Monday, March 13, 2006

Crazy Arctic Guy approaching 88

I still don't know if he'll make it within his desired deadline...but I'm finally believing he's going to make it.

Sat, 11 Mar 2006 // 23:05

Latest position : N87°37'44' E90°37'09'
Distance to go: 265km
Temperature: -40°C (without windchill)
Wind: Northwesterly
Ice drift: Southwards
Days of food left: 20
Average daily distance required: 14km

I'm calling later than usual because our days are now 26 hours long. This means that you'll be getting the report 2 hours later everyday.

It's unbelievably cold! Today the temperatures were even lower than yesterday -40°C! The winds were still northwesterly in the morning but luckily for us they dropped throughout the day. The temperatures are expected to pick up again tomorrow (we are hoping so at least.). Normally at this time of year the temperatures are around -25° to -28°C so -40°C is extremely low. Obviously my nose is frozen but it will heal. My fingers are suffering as well but they'll be okay.

We walked our twelve hours today in and out of the pack ice and even with a southerly drift we managed to cover a distance of 25kms. Borge and I are beginning to feel like robots, one foot after the other, hour after hour after hour. One thing is for sure, we have great satisfaction to see the Pole getting closer and closer. Only 265 kms to go!

Mon, 13 Mar 2006 // 09:53

Latest position : N87°49'44' E89°46'07'
Distance to go: 243km
Temperature: -37°C (without windchill)
Wind: Northeasterly
Ice drift: Southwards
Days of food left: 19
Average daily distance required: 13km

'It's -37°C without windchill! It is VERY cold still and even though the forecast says it'll get warmer, it doesn't seem to be. The wind has turned slightly and is now coming from the NE but we are still drifting south and losing around 4km every day. Twelve hours of walking in these temperatures is tough but we are now getting used to the new routine. We advanced 23km today.

The ice was relatively flat today with occasional patches of broken ice and a lot of accumulated snow. There were also a lot of leads again but luckily they were all heading NS so we were able to walk along side until we found an appropriate place to cross.

The equipment is holding out. With every passing day, we eat about 1.1kg of food and burn another 300g of fuel, so our sledges are gradually getting lighter every day. We were probably pulling about 90kg now and when we started we had about 160kg.

The position of the campsite tonight is N87°49'44' E89°46'07'. We've already brushed the ice off our clothing, have eaten and now it's time to sleep! How I long for a warm bed! Sleep is virtually impossible in this temperature!

Mon, 13 Mar 2006 // 18:17

After what was possibly their coldest week so far in the expedition, Mike and Borge are now roughly 220km from reaching the North Pole and are making excellent progress, despite the dangers and uncomfortable walking conditions they are enduring, averaging 25km progress per day.

On Thursday, the duo decided to extend their walking hours from ten to twelve hours, in their final push towards the Pole. As a result, their days are now longer and harder especially whilst they battle against the current northerly winds and southerly drift, which are pushing them south, the opposite direction to their destination.

For the majority of this week, temperatures have not risen above -30°C dipping to -40°C on Saturday (normally at this time of year temperatures average between -25°C to -28°C), without taking in to account the wind chill factor. With the 9mph wind experienced that day, this lowers the overall temperature to -50°C - the limit of what is safe and manageable to walk in: 'We had to fully concentrate on surviving, each and every hour, keeping our bodies and limbs warm enough and avoiding frostbite.'

Although in the 87th degree of latitude (likely to be at N88° by the time they set up camp tonight), the ice conditions continue to present the duo with a difficult obstacle course as they push north, passing in and out of pack ice. On Tuesday they came across a compression zone (see Jargon Buster below), producing ice mountains as high as 8m, blocking their path completely: "We needed to back track a few times today and find alternative passages around these massive obtrusions. This held us up quite a bit."

With their high average distance covered each day, and 19 days of food left, Mike and Borge now need to average 13km per day to complete the expedition before running out of food: "Borge and I are beginning to feel like robots, one foot after the other, hour after hour after hour. One thing is for sure, we have great satisfaction to see the Pole getting closer and closer." Although finishing seems a very viable possibility right now, conditions can change very quickly. So far the equipment is holding out, and although their bodies are feeling the effects of the minus conditions, it is a manageable level of discomfort for them. One thing going in their favour, is that their sledges are gradually becoming lighter as they consume 1.1kg per day of fodd and burn 300g of fuel. When they started the expedition they were pulling around 160kg - 51 days on, they now only have 90kg to pull behind them for 12 hours a day. This is still the equivalent of pulling a 6ft, well-built man behind them all day!

With just over two degrees of latitude to go the North Pole (243km), the duo are feeling positive about competing their mission within the next 10 days: "We hope then we'll be able to camp some last few days on the Pole, taking the time to relax and to appreciate the mammoth task which we would have just accomplished."

Hopefully this time next week, we will be confirming their ETA at N90°! To achieve their goal of becoming first men to walk the 1000km to the North Pole during the Arctic winter, unassisted by machines or dogs.


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