Our guides are busy cleaning, sorting and organizing gear for next year. And there is a LOT of gear! Not to mention catching up on sleep as especially the last few days of their expedition were anything but restful!
The highlight of the day was participating in the March for Science in Longyearbyen. They joined with the Norwegian Polar Institute, UNIS (the University Centre of Svalbard), local residents of Longyearbyen and others to march down the main street of Longyearbyen and through the pedestrian mall to a gathering where they listened to presentations on the importance of science in our lives and policy. It was dramatic to take part in this event in an area that has been so dramatically altered by climate change. The landscape and polar pack ice are changing significantly and it is important for science to tell us why. Our teams experienced significant changes this year. One example was having to use ice screws to set up their camps each night whereas in the past they were able to use ice stakes and skis. There was not enough snow pack this year which is an indication that they were on much younger ice. There is less and less multi-year ice so it is more susceptible to disappear each summer. Tom Skilling, THE weather guru in Chicago, has called the Arctic our "canary in the coal mine".
Welcome back to Terra Firma!!! Wish we had been able to be there at the Longyearbyen airport as official welcoming committee for our most amazing North Pole team members and guides! We (representing all of us around the globe following your epic exploits) are so extremely proud of each and every one of you!!! Hoping you felt all the positive Polar energy that has been coming at you for the last week, getting stronger in the last few as you faced your biggest challenges. Absolutely amazing that you flew from Longyearbyen late on 14 April, encountered polar bear in your camps, found a way around that massive lead, kept spirits up for everyone all through the day and night as you persevered to find a way North, reached your goal and arrived back in Longyearbyen around 1:00 AM on 21 April local time.
All have beds and showers awaiting them. Some may be imbibing a bit after their showers... Definitely they deserve a huge celebration!!!
WAY TO GO!! WHAT AN INSPIRATION TO ALL!!!
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO SUPER COMBINED TEAM (aka Team Cool Running/Team Polaris/Maniacs/Car Ramrod) made up of Qobin, Shahrom, Boiy, Dexter, Jim, Dean, Pia, Tamas, Mike & Joel led by super guides Annie, Eric, CP and Taylor!!! They reached the Pole at 5:15 PM Norwegian time after an epic journey. What an awesome birthday present to Qobin turning 35 today and to Mike's daughter Lauren turning 5 today!! They displayed amazing determination and drive to not be thwarted by the massive open water, putting one ski in front of the other all night and all day till they reached their goal. They are obviously exhausted but elated!
The helicopters will be picking all the teams up in about 1.5 hours and shuttling them back to Barneo. They will then board the Antonov straight away and head back to Longyearbyen, anticipating arriving around midnight tonight.
Major kudos to all team members!!
Listen to the audio updates below (transcriptions to be added shortly)
Hi, it's Niall from Team Yellow reporting in from the North Pole. Whee!! So it's been 2 days since our last update and yesterday we did 16 nautical miles in pretty poor visibility and conditions. We came across an open water lead at 58 minutes North so only two miles from the Pole. A massive sense of deja vu from the last time when I did it with my other son James where we hit an open water lead at the same spot and never got across it. We camped at midnight after walking for 12 hours and got up at 5:00 and started skiing by 7:00. After a bit of walking down the open water lead, we found a way across it and made the North Pole at 1:00 this afternoon so great news! The team, all 6 of us have done extremely well, and hats off to Keith and Andrew, our guides, who put in the extra effort to make sure we got here. So all good, a very good story and delighted that we made it to the North Pole and extra special to have made it with my son Patrick. Thanks so much. Bye.
This is Eric calling in from the Super Combined Ultra Special Team, and I'm happy to report that about 15 minutes ago 5:15 Norwegian time, we arrived at the North Pole. It was a tough day going. Yesterday we ran into a big open lead of water 2 miles away from the North Pole, and there was no visible way around it. We had already been skiing for upwards of 15 hours with only a few hours’ sleep, and so we decided to camp for just a couple hours to get some rest, eat some food and then our last push of the day was another 6 hours of skiing and it paid off! We managed to find a way around the lead and now we're standing at the North Pole and we couldn't be happier!! So thank you guys for following along. I know that we're all looking forward to seeing you guys in person when we get home and until then, thanks for following.
TEAM YELLOW JUST CALLED IN FROM THE NORTH POLE!!!!
