunch that finally could set foot on firm ground. After sorting out the equipment (and a well deserved shower!), some of us managed to get on the night plane to Oslo, while others will depart today.
We will publish the photos on the site as soon as they are ready. Again thanks for joining us on this great adventure!
Regards, Svante and Thomas
Runway is still holding together and the weather is good, so now we look forward to fly back to Longyear. The plane is scheduled to pick us up today 23rd of April. Also today we have had some fun, and tested our skisailing skills on the ice nearby the base. Thomas brought two skisails that we connect to our harness and let the wind do the job. It’s not so easy as it seems, but its great fun.
Near the base there is also the wreck of a tractor that fell out of the sky and smashed in thousand pieces when the parachute did not open. It’s a complex operation to set up this base, and the first loads with fuel, tractors (to clear the runway) are dropped from airplanes with huge parachutes in the end of March.
I will let you know when we are safe and sound back in Longyear.
Its Saturday 22nd of April. Yesterday was spent waiting for the Russian helicopter, and in the meantime we arranged a scooting context with my 44 magnum revolver, which I brought as polar bear protection. There were some point blank hits, but not too many. We also demonstrated the drysuit Thomas brought. This suit is used to swim across open water with on longer polar expeditions.
We arrived at Barneo late last evening, and were met with warm food and heated tents. And of we had to celebrate again of course, in Russian tradition. It was a very late night and not all of us have recovered from that yet. Together with us are three parachute jumpers, that waits for good weather to jump over the Pole, maybe later today or tomorrow. Apart from that, time is spent eating, reading and sleeping. When we flew in last night we saw that the area around the base was badly broken up with lots of open water. Now we just hope that the runway will stay good for a few more days so we can fly out. We enjoy the multinational company here at the base, but of course long for the first warm shower, good food and a proper bed. That’s all for today. Regards from Svante.View 3 comments
Victory at last! We reached our hard earned goal 1630, and were able to plant the flags from our 5 nations on the geographical North Pole.
It has not been an easy task, and today has been the coldest day on the whole trip, minus 22 and with a chilling wind straight in the face. We have all been well covered up with face masks and goggles but frostbitten chins are hard to avoid in conditions like this. The Polar Ocean has again showed its scary but also beautiful side. Never boring and the nature up here are just breathtaking. Even on days like this, we have to lift our head from time to take and take in this fascinating and ever changing landscape.
We have skied through exiting areas today, from massive packice, open water and newly frozen leads. The ice on the large leads was quite fresh and if we had been here just a few days ago, this would have been open and a challenge to get across. The largest lead looked more like a frozen lake; we think it must have been about one kilometre wide. For one hour we also had to follow an open lead to the west before we managed to find a crossing point. But now we are at the Pole. John wanted to continue to Canada, but that will have to wait. Now we will move across to the other tents to celebrate, with a slice of home made cakes and maybe a bit of vodka, to conclude our victory in Russian style.
We have taken about 1000 photos, and there will for sure be a selection on the site as soon as we get home. Thomas and would like to use this opportunity to say thanks to our team mates. It has been great to share this experience with such a motivated bunch, everyone have given their best and has been teamwork all the way. Thanks also to everyone who have followed our progress and have sent warm thought and greetings. John says hello to Natasha and Jessica, and Guy to Katie. After a night here at the pole, the helicopter is scheduled to pick us up tomorrow morning and fly us back to the Barneo base. That’s all for today.
19th of April. There was no message from Svante today, but Thomas (Ulrich) called in and told that they only had 10 kilometres left to the Pole. They expect to reach the Pole after a pleasant short day tomorrow the 20th. They plan to spend one or possibly two night at the Pole itself, before they get picked up by helicopter and flown back to Barneo base. Here they will wait until the plane comes to pick them up and fly them back to Longyear on the 23rd.
Conditions have again been a mix of pressure ridges and open water, but nothing seems to stop these guys and they push through as before. Thomas said that the Boyarsky group had been flown closer to the Pole with helicopter, and they expect to reach their destination the same day. All are doing great as usual, and there have been no reports of accidents or injuries of any kind.View 11 comments
Hi it’s Svante again, 18th of April. After a delicious porridge breakfast, we started on a very difficult task. When we came to the large lead, we saw that yesterday’s reconnaissance was in vain. The lead had widened another 50 meter and become frighten large. We had to ski along the lead for a whole hour before we managed to find a crossing point and could continue our journey northwards. Weather has been great however, with sun, clear sky and minus 20C.
