Tuesday, May 13, 2014

North Pole 2014: The North Pole Season is Over!

It has been a long, and difficult, season in the Arctic, where numerous teams attempted to reach the North Pole on foot once again this year. Of course, only one of those teams was successful, with Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters becoming the first to complete a full expedition to the top of the world in over four years. But now the season has come to an abrupt end, as the support squad at Kenn Borek Air have shut down operations in the Arctic for another year. This has forced several teams to cancel their expeditions early, sending them home without achieving the objectives they had originally set out for.

We'll start with an update on Eric and Ryan. After spending 53 days skiing to the North Pole, the boys were extracted from the ice about a day and half after their arrival. Poor weather delayed the flight sent to retrieve them, but not for long. It gave the two men a chance to rest in their tent at last, and from the sounds of things, it was a whirlwind couple of days flying back to Cape Discovery, then on to Resolute Bay, where they packed gear, and prepared to go home. That happened yesterday, and from the sounds of things, both men are happy to be back with friends and family, and getting some much deserved rest. For now, they are content. Eric promises a recap of their North Pole expedition soon, which should make for interesting reading.

Elsewhere, the Expedition Hope team, which consists of Arctic explorers Bernice Notenboom, Eric Phillips, and Marten Hartley, are amongst those who have seen their adventures come to an end thanks to Kenn Borek pulling the plug. Yesterday was the last day for flights, and the team wasn't sure they could complete their journey with the amount of fuel and food that they have left. So, with heavy hearts, they were forced to abandon their attempt to ski from the North Pole to Cape Discovery. They were closing in on the 84th latitude when the decision was made.


Norwegian solo-skier Bengt Rotmo was making the same journey, and he will now be picked up once the weather permits as well. His home team tells ExWeb that the decision by Kenn Borek Air was made after they surveyed the ice while picking up Eric and Ryan last week. That survey indicated that  it was becoming increasingly dangerous to attempt to land a plane on the frozen Arctic Ocean, and the company could no longer guarantee the safety of its clients should an emergency rescue need to take place. Yesterday, May 12, was set as the deadline for the final flights to retrieve the remaining explorers, weather permitting. They should all be picked up within a day or two.

Jumping across the Atlantic to Greenland, Dixie Dansercoer and Eric McNair-Landry have finally gotten the good weather they've been hoping for since the start of their expedition. They are attempting to circumnavigate the country by kite-ski, covering 5000 km (3100 miles) in the process. The expedition was expected to take 80 days to complete, but progress was greatly hampered for the first few weeks of the journey due to poor weather. Now, 34 days in, they have started to really pick up steam. Over the past few days, they've been able to over more than 150 km (93.2 miles) per day, which as you can guess, has left them elated. They're finally on the move, and the kites are proving effective. While they are still behind schedule, they are making up ground at the moment. Hopefully that will continue to be case.

I will continue to monitor the progress of the teams in Greenland, but the Arctic season is now over for another year. From the sounds of things, conditions up north are not good, and it'll be interesting to see how many teams can actually complete an expedition to the North Pole in the future. The latest climate reports don't paint a very rosy picture for things to come. Expeditions to our Poles are only going to continue to get more challenging.

2 comments:

Sean McLachlan said...

Darn it, missed another chance to go to the North Pole! Some day, some day. . .
Have you read Nansen's account of the first crossing of Greenland? Fascinating stuff.

Kraig Becker said...

Definitely a great read Sean. A true classic.

And yes, the days of traveling to the North Pole, at least on foot, are starting to look numbered.