Børge and Horn Reach First Ice on North Pole Expedition

We’ve been following the progress of Mike Horn and Børge Ousland’s planned expedition to the North Pole closely over the past few weeks. The two men are planning on sailing and skiing to the North Pole over the next several months, and recently gathered in Nome, Alaska before departing for the Arctic Ocean. The plan is to sail as far north as they can aboard Horn’s ship Pangaea before leaving the vessel behind and skiing to the top of the world at 90ºN, before proceeding across the polar icecap found on the other side. The entire journey is expected to take upwards of three months to complete, covering some 1200 km (745 miles) on foot.

A few days back, the crew of the Pangaea reached a significant milestone on the early part of their journey as they have now sailed far enough north to begin encountering ice in the Arctic Ocean. They of course knew that would happen sooner rather than later, but the arrival of the ice brings a new wrinkle to the journey as they must now carefully navigate through those icy waters towards their goal of reaching 85ºN latitude, which they hope will be the drop off point for Horn and Ousland.

In a blog post announcing their arrival at the ice, Horn shared some insights into what it is like to have to sail through Arctic or Antarctic waters. Finding a proper route takes dedication, diligence, and constant attention, with someone at the helm of the ship at all times, while another crew member climbs up the mast to look for openings that the Pangaea can fit through. The process of navigating through the ice is made a bit easier with the introduction of new satellite technology, which offers the crew a snapshot of the region they are visiting on a daily basis. Horn says that tech is a new addition to his ship and comes courtesy of a company called Speedcast.

Horn also shares details on why reaching 85ºN is such a crucial point as well. That is the spot where he and Ousland of calculated that they need to reach in order to ski to the North Pole and across to the other side of the icecap before the onset of winter. They hope to wrap up the journey before that time, because as difficult and challenging as their journey will be, it will get much more demanding if they have to deal with the wind, cold, and darkness of winter. That’s something they know well, because the two of them completed a ski journey to the North Pole back 2006 that took place entirely in winter.

The arrival of Arctic Winter will also mean that Pangaea won’t be able to sail far enough north to retrieve Mike and Børge. Remember, they will traverse the polar ice cap, where they expect to find the ship waiting for them to pick them up. That won’t be possible if they don’t cross quickly enough and out run the arrival of winter. All of that said, the two explorers are prepared to start their journey below 85ºN if the ice is solid enough. They’ve also built in some additional time in their schedule to take into account possible delays. With as much experience as the two of them have, it is unlikely that they haven’t thought about most contingencies.

It will take a bit longer for them to sail far enough north to determine where exactly they should begin the on-foot segment of the journey. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on their progress of course and bring updates as warranted.

Kraig Becker