It has only been a few days since I posted an update from the Arctic with news on the progress of the teams making their way to the Geographic North Pole, but it continues to be both business as usual for the explorers and quite eventful at the same time.
Amelia Russell and Dan Darley crossed another milestone today, crossing the 87ºN mark, although it didn’t come without a lot of work. The pair stumbled into some very challenging rubble early on, and watched in amazement as the ice once again moved around them. Then, throughout the rest of the day, they experienced a number of small leads, which weren’t too difficult to navigate around, but were a major nuisance none the less. Clouds rolled in during the morning as well, meaning they were forced to navigate using their GPS, but at the end of the day, they achieved their goal, and had gained another degree. They also noted how much respect they have for the solo explorers out on the ice, as they say they can’t imagine making this incredibly demanding journey on their own, without someone to share in the joy and misery.
Speaking of solo explorers, Australian Tom Smitheringale continues to have some long, trying days in the Arctic as well. Weather conditions have not been cooperative over the past few days, with sunshine giving away early in the morning to clouds and wind. Throw in the fact that Tom continues to struggle with frostbite on several of his fingers and thumbs, and you’ll start to understand how this long march north has taken its toll. Still, he did have some bit of positive news, however small. While sleeping last night, he managed to actually have 500 meters of POSITIVE drift! It’s not much, but it had to feel like miles after all the negative drift the teams have faced this year. On another positive note, Tom is also past 86º now, and seems as determined as ever to reach the Pole.
The Save The Poles Team had an entirely different kind of challenge on their hands, as they battled whiteout conditions throughout the day that started with clouds moving in, making it challenging to see, and then later with 30 mph winds blowing snow and mist off the open leads, navigation became even more difficult. They did manage to use a large, six foot block of ice as a raft to cross a lead at one point, but aside from that, it seemed like a very challenging day for the boys.
Finally, while I haven’t written much about Michele Pontrandolfo, I think it is important to post an update. The last time I mentioned the Italian it was to note that he was struggling quite a bit, and not making the progress he had hoped for, and as a result, he was considering calling for an evacuation. That was a couple of weeks back, but in a real testament to his dedication and determination, he is still in the Arctic and is still trying to make his way north. In fact, he seems to be moving much more quickly and making up time, with his last reported coordinates over the 85ºN mark. He still has a long way to go, and obviously time is not in his favor, but I salute his courage and strength.
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