Race Against Time team completed its journey yesterday, reaching the North Pole after 13 days out on the ice. The Pole marked the finish line for what was a demanding trek that began long before they ever set foot in the Arctic, and culminated at 90ºN early yesterday.
It took Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge just 4 hours to complete the final push to the Pole yesterday, facing more ice rubble and fields along the way. The squad saw plenty of that, plus plenty of other obstacles over their two weeks of skiing north, including open leads of water and blocks of ice the size of a house. They also witnessed the effects of climate change, with thinning ice, warming temperatures, and the Arctic Ocean uncovered in surpassingly large areas.
The 13-day expedition was far shorter than the trio of explorers originally envisioned. Initially the plan was to ski the full distance to the North Pole via the Russian side of the ice. Later, they decided to change directions, and travel from the Pole to Ward Hunt Island in Canada instead. But delays to the start of the expedition pushed back their start, making that much longer journey an impossibility. Instead, they elected to complete a journey that crossed two degrees of latitude instead. The shortened trip still allowed them to observe the environmental impact they had hoped to learn more about, but they had hoped to collect more data over a larger area of the Arctic.
The three men didn't spend much time at the Pole. They were picked up by helicopter last night, and flown back to the Barneo Ice Camp where they now are waiting for transportation back to Europe. It might take another day or two for that to happen, but soon they'll be on their way home.
The North Pole season will continue for another week or so as some "last degree" teams continue to ski to the Pole and some research teams wrap up their projects. Soon though, the Barneo camp will pick up for another year, and the Arctic will be abandoned once again. At this point, it is impossible not to wonder if the age of Arctic exploration is quickly coming to an end as climate change alters the landscape their forever.