Thursday, April 26, 2007


This is a daily report from an expedition to the North Pole organised by The NorthWest Passage, USA who have been organising some of the World's most exciting adventure trips and expeditions since 1984. You can also read the daily reports on their other Polar expeditions here.

We are in final preparations for our upcoming expedition to the North Pole. As we speak, over 400 lbs of food and gear are being packed and shipped to Norway. Make sure to check back starting April 15 for the latest on the expedition!

April 15:
If you've been following the expedition tracker for our other teams, you'll know by now that all teams in the High Arctic are in a holding pattern. We have all safely arrived in Longyearbyen and were due to fly to Barneo on 17 April. However, the runway at Barneo is currently inoperable, having developed some major cracks. This is not an unusual situation- as the runway is built of on a pan of ice, it is susceptible to break up as is the rest of the Arctic Ocean. When they determine the position for Barneo at the beginning of the season, they are always looking for an area with other relatively solid pans of ice in fairly close proximity in case situations like this develop. The issue at this point is that the area around Barneo has been experiencing a major blizzard which has prevented the helicopters from flying to scout out other potential runways. Once they do find a new runway, it will require some maintenance to get it fully up and running. So long story short, we're not sure when we will be leaving Longyearbyen. But we are all are in good spirits and ready to hit the ice whenever we get the go-ahead.

April 16:
Our dogsled and ski teams combined today for an official training day in Longyearbyen. We set up our tents, reviewed our personal clothing and equipment, fired up our stoves and made sure all is in good working order for our expeditions. We spent the afternoon skiing around the valley in Longyearbyen. We're having our traditional Arctic meal tonight and the group is in high spirits. We eagerly anticipate our departure for Barneo though we're unsure when this will be. We stand ready and waiting for whenever we get the call.

April 17:

We spent the morning sorting through and repacking our food supplies. We'll definitely not be going hungry! Then this afternoon we headed out for a 6 hour ski to the glacial ice caves about 20 km outside of Longyearbyen. The weather is good here today. However, the forecast is for a low pressure system to develop over Barneo and weather to deteriorate in the next 24-48 hours. They have established a new runway and are doing the maintenance to get it up and running. Now it's just an issue of the runway being finished and the weather cooperating. We're ready when they are.

April 18:

Our team spent the morning exploring Longyearbyen in various ways. Some went on an active coal mine tour, some rented snow mobiles, others explored the museum. In the afternoon we held a session on packing the sleds. Our expedition equipment is packed and ready to go. We are staying positive with thoughts of a flight out within the next 24-48 hours.We enjoyed a lovely Thai dinner tonight at an off the beaten path spot called Mary Ann's. It is a very eclectic spot with a solarium with heated floors, completely covered in plants. Quite a site in the midst of all the white surroundings! Tomorrow we will get our first update at 8 a.m. and hope to have more news.

April 19:

Our attitude was upbeat this morning as we had hopes for a flight out today. But then we received news of bad weather in Barneo- low cloud cover, poor visibility, and blowing snow. As the hours melt away and the weather window does not open, we occupy our time with reading, naps, sending emails and postcards. We're not able to travel far as we need to be on deck ready to fly whenever we get the word. Keep sending positive thoughts for clearing weather!

April 20:

We're en route to Barneo! The weather cleared sufficiently for the Antonov to fly to Barneo. They have 2 jets running back and forth to try to get everything back on track. We anticipate being in Barneo around 10:00 PM local time. Our plan is to spend the night in Barneo. Then tomorrow, we hope to get dropped off around 89° N to do our full 1° dogsled/ski expedition (current position of Barneo is 89°17' N). We're excited to finally be on our way.

April 21:
Our first day out from Borneo and we are REALLY happy to be on the ice as you might imagine! We left Borneo around 3:30 p.m. Borneo was at 89°10' N. Our current position is 89°13.510 N; 000°48.000 E. We had good traveling conditions today- the ice was in relatively good shape. We ran into a few leads we had to cross but they were relatively easy to negotiate. We didn't have any pressure ridges to navigate over. The temperature has been a fairly balmy -10° to -15°C (14° to 5°F). The winds are very minimal. The temperature seems to be dropping some and the skies are slightly overcast. We're now all in our tents having hot drinks and thoroughly enjoying actually being on the trail at long last!

April 22:

Our current position is 89°20.197 N; 004°06.46 E . We traveled 8.4 nautical miles today in very nice conditions. Temperature has been around -18° to -20° C (0° to -5°F). Going across one lead, Neil went in the water along with the back of the dogsled. We were able to get him dried out and warmed up. He's in great shape and remained in high spirits throughout the day. Everyone else is doing very well also. We're about to start dinner and looking forward to a nice night. Overall a great day of travel with good weather and decent ice conditions.

