Posts in category North Pole 2008: Three Expeditions
We are in our tents for the very last time this season – at least on the Arctic ice. The helicopter picked us up at 6pm this evening and flew us to Ice Station Barneo, where we are now camped.
Earlier today we left our camp on the North Pole and headed south. We had a careful hope of finding an open lead – and we did, which was lucky, because almost all the terrain around us was completely frozen and the ice packed together. There was almost no seawater in view at all, just this one open lead. But it was enough to allow us to once again test our special water-tight suit.
Even more impressive and fun is that Hege proved to be tougher than all the boys put together. She stripped off all her clothes and took a plunge in the icy water! Today she was the only one who took a swim on the North Pole – not a single one of the boys dared follow her brave example.
It seems that ice bathing at the North Pole is about to become a traditional entry on our programme. Several brave souls on this year’s expeditions have proved that it is possible; but that will be quite a challenge for future expeditions to follow. You get an incredible kick and energy surge from an ice bath! We set up our tent and lit the stove to raise the temperature, making it possible to change clothes in reasonably warm surroundings. That is an absolute must when the air temperature outside is –15˚C. It was a great finale!
By the time we were done, the helicopter had arrived at the North Pole; once again we hurries northward. Our skilled Russian pilot flew us safely back to Ice Station Barneo. The Russians are now in the process of dismantling the base – taking down the tents, packing down all their tools and equipment.
In fact, the very flights from Barneo leave tomorrow. Our group is booked to go on the first aeroplane, at 09.30, which means we shall arrive in Longyearbyean nice and early. When the last of the tents, equipment and vehicles are loaded on board the very last aeroplane, which leaves later during the day, the ice at Barneo will be left just as pristine as they found it. After those two aeroplanes have headed south, the logistics for expeditions is gone.
The Russians need to re-establish Ice Station Barneo every single year. There is no base this far north until next spring, and there will be no more expedition by way of Barneo until the beginning of April 2009.
So this is it, folks. These three expeditions have been wonderful adventures.
I must confess that I am deeply impressed by what the Russians have achieved up here. They have done a great job, making every effort to ensure a safe and good experience for everybody. And they have done so despite rather difficult conditions – the reason is that Barneo has drifted down to 87 degrees latitude. There has been an enormous southward ice drift since the base was established, up to 20 km per day. Ice Station Barneo’s original position this year was N89˚30’; our GPS now shows it to be at N87˚58’. That much movement is most unusual.
As a result, operating the base has been more expensive, because it requires more fuel to fly the expeditions up near the North Pole. The helicopter pilots have been flying very long legs, but they have fulfilled their commitments. There has not been a single delay – and that is an impressive feat! We have been in the best of hands, and have even been offered to stay in their nice and warm, large tents when we have been at Barneo.
Right now, however, we are camped in our own tents. The others are being packed, the base disappearing before our eyes. We did, however, enjoy a final meal in the nice and warm canteen tent – several generous portions of Russian soup.
So this is it. And all is well!View 1 comments
We are now camped at the North Pole, which we reached at 21.15 Norwegian time. Our journey on the ice started as planned 10 km from our destination, and after five
hours we reached the Pole.
Conditions have actually been more challenging than for the “last degree” expedition; there has been considerably more pack ice and we have encountered many more leads. Fortunately, we were always able to find a way across – the leads were sufficiently frozen that we were never in any danger.
We also encountered lots of pack ice. Since it has been a lovely day and partially cloudy, the ice has taken on beautiful bluish hues. In other words, we have had the opportunity to experience some of the best that the North Pole has to offer. We’re lucky, as we are only here for two days. Many of the blocks of ice stood on edge, glowing in hues of blue. Five-foot blocks lie strewn like dice across the terrain.
It’s been a great day!
We have erected my largest tent, and we are all sharing this five-man tent. At this very moment we are savouring some excellent Cognac, celebrating our safe arrival at the North Pole,
Our plan is to spend most of tomorrow here, and fly back to Ice Station Barneo at six or seven in the evening. We shall spend the last day at the Russian base, before returning by air to Longyearbyen on 27 April.
All is well with every member of our expedition. Temperatures are –12˚C, and there is a gentle wind. In other words, the weather conditions are excellent.
