After spending nearly three months traversing the polar ice cap in an expedition that absolutely pushed them to their limits, Mike Horn and Borge Ousland expected to be back home by now. After all, sailing from the polar ice cap back to Svalbard, Norway was suppose to be the easy part. But now, more than ten days after they were picked up from the ice, their ordeal continues with the ship sent to retrieve them still stuck in the ice.
By now you are probably more than familiar with the story. The duo set out from Alaska in September, sailed north to the polar ice cap, then traveled on foot to the North Pole. Once there, they proceeded south on the far side of the planet, with the goal fo reaching the edge of the ice cap once again, thus completing a traverse of the frozen Arctic Ocean. They were able to do that, although by the end the two men were running low on food and supplies, and were both mentally and physically exhausted. By the time they arrived at the Lance, the ship sent to pick them up, they were pretty much at the end of their rope, but we celebrated the fact that they were safe and would soon be headed home. Oh, how wrong we were.
For the past ten days the Lance has been stuck in the ice, unable to make much headway to the south and safety. The ship sailed into a large open lead of water when it came time to pick up the explorers, but as the crew and vessel awaited their arrival, the lead closed shut behind them. There have been hopes that high winds would help clear their passage, but so far that hasn’t happened, so they sit and wait in the Arctic.
In his most recent dispatch, Horn provides a bit of insight into the efforts being made to break free. The crew has resorted to using a chainsaw to cut through the ice in an effort to break things up. It hasn’t been all that successful so far. Everyone takes a turn on the machine, hours pass, chances of ice are removed, and yet Lance stays stuck in place. At night they leave the anchor in place with the hopes that the tension that it creates will be enough to open the lead, but so far still nothing.
Presumably, the Lance is well stocked and provisioned for a long stay in the dark of the Arctic. Now that winter is upon us, the ice isn’t going to get much easier to break free from and the entire area will soon start to freeze over. Right now, it’s starting look like any dreams of being home for the holidays are quickly vanishing, but how much longer they will have to stay remains a mystery. I’l continue to share updates on their progress — or lack there of — moving forward. What we’re seeing here is one of the greatest expeditions possibly of all time (Ousland has called it is “greatest accomplishment”) extend into a completely different ordeal, and it may be some time before it is over.
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