April 23:

Current position is 89°25.657 N; 002°39.8 E. We had rather a rough day today. Lisa is feeling poorly- seems to be a 24 hour flu. We're about to give her some tea and chicken soup. In spite of feeling ill, she's been a trooper and forged ahead all day long. We traveled for 7 hours today. It took us 2 hours to go the first mile. We had been camped on an old ice flow which was very solid. When we began traveling this morning within ¼ mile (400 meters), ice conditions turned to all rubble, water and very young, young ice that we couldn't cross. We had to do some major negotiations to find areas with ice solid enough to cross. The sled was tipping from one side to the next on a continual basis. We all got quite a workout righting it. We'd then hit stretches of good ice and feel we were making decent progress, then it would deteriorate and the frustration level would increase. And on it went throughout the day. We got good at dancing on the sled and riding it as it went through the bumps. We also developed fine techniques for chopping out slots for the sled to pass through and evening out ramps for it to go up and over the ridges. We're currently drifting south with a light N/NE wind. We're really hoping we don't lose too much ground tonight- we worked too hard to make the progress we did! It looks like we'll be starting with more young ice with tomorrow. We think we'll all sleep well tonight!

April 24:

Our current position is 89°29.265' N; 008°06.3' W. We had quite the exciting day. We went about 6 nautical miles today but battled a significant southerly drift throughout the day. We had extremely challenging conditions. We were in rubble and shifting ice all day long. It was a very hard working day. We all earned our dinner tonight big time! We were pushing the sled up and over pressure ridges constantly. At one point, everything around us was moving 3 dimensionally- left, right, up and down. It was quite exciting and a little unsettling at the same time. Huge pressure ridges were being created right before our eyes. Leads were opening and closing right before us at remarkable speeds. Everyone did a great job and the dogs were fantastic. We found a nice old ice flow to camp on and it looks like we will start out with more favorable ice conditions tomorrow. The winds today were 10-20 knots out of the north so right in our faces. We at least had lots of sun. It was a tough day but everyone is in good spirits.

April 25:

We have not heard from the team directly yet today (5:45 PM CST) but when the ski expedition team called in, they reported having been in contact with the team. Their position was 89°35' N. We will perhaps have received a message by morning and will update the site then.

April 26:

Current position is 89°57.4' N; 35°48' W and we're still on the move as of 10:00 PM local time. We got a helicopter lift over tons and tons of water and rubble to 89°55' N. We're still in rubble but working our way through it. We may try to push on to the Pole yet tonight.
April 27:
Success! We reached the geographic North Pole last night at exactly11:34 PM. The last few miles were fabulous for dog sledding. We had some fun terrain, but it was relatively easy traveling -- definitely a great way to finish that part of our trip.
Once we got within throwing distance of the North Pole, we left our sleds and started walking around looking for 90 degrees North. After some searching, both of our GPS's flicked exactly 90° N at the same time. We were just feet away from a large open lead and drifting away from the Pole. If we had arrived just a few minutes later, we would not have been able to stand on the Pole, and none of us wanted to swim for it. Later, that same lead kept another ski group searching for a way to the Pole for a few hours longer.
We've been camped out and celebrating our arrival all day, giving ourselves and the dogs some needed rest. After sleeping in until 1:30, we relaxed in our tents, taking breaks to walk around outside, read, and, of course, drink whiskey. Everyone is in good spirits and having a great time. Current position is 89° 57.58' N; 04° 49' W.
No sight of our fellow Polar Explorers' Skiers, but perhaps we'll see them before we fly back to Borneo at 10:30 tomorrow morning.
April 28:
Current position: Radisson Hotel Restaurant, Longyearbyen for our well earned celebratory dinner! We were picked up by helicopter today and flown back to Barneo along with the Polar Explorers' ski team and one other team. 28 people and 8 dogs on the helicopter. It was quite cozy! We flew back to Barneo, then immediately transferred to the Antonov for our flight back to Longyearbyen where we arrived around 5:00 PM local time. Showers, a change of clothes and we're ready to celebrate our accomplishments! We're in great spirits, ready for many toasts and experiencing the warm glow of the culmination of an incredible adventure! Most of us will be flying out of Longyearbyen at 8:00 AM tomorrow, returning to family and friends with amazing stories to tell. Can't wait to see you all soon!