Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-flight breifing and final pack out

Today the team had their pre-flight briefing with the charter flight providers. This briefing covers the flight rules and regulations (same security check as any other international flight), as well details about the Union Glacier basecamp and the South Pole. They were also given a decent weather report, and so far it looks like their flight will go on schedule (knock on wood please!)

If the weather continues to hold they will depart for Antarctica around 20:00 tomorrow evening. This gives them most of the day to relax, but they won't stray far from the hotel. When they get "the call" giving them the green light to fly, they need to be ready to go immediately.

If they fly tomorrow it means that tonight will be their last night in a bed for a long time. That might sound unappealing to some people, but not to our team! They are very, very excited and ready to go. They want nothing more than to board that flight tomorrow and take off on the adventure of a lifetime.

We wish the team sweet dreams and an extra long hot shower in the morning, but most of all clear skies and an on-time departure for their expedition.

Don't forget to listen to Ronny's audio update and check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back on the land!

The team is finally back in Longyearbyen! After a party on the charter plane as it stood on the ice runway awaiting take-off the team flew the 2.5 hours back to civilization. They are now happily clean, warm, comfortable and enjoying the comforts of Longyearbyen, including an end-of-the-expedition celebration and a comfortable night in a bed!

The helicopter that picked the team up near the North Pole.

Loading the charter flight back to Longyearbyen.

The expedition officially ends tomorrow but the journey will continue on as each team member shares the adventure with family, friends, colleagues, and their greater community. The team wants to thank everyone for following the expedition's progress and for the questions and messages of support.

It has been our pleasure to work with each and every team member in preparation for this expedition. They truly have been a wonderful group of people to get to know and we look forward to future adventures together!

Make sure to listen to the final audio update from guide Chris Maher!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Wendy! How about another night on the ice?

First things first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY WENDY!!!! We were hoping that you would be back in Longyearbyen today, but instead you get to spend another day in a small tent with your lovely team at the North Pole. That's a pretty exciting place to spend your birthday! We hope it's a good one :)

The team phoned in today to say that their scheduled pick up was delayed due to bad weather. When they woke they had very windy conditions (around 20 miles per hour) with low visibility and snow. They thought there might be a break in the bad weather but even though conditions did improve slightly the plan is to spend the night on the ice. They will check back in with the Borneo basecamp tomorrow morning, and they hope to fly back to Longyearbyen tomorrow afternoon.

The PolarExplorers flag in a lull between gusts of wind.

One day of tent time after skiing the last degree to the North Pole is nice, and relaxing. Two days and you start to get a little antsy. No doubt they are having visions of long, hot showers, and dreams of sleeping in a bed with clean sheets and a deep mattress. Ahhh....  Let's all keep our finger's crossed that they make it back to Longyearbyen tomorrow! The team wanted me to pass along that you may not hear from them today because they will be trying to conserve their battery power (the solar battery recharger for their phone doesn't work so well when the sun is barely visible!)

Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team... hopefully from the hotel in Longyearbyen!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The North Pole!

The team phoned in today to report that they reached the North Pole at 2:45 PM Longyearbyen time. A huge congratulations to everyone on the team! They have worked very hard to earn every single mile, and now, after a long journey they have finally reached 90 degrees North. Way to go! We couldn't be more proud and happy for the group.

The North Pole, at last!

Upon arrival the team had a celebration that included setting off flares, taking dozens of photos, calling home to family and friends and many words of congratulation. It was a welcome relief to be able to stop traveling. The day was very overcast with extremely flat light that made the travel difficult. In flat light it can be very hard to discern any variation in the ice and by the end of a the day your eyes and brain are literally exhausted from looking so hard for any indication of bumps, divots, ice blocks, cracks...anything! Rick mentioned that today was one of the most challenging days just because of the flat light.

Happy to have arrived at the Pole!

Luckily their hard work is over now they get to kick back, relax, celebrate and savor the sweet taste of success. We imagine that there will be celebrations long into the night, and then some very sound sleep for our team members.

Rick before hitting the sac. The team will sleep well tonight!

The current plan is for the team to be picked up tomorrow morning by helicopter and brought back to the Borneo basecamp from where they will catch their return flight to Longyearbyen. Tomorrow is Wendy's birthday and weather permitting she will get the very pleasurable gift of a hot shower and comfortable bed! Of course if the weather does not cooperate the team could be on the ice for another night.

