Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23 - The Pole!

A HUGE congratulations to our team who reached the North Pole at 1 PM (Norwegian time) today. They skied the last five miles of the expedition under sunny skies with a slight wind from the North. In the words of the team "it was the perfect finish to a great expedition." After reaching the North Pole they had a short celebration before getting picked up by helicopter and returned to the Borneo basecamp where they boarded a charter flight back to Longyearbyen.

If you're thinking that is a lot to absorb in one day you're right! Standing at the top of the world you have to remind yourself that you are at the only spot on the globe where every direction is south. There is no marker welcoming you, and no sign to tell you you've reached your destination. In fact, the North Pole looks no different than any other piece of ice that you have passed during the journey! It's only with a GPS (or sextant) that you can fix the exact location - and even then it is sometimes hard to find. But it is a very special moment... and one that will stay with each team member forever.

Hopping on the helicopter it can feel strange to cover so much ground (okay, ice) with so little effort. As the team flew to Borneo over the pack ice, sometimes as low as several hundred feet above the ice, they had a bird-eye view of the ice that they had just traversed. It is a very satisfying feeling to watch the ice pass beneath you knowing that all the hard work is over!

Our team reached Longyearbyen in the evening and settled in at the hotel where they showered (ahhh...) and had a celebratory dinner. You can listen to some of their final comments in the audio posts below.

We are so proud of this team and their achievement. A big congratulations to Elham, Ian, Andrea, Taylor, Keith, and Rick. Way to go!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22 - Earth Day on the Polar Sea...

N 89.55.20
E 78.36

Happy Earth Day from the top of the world! The team is within striking distance of the North Pole (only 5 miles away!) and they hope to reach 90 degrees tomorrow. Today the team experienced the coldest temps of the expedition with the mercury dipping to -25 C to -30 C. Brrr... add to that a biting wind out of the east and it was a tough day to stay warm!

Despite the cold, the team had a nice day... almost a relaxing day (if such a thing exists on the pack ice). Ice conditions were friendly with big pans and they had a very slight north drift, totaling roughly 1/8 of a mile every few hours. Last night they gained approximately 2 miles north.

Now in their tents for the night, they are enjoying hot chili stew prepared by Chef Keith. They recognize that they are traveling across the one spot on the planet where climate change is having the greatest visible impact. In fact, the ice covering the top of the world is vanishing at a rate far faster than climate models predicted and the forecast is not good. Our team recognizes that even though they are experiencing some of the harshest conditions on the planet, the North Pole region is extremely fragile. With no voice of its own, we need to protect it and be proactive about fighting climate change.

On this special day, one that finds our colleagues, friends and loved ones so close to their goal, perhaps we can all make individual goals to reduce our impact on the Earth. By incorporating small steps into our daily lives (like eating local food, reducing your carbon footprint, and letting you elected officials know that you support tough climate change legislation) we can honor the North Pole and leave it for future generations to explore.

Our team will wake up early in their attempt to reach the pole tomorrow. Reports of deteriorating weather in the coming days may mean that they depart for Longyearbyen tomorrow night. We'll keep you posted!

Check back tomorrow for another update from the ice!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21 - It's like getting on a freeway...

N 89.46
E 95.16

Just prior to our teams arrival on the ice there was a storm on the polar sea. Lots of wind caused the ice to fracture in many places, and our team is skiing across the remnants of this maelstrom on their way to the Pole. This means that they are finding many pressure ridges (caused by two pans of ice colliding), and many leads that are in the process of refreezing.

A good comparison to these obstacles is driving in heavy traffic. Pressure ridges and open leads take time to negotiate. They can be frustrating and tiring, and it can feel like you are in an icy grid lock. But if you are lucky enough to find a lead that is a few days old, heading north, with ice that is strong enough to support a skier, it is like getting on a freeway where YOU are the only car. Suddenly you can make fast northward progress, and with far less energy than you were expending getting over the pressure ridges or around the open water.

