Nepal wasn’t the only source of tragedy while I was away. Two polar explorers have also gone missing in the Arctic, where they were conducting research on the impact of climate change on the region. It is believed that they may have fallen through the ice, and drowned in the Arctic Ocean last week.
Dutch explorers Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo set out from Resolute Bay in Canada on April 6 and were skiing across the Arctic while conducting their research. For days, they simply sent back a brief message saying that all was okay, and that progress was going well. But last Thursday, their home team back in the Netherlands received a distress signal indicating that the duo needed an emergency evacuation. The signal also included GPS coordinates for their current whereabouts.
A rescue operation was immediately mounted, but poor weather hampered efforts. By the time the pilot reached the location of the signal, they discovered Marc and Philip’s two sleds, one partially unpacked on the ice, the other floating in the water. A specially trained dog named Kimnick was also seen wandering close by, but there was no sign of the two men.
When the rescue team landed at the site, they discovered tracks leading up to the open water where the sled was floating, but not returning from that point. It is impossible to say for sure what happened, but it seems that the men unexpectedly fell through the ice and were unable to climb back out. The loyal dog stayed at the site guarding the supplies as it had been trained to do until he was retrieved from the ice this past Saturday.
This story only serves to underscore the challenges that are now inherent with exploration in the Arctic. I’ve said numerous times that I believe that a full-distance journey to the North Pole is now the most difficult and dangerous expedition on the planet, and this sad stories helps to explain why. The Arctic is fraught with challenges, and the increasingly thinning ice is just one of them.
My condolences to the friends and family of Mark and Philip.
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