The 2014 North Pole season is about ten days old at this point, and true to form it has already been marred with poor surface conditions, bad weather, and delayed starts. But a weather window this past weekend has allowed the final two remaining teams to catch their flight out to Cape Discovery, where they have been able to launch their expeditions at last. With that hurdle out of the way, they are now ready to face the real challenges that come along with a journey on foot to the top of the world.
On Saturday, Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen flew to Cape Discovery, where they are already battling the rough ice patch that the teams ahead of them have encountered. Upon arrival, they found 2 meter blocks of ice were there to greet them, making it extremely difficult to make any kind of progress.
Yesterday, they spent the entire day shuttling their four sleds (two each), through the rubble field. Since they could only pull one sled at a time, they had to relay back and fourth between their positions. As a result, they only covered 1.18 nautical miles (2.2 km). That is very slow going of course, but at this point their happy to be out on the ice and making any progress they can.
Norwegians Lars Flesland and Kristoffer Glestad were also dropped on Cape Discovery on Saturday, launching their attempt to be the youngest team to reach the North Pole at ages 24 and 25 respectively. According to their home team, they hit the ice and took off immediately, covering some 6 km (3.7 miles) on their first day in the rough ice zone.
That zone is reportedly about 15-17 km (9.3-10.5 miles) across this year, so the boys have taken a considerable chunk out of it on their first day. They’ll need to maintain that speed however, as they are only carrying enough food for 45 days, which gives them a narrow window of opportunity to reach the Pole.
Meanwhile, Mike O’Shea and Clare O’Leary are making solid, steady progress thus far. According to their tracking data, it looks like they cleared the rough ice field over the weekend and started to pick up some speed. They were also expecting their first food and fuel drop as well, and that resupply was likely a welcome sight. In ten days, the Irish duo has managed to cover approximately 75 km (46 miles), which seems like a poor average, but is actually excellent work for the early days of any arctic expedition.
Finally, Japanese solo skier Yasu Ogita cleared the rough ice zone last week, but not before encountering the largest rubble that he has ever seen. He is consistently covering approximately 5 km (3.2 miles) per day at the moment, which is solid work for someone who is all alone out on the ice. Yasu had been suffering from a sore tooth prior to departing and it flared up again when the expedition started, but he reports that things are better now, and he is starting to find his rhythm.
That’s all the news for today. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be following these teams closely as they make their way north. There is a long way to go for each of them, but thankfully they are all out on the ice at last and making progress. It is cold, nasty and inhospitable where they are at, but I think they would all agree that it is better than sitting in Resolute Bay.
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