If you’ve been following Mike Horn and Borge Ousland on their attempt to traverse the polar icecap via the North Pole, you probably already know that this has hardly been a walk in the park. The duo have struggled ever since they were dropped off on the ice at roughly 86ºN after setting out from Nome, Alaska. From there, they proceeded north, dealing with open leads of water, thin ice, and precarious conditions all the way to the top of the world. Now, having passed the Pole and heading back south things haven’t exactly gotten easier and it sounds like it is starting to take its toll.
In their latest update posted to social media, Mike says that both he and Borge had expected things to improve once they started traveling south once again. Their logic for this was that with the onset of the polar night and the arrival of colder conditions they felt the ice would begin to stabilize, making travel safer and more consistent. That hasn’t been the case however, as even in the “last degree” they’re experiencing open water, large chunks of ice that are impassable, and extremely thin surface ice that threatens to give way around them. All of this has slowed them down considerably, although they do continue to make progress and the drifting ice now works in their favor.
In the dispatch Horn also talks about how their daily routine is separated into two categories, what happens while they are out of the sleeping bag and what happens while they are in it. While on the move, they stay warm thanks to the physical activity, but when they stop to make camp they get into their sleeping bags as quickly as possible in order to conserve heat. He says that they have just enough fuel to make their meals and melt snow for water, with really none to spare for staying warm. This gives them a razor thin margin of error, but such is the nature of a North Pole expedition like this one.
It is important to point out that these updates from the ice are extremely delayed for some reason, perhaps by as much as 10 days. By now, the two men are much further south than they were when they wrote this dispatch, so conditions may have improved for them over time. Their current goal is to reach Mike’s ship Pangaea by December 1, but with the tracking system not providing as much info as it once did and the updates staggered, it’s hard to say if they are on pace to do that. Either way, it probably means they have another three weeks or so out on the ice, which are going to be long and difficult ones to say the least.
Lets hope all goes well in these final weeks and they make it back to the ship safely. There is a lot of treacherous territory to cover, but these two men are as experienced and tough as they come when it comes to polar travel.
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