North Pole 2009: The Joys of Negative Drift!

The weekend brought a number of updates from the Arctic as teams seem to be getting into their rhythm now.

The Catlin Arctic Survey Team got their first real taste of the frustrations of negative drift over the weekend. The crew has been battling 25 knot winds (29 mph), which has made it very tough going at times, and despite a long, tough day on the ice yesterday, the woke up this morning to find that they were two miles further south than they were before they started yesterday morning. Temperatures continue to hover around -40ºC and the journey has reportedly already begun to take it’s toll on the team, who are suffering from a number of bruises, aches, pains, and varous other ailments that are common in the frigid conditions. That said, they continue to take ice sample and record reading from their high-tech gear, focusing on their mission, even while progress is slow.

It’s been slow going for the Victorinox North Pole Expedition as well. The team has been moving through a rubble field, strewn with giant blocks of ice, which are not uncommon in the early parts of a a journey to the North Pole. On Saturday the team covered just .97 nautical miles as they carefully crawled through the ice blocks, and around other obstacles that included a deep trench. Despite the slow going, the team is still upbeat and optimistic about their progress thus far.

The Peary Centennial Expedition is having similar issues, but in their case it’s mostly thanks to the weather. In an audio dispatch they reported a “balmy” -34º F yesterday, but high winds made for poor visibility, so the team elected to take a rest day and wait for better conditions. They hoped to be back on the move today. They also noted that they are navigating using the position of the sun and through the use of the winds, as they are too close to the magnetic north pole at the moment to have their compasses be of much use.

The latest update from the Baffin Babes indicates that they are finalizing their preparation and should be heading out on the ice soon as well. The dispatch, which has no time or date, indicates that the girls are in Qikiqtarjua on Baffin Island, and were up well into the night finishing their packing. Since there is no time stamp on the post, it’s quite likely that they’ve already set out on their journey, which will include 80 days out on the ice, skiing across Baffin Island, where they will examine the effects of global climate change on the region, and the people that live there.

Finally, Christina Franco is dismayed to be off the ice after so much preparation and planning. But, she says that she is now more determined than ever to reach the North Pole, and will return next year to give it another go. You may recall that she was forced to abandon her attempt at a solo expedition to the Pole after her stove experienced a double equipment failure, rendering it useless. The human body adapts magnificently under a lot of stressful conditions, but weeks in the arctic with out heat for your tent or the ability to cook warm food just isn’t going to cut it. While it is disappointing for Christina, she is already planning to make a “last degree” journey to the Pole this year and is already planning for 2010.

Kraig Becker

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