It looks like there won’t be any full-length expeditions to the North Pole after all this year. Earlier today the Norwegian team of Mads Agerup and Rune Midtgaard announced that they are calling off their attempt at a speed-ski to the Pole after Mads’ frost-bitten thumbs took a turn for the worse and have now deteriorated to the point that it is dangerous for them to continue. According to their home team, the two men have now broken camp and are searching for a suitable landing spot for a plane to come retrieve them from the ice.
While just 12 days into their journey, Mads and Rune were making excellent progress towards the top of the world. While conditions weren’t always as good as they had hoped, they were none the less routinely knocking off 20+km (12 miles) each day, which is a solid pace for the early days of any Arctic expedition.
We first learned about Mads’ condition in a dispatch yesterday but the situation didn’t sound all that serious at the time. It appears that his thumbs have gotten significantly worse since that time, prompting their call for an evacuation.
At the moment, the weather in the Arctic is quite good, with low winds, relatively warm temperatures and plenty of visibility. That is expected to change tomorrow however when bad weather is expected to hit the area. With that in mind, the two men are hoping to still get picked-up today in order to avoid further frostbite damage.
It now appears that the Arctic has fended off all challengers for yet another year. Yes, there will be some skiers still heading to the North Pole, but none will be making the epic journey on foot that we’ve seen in years past. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the days of the expedition to the Pole may be coming to an end, as climate change have made it increasingly difficult to complete such a journey. I already know of a couple of teams that are planning to give it a go in 2013 but the Arctic window of opportunity definitely seems to be getting narrower.
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