We’re back on the ice again! Everything went according to schedule yesterday; the logistics have been flawless for these three expedition.
This is my list trip to the North Pole this year. On the 29th of April the Russians are closing down Ice Station Barneo, a base that has to be re-established every year. Four adventurers have grabbed this last opportunity to visit the top of the world: Hege, Jan Tore, Erik, and David from England. That’s a group of five if you include me.
In about an hour we are flying from Barneo, heading north, and landing roughly 10 km from the Pole. From there we shall ski the final stretch and spend the night at the North Pole.
It was wonderful to return to Longyearbyen for a shower and some good dining. Yesterday we had a great dinner at Huset, a renowned restaurant up here, and spent many hours talking about our adventures on “the last degree”, while enjoying good wine. Afterwards, it felt great to get a good night’s sleep in a normal bed.
Today I flew northward with a new group, first landing at the Russian base. We shall send you a new report this evening. Most likely it will be very late, because our ambition is to reach the North Pole this evening.View 1 comments
Yesterday we were informed that the helicopter would arrive to pick us up during the night – and it arrived just as expected. Half an hour past midnight Norwegian time it landed near our base and flew our expedition group to Ice Station Barneo.
We spent the night there, getting a good night’s sleep in nice, warm tents. Now we are waiting for our flight to Spitsbergen. The aeroplane is due to land here at 3pm, and we shall depart one hour later. We have already reserved a table in one of the better restaurants in Longyearbyen, and shall be celebrating the expedition soon.
Everything is right on schedule.View 1 comments
I must admit that we have had a most active and entertaining day. We did, however, get off to a late start, not leaving camp until 1pm. The camp, which we had shared with the Russians, had long since drifted far from the North Pole.
Our first chosen task was to find an open lead of seawater – and we didn’t have to walk far. The wind and currents had broken the ice on a lead that we encountered, leaving sever or eight metres of open water. We were lucky, because now we all got a chance to test the special watertight suit. Everyone took a swim. It was quite an experience.
Then we set up our tents and turned our stove on max. It was time for an ice bath! We all ran from the tent, jumped into the sea, which was incredibly invigorating. Granted, it wasn’t the longest swim we’ve had, but it was great fun. And it’s the first time I’ve done this up here.
A little later, after we stopped shaking, we had a shooting competition, using Lars’ 9 mm Glock pistol. Believe it or not, we even had targets in our luggage. Peter won just one point ahead of me. Fortunately, I saved my honour by winning the beach volleyball tournament.
As I mentioned, we’ve had a very active day, and a highly fun and entertaining one. A few minutes ago we were informed that we are being picked up here at around midnight Norwegian time, and being flown to Ice Station Barneo, where we shall spend the night. It will be good to reach that position. The aeroplane to Longyearbyen is scheduled to take off at 4pm tomorrow.
While we’re waiting for our flight, we’re 27 km from the North Pole. Today we only walked 2 km. Until we are airborne, the drifting ice is providing our transport. It’s sunny here, clear weather, –16˚C and rather windy.
(11.36) We’re relaxing in our tents; we shall keep our campsite where it is, perhaps exploring the area a bit. Tomorrow we may choose to head to a different spot. We are drifting very fast – 9 km just last night! The wind has increased since we arrived yesterday. And that was quite a day, great fun, a great finish where we used the very last of our reserves on that final stretch. Great!
(21.40) All is well and… We are drifting like crazy … and are now 14 km form the North Pole. There is a fairly strong wind … camped near a … magnificent light. All is well up here at the top of the world.View 3 comments
During the night, the ice drift carried us one kilometre south and two kilometres west. When we woke up, our camp was slightly more than 24 km from our goal. Also today we took our turns in the lead – that is, everyone except me. I brought up the rear, relaxed and enjoyed my “holiday”. Everyone on this team is so well versed that I didn’t have a single worry.
The weather has been excellent, mostly sunny, just a thin veil of clouds that never did manage to hinder the sun. And the snow has been silky smooth! We have, of course, encountered pack ice and frozen leads, just like on the other days. Optimistic as we were, we expected to reach the North Pole after a “normal day” – nine hours of effort out on the ice.
