North Pole 2016: Race Against Time Team Faces Big Challenges

Arctic Ocean

After overcoming a series of challenges just to get to the starting line, the Race Against Time team is now out on the Arctic ice and making their way towards the North Pole. But as expected, this journey to the top of the world hasn’t been an easy one so far as a number of natural obstacles force the team to earn every mile.

Last week, the team of Mark Wood, Paul Vicary, and Mark Langridge were finally dropped off on the ice after facing unprecedented delays to the start of their expedition due to issues with the runway at the Barneo Ice Camp that serves as the gateway to the Arctic each season from the Russian side of the ice. That caused the trio of explorers to rethink their journey for a second time, switching from the original plan of a full-distance ski journey to the North Pole to an expedition that actually began at 90ºN and would head south to Ward Hunt Island in Canada, before finally settling in on their current route, a two-degree ski expedition back to the Pole.

The squad has now been out on the ice for five days, and they’ve discovered that the Arctic is everything they had expected and more. In the first few days they faced rubble fields of disrupted ice, with many blocks the size of cars and even a few larger than a house. As they inched north however, other obstacles have begun to appear. For instance, yesterday the team only gained 4 nautical miles of distance thanks to a large lead of open water that they had to cross. The only way to do so is to don drysuits, enter the water and swim across while pulling their gear in inflatable rafts.

As if that wasn’t enough, the men have also come across a set of footprints left behind by a polar bear. That means that one of these big carnivores is in the area, and they have been known to stalk polar explorers that pass through their domain. So far, no sight of the creature but they will remain wary and vigilant on the trail.

The hope is that the team can reach the North Pole sometime next week. When they originally set out, they thought it would take 12-15 days, and they are still on track to reach their goal. What else they’ll find on the way north remains to be seen.

Kraig Becker