This was the experience our team had today. They encountered a huge frozen lead, heading North, and they were able to clock several miles before it started to turn southward. And to make it all better, the ski was blue and the winds were calm. Overall a "smashing" day on the Arctic Ocean.

As we spoke with the team they were relaxing with bowls of hot soup and mini pizzas, and preparing for dinner. They are having a great time... working very hard, but thoroughly enjoying themselves. Ian is doing some good cooking tonight, keeping the team well-fed and energized. Andrea is providing great conversation and Elham had a "banner" day. Taylor is doing a great job and learning more than he could in any classroom. Let's all send them warm thoughts and hope for continued good weather!

Check back tomorrow for another update from the team!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20, 2010 - Slow but sure progress

N 89 38.48
E 104 07.48

The team had a challenging day of travel, encountering a lot of pressure ridges of old ice they had to negotiate over and around. There were deep snow drifts slowing down their progress. They made 7.5 miles in 9 hours of hard travel. On the positive side, they had a great weather day- mostly sunny, slight northeast wind, temperature around -25° C. They are drifting west but not at a rapid rate. Everyone was quite tired by the end of the day and glad to see camp!

Taylor and Elham both dipped their boots into the drink a little but fortunately not beyond the boot.

Andrea sends his love to Alexandra and her daughter Eva. Elham and Ian both send their love to their families.

Check back tomorrow for another update.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010 - Over halfway!

N 89 30.545
E 107 18.630

The team woke to overcast conditions this morning and started the day with the wind in their faces at 10 mph. About 5 hours into the day, the wind shifted to the east and the sun came out, a very pleasant change! Because the wind had been from the north, they ran into several long leads that took much of the day to travel around. They followed one lead 2.5 miles to the northwest before finding a place to cross. They also encountered a lot of deep, drifting snow. By the end of the day, they had crossed the halfway mark of their journey which is a huge accomplishment. They are now drifting slightly north which they hope will continue. The sun was out when they called in and they reported temperature around -15° C. It naturally feels warmer next to the open water due to the temperature difference between the water and the air. It’s always more humid near the open water leads.

So overall a good day with a little bit of everything. It was a lot of work and they traveled 9 hours today whereas their previous days had been 8. They made 8 nautical miles. They’re a bit tired but spirits are very high. They enjoyed their reindeer quesadailla appetizers with chai tea and are looking forward to beef stew for dinner. They’re hoping the high pressure system continues.

Check back tomorrow for another update.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18 - an A+ day

N 89.23
E 113.44

Our team reports today that they had a GREAT day. On a scale of 1-10 they report it as a 12. They had beautiful sunny weather with blue skies all day and little wind. Big pans of smooth ice made for fast travel and they were able to log over 10 nautical miles of north progress in 8 hours of skiing. Everyone is in great spirits.

When they called they had just finished a big meal of cheese & chicken quesadillas and pasta primavera. A few more hot drinks and then it's time to hit the sac!

Check back tomorrow for another update from the ice!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 17, 2010 - And they're off!

Location N 89.13.6, E 117.10.100

The team had an excellent first full day of skiing. The conditions were awesome- lots of flat plans of ice, minimal pressure ridges to cross, hardly any open leads to negotiate around or over. They skied under blue skies with lots of sunshine, temperature around -17 degrees Celcius, light breeze. Lots of great photo opportunities. They are experiencing a slight drift to the south but hope that will turn around in their favor.

The first full day on the trail always presents a steep learning curve. Learning how much and when to drink and eat, managing clothing systems so one does not get too cold but also not too warm, how to take care of oneself while being part of a team. They all did a wonderful job and feel justifiably proud of traveling 8.5 miles in 8 hours.

When they called in, they were preparing their quesadilla appetizers and looking forward to a hearty dinner of chili-mac.

Check back tomorrow for another audio update.