A very hard won victory, making the prize that much sweeter. The team of Niall, Patrick (Patch), Henry, Martin, Lindsay, Mark, Keith and Andrew is knackered but very, very happy! They traveled for 7.5 hours, searching and searching for a way to get around this massive lead which was more like a lake. They finally found a small pinch area and guides Keith Heger and Andrew Leary built an ice bridge. They carefully assisted each team member cross to solid enough ice to finally head North to the Pole. The accomplishment is especially appreciated by team member Niall Carton from the UK traveling with his 15 y.o. son Patrick. In 2014, Niall skied with his other son James and they were blocked at 88° North, never ultimately able to reach the Pole. As one can imagine, this year's conditions led to a dreaded sense of deja vu. But success is theirs now! The team is resting comfortably in their tents, anticipating a helicopter pick up to Barneo in a couple of hours.
Super Combined Team are still plugging away, following the trail of Team Yellow, searching for their magic spot to cross. The ice is drifting South, making for even more of a challenge. But they are equally determined and we have faith that their golden opportunity will come. Keep that positive Polar energy flowing!
Congratulations to all team members for their determination, perseverance, strength and fortitude!! All should be very proud of themselves!
Super Combined Team just phoned in. They are at N 89° 58.006, E 119° 23. They have met up with Team Yellow, confronting the same large lead lying between the teams and the Pole. Team Yellow has been seeking an end to this lead since their last check in. They have been camped here for several hours and are now ready to hit the trail again, determined to find a way to the Pole if at all possible. Super Combined Team (who have now dubbed themselves Cool Running/Maniacs/Car Ramrod- still having a sense of humor!) will rest for a while, then head out again. All are still safe and focused on their mission. We will keep you posted whenever further word comes in. Knowing they have family, friends and followers all over the world in many different time zones, please continue to send out positive Polar energy to help them reach their goal!
The teams just called in with an update, but it won't be the last one of the day... All teams are on a mission to reach the North Pole! There have been no further signs of bear- no tracks, no bears- great news! Current positions are: Team Yellow N 89° 57.30, East 111° 58 Super Combined Team N 89° 53.9, East 110° 58. Team Yellow has been confronted by a large lead so they are heading East in hopes of finding a way around it and making the last 2.5 nautical miles to the Pole. With the finish line so close in their sights, they are determined to get there. Super Combined Team are taking a break for dinner, rehydrating and getting a little rest. They plan to break camp in a few hours and continue their trek, skiing through the night till they reach the top of the world! Everyone is pumped up, psyched, full of gritty determination. Once they reach the Pole, they are looking for a rapid helicopter flight to Barneo and perhaps quickly back to Longyearbyen.
Go, go, go! Go, teams, go! Please help in sending them positive Polar energy- we know they have a lot of support behind them so let's all get it out there in the Universe!!
Stay tuned- more update coming as we hear from them at the Pole!
The teams reported another great day of travel with bright blue skies, nice open pans of ice, some areas of rubble but very manageable, minimal wind, and cold temps (-25°). Team Yellow led by Keith & Andrew is at N 89° 44, E 102°. Super Combined Team (Cool Running and Polaris) is at N 89° 41.6, E 111°. They did not run across any significant leads- a few cracks in the ice where they could look down at the water but they were only 4-6" wide.
Love this kind of traveling! (photo from a previous expedition)
Last night around 3:30 AM Keith (Team Yellow) awoke to noises outside, only to find a 3-5 year old polar bear sniffing around. With his firearm at the ready and guide Andrew with flare gun, they managed to scare the bear off to a lumbering retreat. Though the team slept the balance of the night on pins and needles, they awoke this morning to great conditions, bright blue sky, temperature around -25° C, nice older pans of ice and no open water. They made good time, resting now at N 89° 33.404, E 103° 46.119 having established polar bear watches through the night by guides Keith Heger and Andrew Leary.
Picture of the bear seen by Eric Lillstrom of Team Polaris- read about their experiences below.
The 10 K ski team reached the North Pole after traveling 16 km (fickle Polar ice being what it is...). They arrived late Saturday evening and spent the night at the North Pole. They encountered various conditions throughout the day but were ecstatic to reach the Pole. They were picked up by helicopter Sunday and flew back to Barneo, then on to Longyearbyen.
The 3 ski last degree ski teams (Team Cool Running led by CP and Taylor, Team Polaris led by Annie and Eric, and Team Yellow led by Keith and Andrew) all made good progress, all camping at N 89° 23, E 108, 107 and 105.67 respectively. Conditions were good today with some pressure ridges, rubble fields, mix of sun and overcast, minimal wind, -18° C temps but no open water.
All of the last degree teams made great progress today, especially considering their late night arrival in camp and their first full day on the ice. They reported good ice conditions with some small leads, a few pressure ridges but also some nice big pans of ice where they were able to make some distance. And a very happy birthday to Lucy Carton! Your brother and dad are thinking of you.