Two succeed, four give up on Pole treks
Iqaluit father-daughter team among groups still pressing north
As the days get longer and warmer, affecting ice conditions even around the North Pole, the race to the top of the world grows more extreme, with some trekkers already at their goal, some still en route, and several now warming their toes back home after being airlifted off the ice.
Norwegian Borge Oulsand and South African Mike Horn were the first to reach the North Pole this year, on March 23, after nearly two months of skiing across the ice.
Meanwhile, the “Top of the World Expedition” continues to the North Pole by dog team. This group includes former Iqaluit resident Paul Landry and his daughter, Sarah McNair-Landry, as well as their dogs, who were born and bred in Iqaluit. Earlier this week, they still faced more than 700 nautical miles — and deteriorating ice conditions.
“We encountered a massive lead running northwest. It’s huge,” says Sarah, in a recent update posted on the trek’s Web site at www.adventureecology.com. “We can hardly see the other side.”
If Sarah makes it to the North Pole, she’ll be the first woman to make it there from Cape Arktichesky on the Siberian side of the Arctic Ocean.
Matty McNair, Sarah’s mother and owner of Northwinds in Iqaluit, is back home. McNair headed to the North Pole with two clients, but they were airlifted off the ice only a week after starting out from Resolute Bay.
“It’s over. The conditions proved too much for Daniel from Israel and Mike from Ireland,” McNair notes on a Web site, www.thepoles.com, which tracks polar expeditions.
“By March 13, we had traveled a total of 20 nautical miles in 38 hours of brutal hauling, and still had 395 to go. Daniel’s therm-a-rest was down, his sleeping bag was full of frost, and his fingers and toes were suffering from the extreme cold. Mike declared, ‘This is no longer fun.’ With heavy hearts, we turned back to the largest pan we’d seen and called to the Twin Otter bush plane to take us home.”
Jim McNeill, known as the “Ice Warrior,” was also pulled off the ice. After a few days waiting for the wind to calm down, McNeill was taken back to Resolute Bay, although he had to walk the last kilometer to the plane with no boots. That’s because his boots froze after he fell into the water.
This ended McNeill’s plans to trek to the Arctic Pole, defined as the centre of the Arctic Ocean and the furthest point from land.
Several other teams, including the Finnish Airborne Rangers, who set off from the Ward Hunt Island earlier this month, are still on their way to the North Pole. However, the Rangers recently had to burn their gear in an attempt to make their load lighter.
“We went through our gear, and anything surplus to essential requirements (e.g. used socks and bindings) went in the campfire,” the team reports. “Also, each team member went through his personal kit: If something has not been used during the first two weeks, will it really be needed for the remaining journey?”
The Finns keep their spirits up with jokes and speeches by their expedition leader about how Finnish hunters used to catch bears with their bare hands before breakfast.