I’ve been putting off posting an update to the ongoing situation with Mike Horn and Borge Ousland, hoping that there would be something new to report before the holidays. The two men, along with the crew of the ship that came to retrieve them from the Arctic ice, have been stranded in place for more than three weeks now, with no end in sight to their predicament. For a time, there was hope that they would be home for Christmas, but with that holiday now upon us, it seems likely that it will be sometime in 2020 before they are free and heading south. And now that winter has arrived in full force, there is a real chance they could end up overwintering on the frozen Arctic Ocean.
As a recap, Horn and Ousland set out from Nome Alaska this past September aboard Mike’s ship Pangaea. They sailed as far north as they could go, then left the ship behind and began skiing to the North Pole. After reaching that location, they started to ski south again, this time on the far side of the planet. Their goal was to reach the endge of the ice again so Pangaea could retrieve them. But due to the brutal conditions on the ice, including very fragile surfaces, bad weather, constant darkness, and other challenges, it took them longer than they had expected to finish their traverse of the polar ice cap.
Because they were running a bit behind schedule, Pangaea wasn’t able to sail into the ice to pick them up. Instead, a ship called the Lance came to the arctic to bring the two polar explorers home. In order to get to a suitable retrieval spot, the Lance had to sail up an open lead of water. That lead closed shut with ice flows after the ship had reached its furtherest point north. This had the effect of closing their exit path and freezing the ship in place. With the exception of making a bit of short progress a few weeks back, it seems they’ve been stranded there ever since.
The problem is, now that winter is here, the ice that’s surrounding them is not getting any thinner. It will continue to grow until it reaches its largest extant and thickest measurement most likely sometime in March. Spring thaws are still a long ways off at this point, but there is a chance that they may have to stay in place until then. Another icebreaker er could be dispatched to open a channel of course, but that is an expensive proposition to say the least.
For now, we’ll just have to sit and wait for a change in their status. But after a very long and grueling three month expedition across the most inhospitable place on the planet, Mike and Borge are still waiting for their chance to get off the ice and come home.
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