It has been a very long and difficult journey across the Arctic for Mike Horn and Borge Ousland. The duo were dropped off on the ice way back in September and have been making a polar traverse — via the North Pole — ever since. Despite the fact that the two men are some of the most experienced explorers on the planet, this expedition has pushed them to their very limits. In fact, in recent updates you can almost hear the exhaustion and desperation in their words. Thankfully, this past weekend they had some good news at long last, even as they begin to run low on supplies.
In a dispatch posted to Facebook, Horn says that this past weekend was one of the most difficult he has had to endure in his long and illustrious career. The cumulative challenges of skiing for hundreds of miles through sub-zero temperatures, and in the dark no less, have taken its toll on him and Ousland. The past few days have brought a major storm to their area as well, with intense winds, bitterly cold temperatures, and blowing snow. This left them tentbound for several days while they waited out the weather. Conditions have now improved enough to allow them to resume travel and the extra days in the tent provided some much needed rest, even as they are beginning to run low on fuel and supplies.
But, things are starting to turn in their favor at long last as the winds have now started blowing in a more southerly direction, which means that they are actually assisting them towards their goal. In recent days, the winds were blowing to the north, away from their finish line, making negative drift a very difficult variable to compete against. At times, they would spend all day skiing in one direction, only to end up giving up all of their progress due to drift. With the change in wind direction they can now make progress even while they’re in their tent. This should be a significant morale boost for them and allow them to make better time and distances.
As an indication of just how serious their current situation is, Horn also says that they are down to just one weeks worth of food left. They’ve gone on rations to try to stretch that food as far as they can, but there is no question hat they are racing the clock. A polar expedition of any kind is a delicate balance of covering distances, staying warm, and trying to consume as many calories as you can. The cold conditions alone will cause you to burn more calories, not to mention spending hours each day pulling a sled across the ice. Food is the fuel that drives the human engine, and right now Mike and Borge are running low on fuel.
The original plan was to reach the edge of the Arctic ice by December 1. As of today, that is just five days away. Whether or not they make it remains to be seen, but judging from the dispatches it would seem they are expecting the final leg of the journey to take a bit longer than that. It is going to be a difficult final push to the end and nothing is assured, so lets keep our fingers crossed that they make it safely and quickly.
More updates to follow soon.
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