The North Pole Season officially got underway in the past couple of days with some of the explorers finally getting out of Resolute Bay and hitting the ice, while others continue to prepare and wait their turn. The weather window opened briefly, and the expeditions that are underway are already dealing with the harsh Arctic conditions.
Australian Tom Smitheringale was delivered to Ward Hunt Island on Sunday, and has already been out on the ice for for a couple of days. According to his blog, he made minimal distance on his first day out, but took advantage of the time to begin to get acclimated to the terrain and cold weather, before setting up camp for the first time. On his second day, he encountered one of the great challenges to Arctic travel in the form of a large ice field which impeded his progress with large blocks of ice ranging from the size of cars to the size of houses. According to his home team, it was nearly impossible for Tom to make headway while pulling two sleds, so he was forced to drag one at a time, then return for the other, in essence covering the same ground twice. Because he is going solo and unsupported, both sleds are needed to carry all of his gear and supplies. (By the way, the photo is of Tom on his first day out on the ice. Welcome to the Arctic!)
Meanwhile, Dan Darley and Amelia Russell have run into a completely different kind of obstacle, but one that is no less challenging and dangerous. The two Brits who are making the journey to the North Pole via Cape Discovery experienced a large open area of water that they would be forced to either go around or cross. They contemplated making the crossing in their immersion suits, but after a quick dip in the water, they decided best to try to skirt around the edge. Their patience proved worthwhile, as they found solid ice that allowed them to get moving north once again, although with the open water left behind, they’re already dealing with ice rubble as well, and using the process of “double hauling” to move their sleds too.
As for some of the other expeditions, they’re preparing to get underway at last. Christina Franco was scheduled to be dropped off on the ice today to begin her solo and unassisted journey to the North Pole, while John Dowd, who is part of the Irish North Pole Expedition, were expecting to go yesterday, but were delayed due to bad fog. Seems like no one is going out today though, as Eric Larsen is reporting that weather has once again grounded the planes, so they’ll all play the waiting game, and hope that they can get underway soon.