North Pole 2014: Driving In The Arctic

It has been another long, and sometimes frustrating, week for the skiers who are  North Pole-bound this season. The frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean remains very rough, which slows the pace to a crawl at times. They are doing their best to locate routes through to the smoother ice that is promised on the other side, but it has made for slow going in the early stages of their expedition.

But one team is making better progress, mainly because they aren’t skiing, but are driving instead. According to ExWeb, a group of explorers, who drove specially designed vehicles from Russia to Ward Hunt Island, via the North Pole, last year, have returned to the ice to drive those same vehicles home this year. The 2013 expedition lasted for 61 days and covered more than 2000 km (1242 miles), before the Russians parked their vehicles in Resolute Bay. Now, they’ve set off into the arctic once again, as they attempt to drive back home to Russia via the frozen Bering Strait.

Just like their counterparts who are headed to the North Pole on foot, the Russian team has also experienced plenty of rough ice at the start of their journey. That has kept them at a more measured pace as they search for ways through, or around, these difficult sections. Progress is so slow, that the drivers rarely have to take their vehicles out of second gear, although they are covering 50+ km (31 miles) on a daily basis. While the skiers envy those distances, that is extremely slow for the Russians.

At this rate, it’ll take them weeks to reach Russian territory, and they’ll still face a long crossing through Sibera, which won’t be easy this time of year either. To help them get there, the specially designed arctic trucks are pulling trailers filled with gear and supplies, including 1000 liters (265 gallons) of fuel, and plenty of spare parts to make repairs.

Meanwhile, Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters continue to make slow, steady progress north. They have been covering their best distances yet this week, as they have reached 3+ nautical miles (5.5 km) on more than one occasion. That may not seem like much, but considering the conditions they boys have faced early on, and the slow pace they were forced to endure during their first days on the ice, it is a small triumph for them to say the least. The further north they get, the better the ice conditions should be, so they are hoping to pick up the pace in the days ahead. For now, it is sometimes an exercise in frustration as they battle the rough ice, inhospitable weather, and their own nagging doubts.

That’s all from up north today. Hopefully next week we’ll have more news and better progress reports all around.

Kraig Becker