The group this year is somewhat special with 54 years between the youngest and the oldest participants. Jordan is 15 (Scotland) and John is 69 (Ireland), it’s nice to see how the rest of the group look after them and how they all work together. Today we also sneaked across a newly frozen lead on thin ice. Thin salt water ice is different from freshwater ice, and it actually bends and moves up and down when we ski on it. Salt water ice becomes soft because of the salt, but at the same time it’s strong, at least in temperatures like now. We can assure everyone that we do not take any unnecessary risks and we always check the ice with our ski poles all the way across, knowing that ice thickness can vary across such leads.
Apart from the big lead, conditions have been good, and we made a new record with 20,3 kilometres. It’s now only 26 kilometres to the Pole so this goes like butter. We are quite tired after the long day, but this year’s group is strong and all are in remarkably good shape. Obviously people have taken the task seriously and put in a bit of training beforehand, that always helps. No news from the Boyarsky team yet, they wanted to be lifted closer to the Pole with helicopter, but we don’t know yet. That’s all for today, will be back with more tomorrow.
Its Monday 17th of April. This morning met us with lots of fresh soft snow and more whiteout (low clouds or falling snow where shadows and contours on the ground disappear, it makes skiing more difficult). Conditions improved after two-three warm and hard hours, clouds lifted and weather got a bit colder. The rest of the day was beautiful with sun, no wind and minus 15C. Our group functions well and we help each other across the various obstacles. We have crossed difficult leads of open water today, where we also had to use our two large sleds as bridge to get across. This we can do on two-three meter wide leads. We lash the two sleds together to make a catamaran, and push them out in the water. This raft floats well and becomes a stable platform; we then crawl across to the other side one after another. This system works on small leads, but on wider leads we need to find a crossing point.
We did 15,5 kilometre on our ten hour long day. It’s now 46 kilometres left to the Pole, and it looks like we will make it with good margin. At the end of the day however, we came to an enormous lead, 3-400 metre wide. We made camp nearby this lead, and Thomas and I went out to look for a crossing point for tomorrow. Pressure ridges and large leads have one thing in common; they don’t last forever. When we meet such leads there is just one thing to do and that is to walk along it until we find a crossing point. They can be several kilometres long but sooner or later the lead will close. The good thing about such leads is that they take up a lot of the movement in the ice and we hope conditions are more stable on the other side. Looking forward to show you the photos from this great adventure. All are in good shape and without injuries.
All greetings have been sent to the participants via text message.View 5 comments
Today started with lots of challenges. It is day 4 on the ice, Sunday 16th of April. After two hours of pack ice and leads of open water, we had only managed to do 2,4 kilometres, about half of normal. After this ice got better and we gained more speed. We have had a long day with 9 hours and in the end our daily distance was 18,4 kilometres, very good considered the rough start we had. Weather got better towards the end and sun broke through for the first time on this trip. Temperature has been stable, around minus 15-16 C the last couple of days, but it looks like it has started to drop now.
Yesterday we overtook another last degree group led by a Russian team, they had problems with the conditions and considered giving up. We however are in excellent shape, and have become a closely knit team that work well together. Equipment works well too and there has not been any accident so far. It takes a couple of days to move with skies through the pack ice, but now ski technique is defiantly improving. Conditions got very good at the end of the day with large flat pans, and where there is no fresh pack ice, there is enough snow in between pressure ridges to ski across them, this saves us a lot of time.
Mick sends his regards to Rachel and friends. Fiona sends her regards to all friends and says she miss you “wish you where here”, and Mattew says hello to his parents. Will be back tomorrow with more updates. SvanteView 3 comments
It is day 3, Saturday 15th of April. We have just eaten nice meal of hot food and now we relax in the tent. In the evening we are busy melting snow to make water, read, listen to music and prepare for tomorrow. Distance today was 12,7 kilometre in total whiteout, which is good progress in these conditions. It has been a challenge finding the route in the whiteout, and most of the day we had to use our GPS (satellite navigator) to keep the right course north. The terrain has been exiting with lots of small leads and pressure ridges which we have negotiated with success. Thomas (Ulrich) tried his skisail, but the wind was too weak. We also had some fun telemark-skiing down the snow-covered face of a large pressure ridge.
All participants are a bit tired this evening after walking more or less blindfolded, but spirits are high and everyone are fine and we work very well together. The wind have decreased and turned south and the southerly icedrift we have fought against the last couple of days have luckily stopped. John Bourke sends his regards to John and Betlem and their family in Tokyo. Temperature has dropped to minus 15C, still well within our comfort zone We will call in again tomorrow with more news.
Regards from Svante