The sun has still to set on the 2016-2017 Antarctic expedition season, and it is already time to begin looking north toward the Arctic. According to ExWeb, this year there are two teams preparing to make a full-distance attempt on the North Pole, despite the fact that such a journey is now more challenging than ever before. So much so, that while numerous people ski to the South Pole each year, no on has reached the North Pole in almost three seasons.
In an effort to change that this year, Sebastian Copeland and Mark George have joined forces to ski 480 miles (772 km) from Ellesmere Island on the Canadian side of the ice to the top of the world at 90ºN. The duo are looking to set out at the end of February or very early in March, with the exit start dictated by the weather of course. Copeland and George will be traveling unassisted and unsupported once they get underway.
The other team that will be attempting the journey is Martin Murry, while will be joined by his dog Sky. They intend to travel in a supported fashion, receiving occasional resupplies along the way. They’ll also set out from the Canadian side of the ice, although their exact departure point isn’t know just yet, although ExWeb says that the two teams will share a pilot and departure window.
And of course, we’re expecting Mike Horn to attempt a traverse of the Arctic ice cap too, once he wraps up in the Antarctic and sails north. His current plan is to meet his ship after finishing his crossing of the frozen continent, and then sail to Australia and New Zealand to complete a few side adventures. But, it is a long way to sail to the Arctic, and I’m not sure he’ll have the time to do that if he intends to make another traverse this year. We’ll be watching him closely, as he should rejoin his sailing ship the Pangaea in the next few days, provided the weather cooperates.
As ExWeb points out, these expeditions face some serious challenges if they hope to be successful. For instance, Kenn Borek Air no long supports North Pole skiers, so the teams had to find an experienced pilot that they could pay to not only deliver them to the start of the expedition, be on standby for 60 days, and pick them up at the North Pole if they reach that point. They found such a man in Dave Mathieson, who will be stationed in Resolute Bay for the duration of the journey.
These explores will also face a shifting landscape of snow and ice that has most certainly been impacted by climate change. The ice on the way to the North Pole is as unstable as ever, especially considering that 2016 is the warmest year on record. That makes challenge in the Arctic extremely difficult, because unlike in the Antarctic, there is no landmass under all of that ice. The skiers will have to cross open leads of water, traverse massive ice fields with rubble the size of a house, and even potentially face hungry polar bears along the way. Skiing to the South Pole is a relative walk in the woods compared to what it is like to head north.
We’ll be watching the progress of these teams closely once they get underway. As always, it will be interesting to see how they proceed.
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