A trio of British explorers is just a couple of days away from launching an ambitious and grueling expedition in the Arctic that will begin at the North Pole and see them traveling 470 nautical miles (540 miles/870 km) over the frozen Arctic Ocean to reach the northern coast of Canada.
Their expedition will be one of the very view traveling in that part of the world this year, where climate changes are now making such journeys all but impossible.
On Wednesday, Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge will officially launch their Race Against Time expedition. Originally, the plan had been to attempt to ski the opposite direction, starting on the Russian side of the Arctic ice and making their way to the North Pole.
Conditions in the Arctic are not as stable as they have been in the past, particularly with recent studies showing that the ice caps there are at their smallest in recent history. So, the men made the decision to reverse course a few months back and will now concentrate on heading south instead.
The plan is to depart the U.K. on Wednesday (March 23), most likely to Longyearbyen in Norway, where they’ll finalize their plans and preparations for the North Pole trip. In a recent blog post, Mark Wood says that in less than a week’s time they’ll be dropped off at 90ºN by a long-range helicopter so they can start the journey.
It isn’t clear exactly how they’ll get there, but typically teams of explorers and adventure travelers would make their way through the Barneo Ice Camp – a temporary base established at 89ºN that facilities travel throughout the region each year. So far, I haven’t seen any updates on the progress of building that camp, but it may be closer to welcoming visitors than I would have thought.
Once they’re dropped off at the Pole, the real challenges will begin. They expect to face howling winds, temperatures that drop to -60ºC/-76ºF, and complete whiteout conditions at times.
They’ll also find that the ice is not nearly as thick as it has been in the past, which means they’ll be forced to either ski around open sections of water or don dry suits to swim across. As with any Arctic expedition, they also run the risk of encountering hungry polar bears as well.
Expect more updates on the progress of the team in the weeks ahead. They’ll be facing some tough challenges throughout the expedition, and it will be interesting to follow along with their progress.
This will truly be one of the most challenging undertakings of the year, and once they get out on the ice, they’ll pretty much have to rely on their own skills, wits, and experience to see them through.
Since Kenn Borek Air no longer operates in the Arctic, the chances of getting a rescue flight are practically nonexistent. That lends an even great sense of urgency and danger to the journey for sure.
You can learn more about their plans and follow along with the men at NorthPole16.com.
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