There is finally some good news to report from the Arctic. By the time you read this, explorers Mike Horn and Borge Ousland should have gotten a resupply, easing their difficulties to a degree and providing some much needed food and fuel while they away extraction. But, the weather still isn’t cooperating and they haven’t been picked up just yet, which means that while the end is in sight, the polar traverse isn’t quite over yet.
As you’ll recall, Horn and Ousland are no 86 days into an attempt to traverse the Arctic icecap via the North Pole. Back in September, they sailed out of Nome, Alaska to roughly 85ºN, where they then set off on skis. Since that time, they’ve been traveling through some of the worst conditions imaginable, facing challenges that include high winds, very thin ice, dangerous open water, broken sleds, and a quickly dwindling supply of food and fuel.
Their original plan was to be off the ice by December 1 and we’re now nearly a week past that mark. That means that while their sleds have gotten lighter, they are desperately low on food and fuel. Thankfully, help is on the way, as Norwegian polar explorers Bengt Rotmo and Aleksander Gamme have skied out to meet them. As of yesterday, the two teams were a mere 5 km (3.1 miles) apart, with Room and Gamme bringing supplies to aid the exhausted Horn and Ousland.
Meanwhile, the Lance which is the ship coming to pick them up from the ice, got stuck again two days back while trying to navigate a lead. It managed to break free, but it is making slow progress towards the pick-up point. Hopefully it will arrive there in the next day or two, finally putting an end to the expedition. Horn and Ousland will then sail south on that ship to rendezvous with the Pangea, Horn’s yacht that dropped them off on the ice nearly three months ago. Once aboard Pangaea they’ll sail back to Svalbard, Norway closing the book on the Pole2Pole project that has dominated Horn’s schedule over the past few years.
Speaking of Horn, he’s had a bit of a rough week. He has been suffering from frostbite on his fingers for some time now and a few days back he broke a couple of teeth while biting into frozen chocolate. At this point, both he and Borge are exhausted both physically and mentally, but the end is in sight. They just have to wait out some high winds that are making life difficult at the moment. Once the winds subside, they should be able to meet with the Lance and begin their journey home.
I’ll continue to follow this story closely and post updates. By the start of the week we hope to have good news to share.