Then suddenly – just as we were 2 km from the Pole – we saw another group slightly east of us. It was Matvey Shparo’s team, and both teams wanted to reach the goal first. Suddenly it was a race for the North Pole!
We expended the very last of our energy on that final stretch. Poor bloke who wanted to test the weigh of my pulk! He had to pull 180 in that last spring. Lars took the lead and gave us our victory, reaching the North Pole 20 metres before the first Russian. Not only that, but we had our entire group across the finish line before the Matvey managed to gather his.
It was quite a dramatic and exciting finale!
I can’t resist mentioning that we “gave” the Russians a whole day’s head start. In other words, we only used five and a half days on “the last degree”. This is definitely the faster group that I have brought to the North Pole. Granted, conditions have been excellent this year; but the decisive factor was having an incredibly strong group. They worked really well as a team and gave this everything they had.
Now we’re just savouring the moment here on the North Pole, relaxing and eating cake. We’re pleased with life and everything is perfect.
We may well be home a few days early. Right now we’re booked on the aeroplane that departs on Wednesday, 23 April. In all likelihood we shall also reach Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen that same day.
We’re all well – and we are very satisfied. This was a great way to reach our goal – a slim margin but a great victory, right before the noses of the Russian team. There ain’t nothin’ like a bit of friendly competition!View 1 comments
We have had another great day, having progressed 21 km. Today we had a double challenge: lots more pack ice and weather conditions that made navigating much more difficult. There has been a “whiteout” almost all day, which makes it quite a task to keep the direction we want. So we are very pleased with the distance; 21 km up here under these conditions is excellent! It just goes to show how strong the team is.
The pack ice is more beautiful than problematic, and it never fails to fascinate me. Sometimes the ice is pushed up into walls or small mountains, at other times it seems like a giant hand has strewn ice blocks out across the landscape. So it’s quite an adventure to ski through it all.
We encountered a fair number of newly frozen leads today, but fortunately no really wide leads. And for the most part the ice has been solid enough to truly close the leads. We haven’t had any problems getting across in a safe manner.
The expedition has been out on the ice for nine hours today – and that’s a long time. Naturally we are exhausted after such a long day, but now we only have 23.8 km to go to the North Pole! There is a chance that we just might reach our goal tomorrow. And that would be quite a feat in such a short time.
We are skiing on excellent snow. There is a thin layer of fresh snow on top of the icier snow below, and this provides excellent glide. I’ve had problems with my eyes the last couple of days. They’ve been really sore and hypersensitive to light, almost on the verge of snow-blind. Yesterday I taped my sunglasses, leaving only a narrow horizontal strip open for each eye. This is the same principle the Inuit’s use, and it really works. Today I feel much better.
Once again we have been taking turns leading the expedition, with everyone putting in a couple of hours in the lead. And it’s gone very well. It’s always more exciting to lead, to choose the route and keep your bearings, to make ski tracks where there are none before.
We are constantly drifting, and the ice drift varies with the wind. It’s easy to calculate – the direction of the ice drift veers 30 degrees to the right of the wind direction. So if the wind is blowing from our left, from the west, then we’ll drift in an east-southeasterly direction. And if… No! Scratch that, I’m sorry, it’s complete the opposite – we would drift in a southwesterly direction. And with an eastern wind, we would drift somewhat north. This all has to do with the rotation of the earth and Coriolis’ Force.
We landed at 160˚W – now we are at 144 degrees latitude. Our current position is N89˚47’14”, W144˚. We are quickly closing on our goal and are very excited as to what tomorrow may bring.View 1 comments
Today we had the great pleasure of experiencing one of the finest days up here. It’s been –22˚C, wind still, the sun shining from a cloudless sky, and billions of snow crystals glittering in our surroundings.
We put another 24 km behind us without encountering any problems. The only incident was when a tent pole broke this morning – and we quickly repaired that.
We’ve kept a good, even pace. I’ve brought up the rear, while each of the other expedition members have taken a turn leading the pack. That has given everyone an opportunity to learn about navigation – about degrees latitude and how we can use the 24-hour clock to our advantage up here. It’s gone very well.
All in all, we’ve had a great day.
And we’re hoping that continues. We’re making fine progress, no doubt about that. The ice thickness was the same as yesterday: 170 cm.View 2 comments