North Pole 2010: 30 Down, 30 To Go For Dan and Amelia

For the North Pole explorers it was another challenging weekend with conditions on the ice varying greatly, and frustrations coming in all the usual flavors. Still, they continue their hike north, and with any luck, they’ll start to pick up speed, and cover distance, soon.

The weekend had more than its fair share of challenges for Amelia Russell and Dan Darley, who are making good progress of late, but suffered a leaky fuel canister on Saturday. As a result, their food that night left a bit of a bad aftertaste, and they were a bit conservative on their fuel usage, keeping the tent cooler than normal. At the moment, they’re knocking off about 8 nautical miles per day, but still suffering a small amount of negative drift. The Brits have now completed their first 30 days out on the ice, and have another 30 to go to reach the Pole. They’ve covered 2.5 of their 7 degrees, so there is still a lot of work ahead, but they’re hoping that the remaining miles will be easier than they have been so far.

Solo explorer Christina Franco has passed a bit of a milestone herself, reporting that she is now under 600km to go to the Pole, or roughly 324 miles. She is reporting that high winds are still buffeting her, making progress tough, and covering her tracks in just minutes. She made the decision to load all of her gear on one sled, and left her other one behind, hoping to lighten the load a bit and speed progress. About half-way through the day Christina spotted a natural ice shelter out on the pan, and intended to use it to take a break, but as she neared it, she spotted very fresh polar bear tracks in the snow, and elected to keep moving on instead. Probably a wise choice at this point.

For Eric Larsen and his Save The Poles team, the wind is a constant nemesis as well, but it is the large chunks of ice, many five feet in height, or more. And when they’re not dealing with those ice slabs, they’re dealing with thin ice instead. At one point, Darcy St Laurent was out in front, navigating, he led the team on to a patch of thin ice, with Darcy himself falling through. The team rushed to set up camp and get the frozen gear off of their teammate, electing to call it a day at that point.

Tom Smitheringale reports that it is “blowing a howler outside” referring to the bad winds that seem to be hitting everyone. The solo, unsupported explorer is past the 84.5ºN mark, and is having less issues with the frostbite on his fingers, although they remain quite painful. The adventurous Aussie is whiling away the hours on his skis thinking about all kinds of wonderful foods he’ll get to eat once he gets back home. At the moment, it seems to be driving him forward.

Finally, Ben Saunders is back in Resolute Bay following the catastrophic fuel leakage he suffered late last week. As you can imagine, he’s quite disappointed to be back where he started, just a few days after setting out. As of Saturday he was still deciding what his next move was. If he can replace the fuel, and the food that was spoiled, he may head back out on the ice, and try one more time for the speed record to the Pole. We should know more in the next few days.

Kraig Becker

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