March is here, which means the 2017 Arctic expedition season is now ready to commence. The two teams preparing to ski to the North Pole have arrived in Resolute Bay, Canada and are now putting the final touches on their preparation while they await word on when they can fly out to their starting points, either on Cape Discovery or Ward Hunt Island. That could come at any time now.
The Last Great March team of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George arrived in Resolute this past weekend, but not without a bit of drama first. While they were en route, their 800 pounds (362 kg) of gear was to be flown to their destination aboard the Twin Otters aircraft that will eventually take them out to the ice. But, as Sebastian and Mark were preparing to take off, they received a text message from their pilot – Dave Mathieson – telling them that the gear weighed too much and that he would have to take some off. Nothing to be done at that point, they simply had to proceed on, while a couple of bags of clothing and all of the team’s food was left behind.That gear was later driven to their starting point and arrived just fine, but for a time it caused some concern as to where everything was at.
Over the past few days, Sebastian and Mark have been sorting their gear and loading up their sleds while they wait for word on when they’ll fly. At this point, that could come at any moment so they are now prepared to go with the pilot reports that conditions are right. Until that time, they wait and enjoy a few last days with some relative luxuries before they begin the very large challenge ahead.
Meanwhile, Michael Murray and his canine companion Sky are also in Resolute and awaiting their start. He has all of his gear measured and weighed, and is ready to go at this point too. With everything loaded up, his sled now weighs in at 124 kg (272 pounds), including 25 kg (55 pounds) of dog food. That’s enough to get him through the first 22 days of the journey, at which time he’ll receive a resupply out on the ice. The expedition to the Pole is expected to take somewhere between 50-60 days to complete, so that resupply will have to be enough to get him through the final stages.
As the teams set out, they’ll face some rough conditions. It has been an extremely warm year in the Arctic, which means that pack ice will be thin and there will likely be large open leads of water to cross. On top of that, the shifting of the season towards spring often brings poor weather conditions, with massive storms a real possibility. Remember, no one has completed this journey since 2014, so it will be extremely interesting to watch these two expeditions unfold. Hopefully, they’ll get underway soon.