Tag Archives: 2004

Not leads lead to Ellesmere Island

On a day like today, the last thing you want to do is cross many leads. We have blistery, miserable conditions because we are still in the heart of the blizzard now lasting 3 days thrushes us around and beat us up, as if the Arctic wants to say: GO HOME you don’t belong here. True, humans have nothing to gain from being on the frozen Arctic ocean. Whatever the Arctic is already giving us, we need to proof over and over again we are worthy for being here. That is the case with crossing leads, the most dangerous thing w do on this expedition. If the wind blows freezing air in your face and there is no sunshine you think of all options before you put on a survival suit and swim across. We heard yesterday of a team doing the last degree to the north pole that they followed a lead of open water all day hoping to cross it somewhere and finally camped near it praying for it to freeze overnight. The next day they had to get picked up by helicopter because it was the last day of Barneo being open and they had to get of the ice. We can’t do leads by hope or detours – you need to have a clear action plan. Sometimes you cross more then 20 leads a day and if have to walk an additional 10 km for each one, you never get your target of km in.
Leads form when the ice is under pressure from either wind or current. They can old Then refreeze and open again, like a wound that you continue to bump open against something. Leads are never straight but follow the contour of pressure ridges. Wind will keep the leads from freezing like a current does. Most leads are obvious: open dark canals of water but today we crossed a couple that were mean and extremely dangerous. Ice under pressure had flooded an area that is not visible to the eye because it has a layer of snow on it. Light blue soggy snow is a sign of wet and unstable ice, very tempting to just ski over it if you unaware and deceived by snow as a safe passage.
Pretty soon out of camp we swam one lead and ferried our sleds on another. We are getting more efficient with our lead crossings which is a good plan because the further south we go and the warmer the temperatures, we may have to cross many more leads on our way to Elkesmere

Swimming during a blizzard

The blizzard continued to rage overnight and still blows
now on our cosy tent after a day in the harness. Three days now we have battled this tempest. In the quagmire we groped forward, stumbling over every bump in our path. Often I would find my skis pointing skyward as a steep sastrugi would suddenly materialise out of the murk, all the while unseen. Not a particularly fun day but often funny.
After lunch I donned the drysuit and swam a sinister lead whose banks were awash with flooding and a deceptive coating of slushy spindrift. After ferrying Martin and Bernice across we were happy to be back skiing into the wind.
Skied 10km today. Our position is N87.40 W52.26. We are 552km from Cape Discovery and 18 days into our trip. We have 10 days food and fuel remaining and are negotiating a resupply for around the 25th or so. Storms and drift have pushed us over 100km to the east of
our intended route. We drank some celebratory vodka tonight and toasted to this crazy place we temporarily call home.

Pic of this morning’s camp.


tired of drifting

The science of drift in the Arctic is not only complex it is frustrating. There is the wind that makes the ice move and there is the current. Here in the Arctic at roughly 88 degrees the transpolar current kicks in. Fed by the massive amounts of fresh water from rivers in Siberia, such as the Ob, Lena and Yenasi Rivers, this current flows westwards around the North Pole in a clockwise motion. The ice moves with the current but we start to believe that the wind has much more effect on the drift. The wind has been relentless for the last 3 days blowing 35 to 40 km per hour in our faces, from the West and today from the Southwest risking frostbite if you are careless. We have now drifted 100 km east from where we need to be and today is the first day we drifted more east then we were able to ski back. That is pretty depressing, being so far of your target. There is nothing you can do about it other then maintain your routine and discipline and not letting it get under your skin. Every morning we get up at 6 and ski until 6:30 and sit in the tent by 7:30. Those are long hours in biting winds and temps of -20+ to contemplate the senseless of being here and how to keep the spirit up and foremost how to keep going when there is just blizzards, you are cold to the bone and everything is iced up: goggles, face mask, gloves and your piece of salami. But the wind also bring good things; it makes the surface smooth for skiing and the drifting snow from the wind is spectacular for filming. That is something we did today taking advantage of the incredible polar light and forget temporarily that effort in skiing today is mostly in vain.

Wild wind

A crazy wind blew all day from the west then southwest. Blowing spindrift covered the ice and with the rosy light and long shadows we all stood mesmerised by the landscape. It was a standout day despite the measly 13km advance. For the first time we couldn’t combat the easterly drift and we ended the day further east than when we began this morning. We are now almost 100km from our preferred meridian. Ouch! Not sure how that will pan out in the long run. Our resupply is due in a bit over a week, let’s see what gives til then. 13km today.

Pic taken a couple of days ago in the rubble