Friday, March 14, 2014

North Pole 2014: Rough Ice Field Causing Delays, Bad Weather Still Delaying Starts

The 2014 Arctic expedition season has been open for a week now, and so far only two teams have managed to hit the ice. Bad weather is keeping other stranded in Resolute Bay, while those who have been fortunate enough to start their journeys are dealing with some of the worst conditions imaginable in the Arctic. But none of this is unexpected for this type of expedition, and they explorers are dealing with their individual situations as best they can.

The Irish team of Mike O’ Shea and Clare O’ Leary have been pushing northward for a week now and they continue to encounter a lot of rubble along their route. Massive chunks of ice have made it very difficult to cover much distance on a daily basis just yet, and they report 2 meter high snow drifts which aren't helping matters either. Still, they seem to be starting to put the worst of the surface conditions behind them, and as a result, they're also picking up speed. Today was one of their best days yet, as they have covered 8km (5 miles), which is a solid distance early on. Once the rubble fields are completely behind them, they'll be able to pick up even more speed.

Japanese solo explorer Yasu Ogita is the only other person who is out on the ice at the moment, and he is experiencing very similar conditions. The rough ice field is so bad that he isn't able to pull both of his sleds at the same time, so he must instead drag one a certain distance through the rubble, then ski back to retrieve the other, before proceeding on again. This backtracking is slowing his progress tremendously, as he is currently covering about 4.5 km (2.8 miles) per day. Just how big are the chunks of ice that he is encountering? In some cases they are 5-8 meters (16-26 feet) in height, which should give you an idea of how difficult things are in the Arctic right now.

Meanwhile, the flights out of Resolute Bay to Cape Discovery continue to be grounded. That means that the American team of Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters are still there and waiting to get started on their journey to the North Pole. They're joined by the Norwegian squad who are eager to get going too. It looks like there may be a window opening tomorrow that will allow them to possibly fly out, but the weather is fickle at the moment, so no one is counting on it happening until they are in the air.

Each day that these teams stay in Resolute is a day lost on their expedition to the Pole. The window for safely reaching 90ÂșN is always a narrow one, so if they aren't underway soon, there is a chance that the entire expedition will have to be scrubbed. Lets keep our fingers crossed that that doesn't happen, and these teams can start soon.

I'll post more as it become available.

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