With blue skies and no wind today was a beautiful day on the pack ice at the top of the world. Cold, yes, (-25 F, -30 C) but not as cold as yesterday, and the temperatures seem to be warming. Here are updates from our teams:
Last Degree Update:
Our last degree ski expedition had their first full day of travel today. It's always nice to put that first day behind you. All things being equal (ice conditions, weather, mood...) everyday gets easier as the sled gets lighter and YOU get smarter and more experienced! The team covered 7 nautical miles from their drop off point last night, ending at N89.08.72, E 138. That's a good first day, especially considering they didn't get to bed until 2 AM last night! They had a cold day with temperatures remaining steady at -30F / -34 C. In temperatures like these it can be a struggle to keep your hands warm, especially right after breaks when your body is slightly chilled. The key is to stay well fed, well hydrated and to move, move, move! It's also critical to pay close attention to your body and take action to warm up those parts of your body that are cold. There was a slight headwind on their faces as they skied. No doubt they all had their face masks on, or layers pulled up and over their noses and cheeks.
They are all cozy in their tents, after a filling meal of appetizers, soups and a hearty dehydrated dinner. A few well placed hot water bottles will make their sleeping bags feel extra cozy tonight. Not that they need the help falling asleep, they are probably tired enough from all the hard work.
Click here to listen to Keith's audio dispatch and check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.
Half Degree Update:
We have another team heading to the ice soon! Team Fioretti Mountaineers with Peter and Bob Fioretti and guide Eric Lillstrom have been training in Longyearben and they will be departing for the Barneo Basecamp tomorrow (Monday) morning. So far on their journey they have explored Longyearbyen and the surrounding valleys during their overnight Shakedown training. They practiced camp routines, traveling with their sleds in tow, and many of the systems that they will use to stay safe and comfortable (at least as comfortable as possible!) during their expedition.
They are looking forward flying to Barneo and starting their journey! Click here to listen to Eric's audio dispatch and check back again tomorrow for another update from their team.
Below: Heading North!
Below: Peter, Bob and guide Eric Lillstrom (sorry... for some reason this blog software insists that this photo be sideways)
The team reported in again at 2 AM local time. They had a relatively short stopover at the Barneo Basecamp before heading off by helicopter for their starting point at N 89.01.1, E 140. They skied a short distance before making camp at N 89.1.58, E 140. The weather was clear with a blue sky and a breeze of around 6 knots. The temperature was a brisk - 30 F / -34 C. That's cold! But cold temperatures are preferred over warm temperatures, because they tend to come with stable weather. Warm temperatures tend to bring low visibility, wind and generally deteriorating weather.
The cold weather will require that everyone is vigilant about keeping their extremities and core warm, while also not overheating from the hard work of pulling a sled. Temperature and moisture management are two of the hardest parts of the expedition, along with maintaining a high level of energy throughout the day. That may sound easy if you are reading this from the comfort of a warm house, with water flowing from a tap and a variety of food at the ready. At the North Pole it is something that you have to constantly work at to maintain. Simple but difficult. Like so many things when it's -30F/-34C outside!
We are happy to report that our team has departed on schedule. Woot woot! This may not seem like a big deal, but it is! (This season has been fraught with delays and our team is one of the only teams not to be delayed by 10 days).
As they drove to the airport the team was nearly giddy with excitement. They were chanting BARNEO! BARNEO! The flight to the Barneo Basecamp takes roughly 2.5 hours. Because there are only a handful of windows on the plane most people don't get to see the pack ice before they land. When the plane's door opens they emerge into a landscape (actually a frozen seascape) that's unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.
It's likely to be a late night for the team. The word "night" describes the time of day but not how light or dark it is because they have 24 hour sunlight. Upon arrival the team will meet with the basecamp manager, review their communication schedule, get a weather update, learn as much as they can about ice conditions, select the best departure point, load the helicopters with kit and people and take off for what may be an hour flight to their starting point. But as soon as the helicopter drops them off all the noise and hectic moments melt away and everything becomes much more focused and simple. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Ski. North.
Click here to listen to today's audio dispatch sent by Keith and Abdulla Al Alahbabi just prior to the flight to Barneo. Also click here to check out what landing at Barneo looks like from the pilot's eye - it's pretty awesome!
If we receive a second dispatch we will update the blog, so check back again soon.
Below: Ready to go!
The team spent the day in Longyearbyen prepping for their departure and making sure everything is in order. They practiced setting up tents, they organized their food supplies and they readied their sleds and brought everything to the airport. At present, it looks like they will be flying to the ice tomorrow, sometime in the afternoon. That's great news (!!) and everyone is excited.
What's it like the night before departure? Usually your mind is darting wildly, crossing "things to do" off imaginary or real checklists. "Did I remember to pack my second pair of gloves? What about my bowl and spoon? Extra batteries?" Then there is the unknown to contend with... "How cold will it be? Will we see lots of open water? Will we have drift? And in what direction?" But just as strong, if not stronger, are the many positive feelings of embarking on a grand adventure. The anticipation is almost over, the planning and preparations will be put to use (!!!) - and it is a wonderful way to fall asleep.
Click here to listen to today's audio dispatch from Keith and check back again tomorrow for another update, hopefully from the ice!
(Below: a team selfie)
Below: Our team at the airport - sleds are delivered and they are ready to go!
The PolarExplorers 2018 North Pole Last Degree Ski team officially kicked off their expedition tonight in Longyearbyen, Norway. The team gathered for a pre-flight briefing followed by welcome reception and dinner at a lively pub in Longyearbyen.
At the pre-flight briefing they learned that their flight to the ice is scheduled for April 14. That means they will spend tomorrow reviewing expedition procedures, making final preparations with their kit and transferring their packed sleds to the airport by early afternoon. If all goes as planned they will fly to the Barneo basecamp the following day (Saturday). From there they will get transferred to their starting point on the ice.
We are happy to report that everyone is doing well. The level of excitement is high. Our finger's are crossed that there won't be any delays. The team wanted to share this link to a video of the plane dropping the tractor and supplies, by parachute, to build the Barneo runway and basecamp. They should be putting the finishing touches on it tomorrow.
That's most of the team below (Harvey, Abdulla Alahbabi, Zdenek and Abdullah) in Longyearbyen. Make sure to listen to today's audio dispatch from Keith and check back for another update from the team tomorrow!
We are thrilled to be sharing the North Pole with a wonderful team of North Pole Last Degree Skiers. These team members will be posting daily audio dispatches from the expedition starting on April 12. Make sure to check back regularly to follow their progress!