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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 10 km ski team of Stuart and Alan Clark, Karen (Clark) Ashton, David McGrain (Chimu) and Jim Chaffin called in this morning. They flew from Barneo to around 10 km from the Pole late Fri/early Saturday, skied for a bit then made camp and went to bed around 4 AM.
The last degree ski teams called in updates tonight. All teams arrived at Barneo base camp eager to go. They worked out their kit, fuel, etc. and then got a helicopter ride to their respective starting points for their official start. Listen (or read) the updates from Keith Heger, Dexter Salna (team Cool Running) and Annie Aggens (team Polaris) below.
A day of comings and goings... the North Pole flight team return to Longyearbyen from Barneo today and reflect on the experience of standing at the top of the world. The ski teams have taken off from Longyearbyen, heading to Barneo.
Boarding the Antonov in Longyearbyen, next stop Barneo.
The North Pole flight team flew this morning from Longyearbyen to Barneo, then on to the North Pole! They had a great celebration and spent quite a long time at the Pole, taking photos, drinking champagne and Aurora Borealis and soaking in the stark beauty of being at the top of the world. They returned to Barneo for the overnight and were treated to special performances by a rock band of locals from Longyearbyen.
The ski teams spent the day packing up all their gear and sleds, taking them to the airport for the weigh in to get them loaded on the Antonov to head to Barneo on the morning flight tomorrow. The teams will fly on the afternoon flight around 5 PM.
Driving the sleds to the airport, the teams saw this seal on an ice floe