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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.