If you’ve been following the unfolding drama surrounding Mike Horn and Borge Ousland’s polar traverse over the past few months, then we have good news for you to start the week. Over the weekend, the two men finally completed that epic expedition, reaching the ship that had been sent to help retrieve them from the ice and ending weeks of grueling travel across the Arctic ice cap. The two men are now safely aboard their extraction vessel and heading south to rendezvous with Horn’s ship the Pangaea.
To quickly recap, Horn and Ousland set out from Alaska this past September, sailing north aboard Pangaea to be dropped off on the Arctic ice. Once there, they spent several weeks skiing to the North Pole before cresting the top of the world and turning back south again. For much of November and December they’ve been battling incredibly poor conditions as they encountered very thin pack ice, large open leads of water, high winds, negative, drift, and extremely cold temperatures. Enough so that Horn has suffered frostbite on his hands and broke two teeth while eating frozen chocolate. To make matters worse, they had originally projected that they would be off the ice by December 1, so over the past ten days or so they were running dangerously low on food and fuel too.
When we checked in with Horn and Ousland’s progress last week they were navigating to meet two other Norwegian polar explorers — Bengt Rotmo and Aleksander Gamme — who were bringing some much needed supplies with them. It took a bit longer than expected for the two groups to connect up simply because a large lead of open water sat between them. Eventually they were able to connect, but then high winds and a winter storm blew in, restricting them to their tents for the day.
On Sunday, they were finally able to get moving again, skiing south towards Lance, the ship that was sent to pick them up. In an update posted to social media, Horn says that they could see the ship in the distance, its lights burning brightly in the polar night. But they were moving so slowly (2-3 km/hr) that it took sometime to get to their destination. Those final hours were likely agonizing ones, seeing their escape ship waiting for them, a warm meal and a warm bed in sight, yet with still so far to travel.
A second update came via social media not long after announcing that Horn and Ousland were aboard the ship, enjoying a steak dinner, and already starting to feel so much better. The two men are safe and starting the rest and recuperation process, which will likely be a long one. This expedition took everything that they had, and then some, and it is likely that they’ll be feeling its effects for weeks to come.
We cover a lot of big adventures here on The Adventure Blog. Expeditions to the South Pole, climbs to the summit of Everest and K2, and rowing journeys across all of the major oceans. But this undertaking by Mike Horn and Borge Ousland is one of the most difficult and demanding that we’ve seen in quite some time. These two men have been through hell on this journey and I don’t think we even know half of what they experienced yet. There isn’t likely to be too many more expeditions like this in the near future, as the Arctic ice cap is simply becoming to unstable and difficult to travel on. This cutting-edge exploration in the 21st century and quite honestly it doesn’t get any tougher than this.
A big salute goes out to both Mike and Borge for accomplishing this major undertaking. They’ve certainly earned some much needed rest.
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