The last time we checked in with Mike Horn and Borge Ousland, the duo had just crossed 88ºN and were worried that they would be battling negative drift for a few days. That was less than a week ago, but now they’ve not only reached the North Pole, they’ve started the slow craw back towards the ship that will pick them up once their polar traverse is complete. So what gives? How did they go from 88ºN and facing severe southerly drift to the Pole in just a few days time? Well, as ExWeb points out, it appears that there is a significant gap between when the two explorers post their expedition updates to social media and where they actually are on the map, resulting in some confusion as to their pace of travel and where they are exactly.
To get a more accurate picture of where Horn and Ousland are at a given time, their GPS tracking system appears to be a better option vs. just reading their dispatches. It is unclear as to why those dispatches are lagging behind so significantly, but based on their movement it appears that they are traveling more quickly than we initially thought. Their updates have indicated that the open leads of water and thin ice were slowing them down, but that as things got colder they would likely pick up speed. That appears to have been the case as they have now crested the top of the world and are heading south again. Best of all, the negative drift will now work in their favor, helping them travel at a faster pace.
As of this writing, Mike and Borge are at 89°02′20″N 000°08′35″E on the map, with their last coordinates sent early yesterday morning GMT. There is strong likelihood that they are further south than that already, but the tracking page hasn’t updated just yet. The goal is to reach roughly 80ºN where Horn’s ship — Pangaea — will be waiting to pick them up and sail back to Norway. That’s still a a couple of weeks of yet, but they should be closing in on that pick-up point ahead of the December 1 deadline they set for completing the expedition.
With the new understanding that their dispatches are now quite delayed, it seems like that December 1 finishing date is much more likely to be accurate. Their goal has always been to be off the Arctic Ocean before the arrival of winter and barring any unforeseen delays, they should easily wrap things up. There are still many miles to go and there will be challenges ahead, but their tracking system indicates they are doing much better than their dispatches would have led us to believe. That’s good news all around.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on their updates and share more information as it becomes available. The dispatch from the North Pole will likely be quite interesting for instance and it will give us an idea just how far behind those updates are lagging. For now though, it seems we’ll be playing catch-up for awhile.