Since being dropped off on the ice a few weeks back there haven’t been a lot of updates from Mike Horn and Borge Ousland. The two legendary explorers are attempting to ski across the polar icecap via the North Pole, covering approximately 1300 km (807 miles) in under three months time. According to the few dispatches we have received however, they are making slow but steady progress, even as things are about to get more difficult.
The expedition began when Horn, Ousland, and a support crew sailed out of Nome, Alaska back in September. After facing a few mechanical setbacks with Horn’s ship Pangaea, they eventually made it far enough north into the Arctic Ocean to reach ice that was solid enough to stand on. Not long after, they set off on skis with a focus on reaching 90ºN as quickly as possible. The duo are hoping to crest the top of the world and ski back down the other side to a waiting Pangaea before the onset of winter, which is already starting to loom on the horizon.
Unfortunately, Horn and Ousland have found the trip more challenging than expected in the early stages. They have discovered more open leads of water than they had anticipated, which are difficult and dangerous to cross, not to mention time consuming. As a result, they are not traveling as quickly as they had hoped, although things should start to firm up the further north and the deeper into the autumn they go.
Despite traveling slower than expected, the two men have managed to pass the 87th parallel and are inching closer to the North Pole. They still have a long way to go however, and tomorrow the sun will set and won’t return for another six months. That means from now until the end of the expedition they’ll be traveling in complete darkness, which will also bring colder temperatures to the region.
In his updates, Horn has noted that they have seen very few polar bears so far. They have found some tracks in the snow and they know that the bears are around, but they expected to spot more of them throughout the journey. So far, they have encountered only a handful, which could be an indication of a shift in migratory patterns or simply fewer bears in the Arctic in general.
The current plan is to try to wrap up the entire expedition by early-December. That may be an ambitious goal at this point, but these are two of the most experienced polar explorers in modern history, so I wouldn’t bet against them. After all, Horn and Ousland did complete a full-distance journey to the North Pole in the dead of winter back in 2006. If they can pull that off, this should be within their grasp too, even if it won’t be easy.
We’ll continue to keep a close eye on their progress moving forward and post regular updates as the news warrants.
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