Last year’s North Pole season was a slow one, mostly because bad weather delayed the start for every team and an already tight window slammed shut before the season could truly get underway. This year things looked more promising as two teams were able to get out on the ice in relatively short fashion, but now it appear that bad weather, precarious conditions on the ice and delayed schedules could bring an end to the Arctic expeditions once again.
Earlier in the week we found out that the Irish team of Clare O’Leary and Mike O’Shea have decided to call off their journey to the North Pole, mainly due to logistical issues. Now it seems they aren’t alone pulling the plug on their expedition, as ExWeb is reporting that Japanese solo-skier Yasunaga Ogita is also returning to Resolute Bay and the big Indian Army team isn’t even going to start their planned mission to the Pole.
No reason is given as to why Yas has turned back, but a few days ago we learned that some of his equipment was damaged during one of the blizzards that recently hit Cape Discovery. It is possible that what ever is damaged is preventing him from continuing north. In the case of the Indian team, ExWeb says they decided to abort the expedition due to the bad weather and poor condition of the ice, as well as because their sleds were late in arriving in Resolute Bay. They hope to return next year and give it another try.
Unfortunately I suspect that this is a trend that will only continue in the years ahead. While I won’t go so far as to suggest that we won’t ever see teams making the journey to the North Pole again, I think it is becoming abundantly clear that an Arctic expedition is becoming increasingly more challenging things to climate change. The pack ice use to be incredibly solid and dependable, but now the open leads of water are becoming larger and more frequent, making the passage North much more difficult than it was in the past. If these trends continue, those conditions are going to make a full North Pole expedition nearly impossible in the years ahead.
There are still a few teams who are planning on going and once the Barneo Station opens at the beginning of April we’ll have some teams making the journey, albeit along a shortened route, from the Russian side of the ice. For now we’ll have to wait to see how everything fares, but it seems the 2012 North Pole season will be another very quiet one.
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