One of the expeditions that we’re most eager to follow over the next few months is Mike Horn and Børge Ousland’s attempt to sail and ski across the polar ice cap. The duo, who once spent two months skiing to the North Pole in the dead of winter, left Nome last week to embark on this journey, although it has been fraught with delays. Now however, they are back on course and heading north, with the hopes that they have put the logistical challenges behind them and can turn their sights on the expedition at long last.
The plan has always been to sail as far north as possible aboard Horn’s ship the Pangaea. Once they vessel can’t go any further into the ice, Horn and Ousland will disembark and begin their long ski journey. That will involve crossing the polar ice cap via the North Pole, then continue skiing to the far side of the ice, where the ship and her crew will be waiting to pick them up. The entire crossing is expected to take about 70 days to complete during the polar autumn. That means it will still be plenty cold and the days will be extremely short, with daylight becoming less and less available as they go. Still, they hope to finish up before the onset of winter, when things will get really difficult. The goal is to reach the far side of the ice by December, which means it will still be plenty cold, windy, and difficult throughout.
The two explorers and the crew of Pangaea spent more than a week in Nome, Alaska preparing the ship for the journey and stocking it with supplies. When they set out last week it was with big ambitions and high hopes, although they didn’t make it very far before running into difficulty. One of the ship’s engines started having problems before too long, forcing them to stop in Teller, Alaska to make repairs. That delayed them another few days, but it wasn’t too long before they had fixed the problem and were back on the water and heading north. However, their troubles with the vessel weren’t over yet, as before they could head into the Arctic Ocean, its autopilot functionality stopped working. This prompted another visit to town, this time stopping in Point Hope, where once again they were able to affect repairs.
With the autopilot fixed, and Mike having visited old friends in Point Hope, the crew of the Pangaea returned to the water once more. Now, they’ve managed to cross through the Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean. Ahead of them is nothing but ice and sea and the promise of the expedition they’ve been planning and working towards for months now. These challenges so far have been minor setbacks, but have slowed them down nonetheless. The really difficulty still sits ahead once the skiing begins.
The plan is to hopefully reach 86ºN before Horn and Ousland start their on-foot portion of the journey. They will then travel approximately 500 km (310 miles) to the North Pole, before proceeding another 800 km (497 miles) to the far side of the ice. That is expected to take roughly two and a half months to complete, through some of the harshest, most difficult, and barren terrain on the planet.
For now, all that the crew of the Pangaea can do is press forward and hope that they don’t run into any more difficulties while en route. The real adventure has yet to truly get underway and more setbacks and delays at this point could begin to cause problems with the schedule of the expedition itself. Hopefully that won’t happen and our next update will be on the start of Mike and Børge’s ski journey. Stay tuned for that.