The team phoned in an audio report but the signal was very weak and the call was dropped. If they call back again we will be sure to post the audio report.  Otherwise we expect to hear from the team again tomorrow, so check back again soon for another update.

Again, a huge congratulations to the 2011North Pole Dogsled & Ski Expedition on a job VERY well done!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Closing in on the Pole!

The team called in today to report good ice conditions, but very flat light with low visibility. Low visibility makes it difficult to see obstacles in the snow such as bumps or blocks of ice. Everything including the sky, the horizon, the ice and the snow all blend into one gray mirage and navigation gets difficult. It's very easy to hit something and tip over or fall. Luckily the team had mostly big pans of flat ice separated by the occasional rubble zone, and they were able to make 9.5 nautical miles. They are now located at N89.54.09, E122.

This picture is from our ski expedition, but you can see how
flat light makes the obstacles "blend in" harder to see.
 When they called in they had just finished dinner and were rocking out to Jimi Hendrix on Rick's ipod. Their energy is very high and everyone is looking forward to reaching the North Pole. All day they encountered lead after lead that had closed up allowing them to pass with ease. They are now on solid old ice. Let's keep our finger's crossed that the remaining miles to the Pole are on pans with no open water!

Getting excited as they close in on the North Pole.
Make sure to listen to today's audio report from Wendy, and check back again tomorrow for what will hopefully be an update from the North Pole!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Finally! Big pans and fast travel...

The team phone in today to report that they have FINALLY had some good ice conditions that allowed for some fast travel. The frozen lead that they camped next to last night did NOT prove to be a good highway because rather than freezing more it opened up during the night and became a large open water mass that they could not get across. Luckily it was running north/south and instead of crossing they simply traveled along side it for a long distance. The rest of the day they had large pans, some several miles big that were separated by areas of rubble. They still had to do some chopping and clearing to make it through the rubble, but at least they had the pans to add some fun to all the hard work! At one point while chopping a way through a pressure ridge Tony went in the water up to his thighs. Luckily it was towards the end of the day and the team made camp shortly after.

The frozen lead they camped next to last night opened into a wide active lead by morning.
The team was able to hear the ice moving today, not far off in the distance. Wendy described it as sounding like a freight train. She mentioned that they would have likely heard more, but dog team 2 is "So noisy! All they do is bark, bark, bark!" Apparently dog team 1 (that's the team with dogs named spot 1-8) is very calm and quiet.
Happy to be on a flat pan!
The team started the day out with snow, then it became sunny, and now it is cloudy but still very warm. Their position when they called in was N89.45, E131. They are within striking distance of the pole, and with any luck they should reach it day after tomorrow.

Make sure to listen to the audio report below and check back in again tomorrow for another update from the team!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rubble, rubble, rubble...

The team phoned in to report that it was an incredibly beautiful day, with virtually no wind and temperatures that hovered around -14C. That's warm! But the nice weather was the best part of the day because the ice conditions left a lot to be desired. It seemed that no matter where the team went there was another pressure ridge waiting for them. Each pressure ridge requires a lot of hard work to surmount. Chopping off blocks of ice and sculpting a path through pressure ridges is now standard operating procedure. Rick reports that the pressure ridges have been made up of old "multi-year ice" which means that the ice has been around for 3+ years and it is quite thick, with big chunky blocks that like to upset the dogsleds.

This rubble is small, but look behind them! Aye yay yay!

The team also saw the ice move today, which is always exciting. Tonight they are camped next to a recently frozen-over lead that is heading almost due north. They hope to travel on the lead tomorrow for as long as it will take them. Finding a northward heading lead that is frozen-over enough to support the weight of the sleds and skiers is like winning the lottery, especially after spending a couple days in areas of high pressure.

Leads that are frozen over can make for very fast travel.
Despite the difficult ice conditions the team made 7 nautical miles of northward travel and they finished at N89.34. 53. As the team signed off they were settling in for a comfortable night. Beef stew with mashed potatoes was almost ready and the team was finishing off polar pizza appetizers. Wendy Booker wants to wish a very special birthday greetings to her son Alex. Happy 22nd Birthday Alex! Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.