Expedition | Law

Expedition

Expedition itinerary

The expedition will begin in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Norway where the team will congregate on 10 April 2006 for final training and preparations, including ice briefings, equipment testing, and sorting and arranging gear.

Expedition

On 13 April, the team will board a chartered Antonov aircraft and fly to the floating Russian Ice Station 'Borneo'. Borneo is established at 89o North, just 60 nautical miles (108 km) from the Pole, every April. Originally established by the Soviet's as a base for scientific research, since the break up of the Soviet Union the Russians have continued to establish the base each year to service the growing tourist and expedition traffic. From Borneo, those with the money and the desire can be transported to the Pole either by helicopter or hot air balloon. Alternately, people can ski 'the last degree' and then be helicoptered back to Borneo. Borneo is shut down in early May when the ice is no longer able to support the weight of the aircraft and helicopters. Being established on floating ice, Borneo moves. If it has drifted farther away from the Pole the team will helicopter to the Pole to start skiing. If Borneo has drifted closer to the Pole, the team will start skiing north to the Pole from Borneo. Once the team reaches the North Pole they will point their skis south towards Canada.

Expedition

On April 28 - 29 the team will have its first rest day and its only re-supply which will come by air from Borneo. The timing of the resupply will depend on the team finding suitable ice for the aircraft to land on and, of course, on the weather. Although the team will not be skiing on their 'rest day' they will be building an ice runway.

The next rest day is scheduled for 10 May and the team plans to arrive at Ward Hunt Island on 24 May where they will await their pick up by chartered Twin Otter aircraft which will fly them to Resolute Bay. After a long shower and a big meal the team will fly south to Ottawa on 26 May.

Of course, all of these dates are subject to the vagaries of Arctic weather and ice conditions. As a precaution, Rosemary has booked her return flight from Ottawa to Sydney for 1 June.

Expedition equipment

A range of specialised equipment is necessary for an expedition of this sort.

Expedition

Each team member will use an 80 litre back pack for personal gear and a sled, attached to the back pack, for hauling heavy and group items like food, fuel, first aid, emergency and communications equipment. The sleds are custom made with a 'lid' that allows the sled to be pulled even when it flips over on uneven ice (which is a frequent occurrence).

Expedition

Fischer skis is supplying the team with a new model of custom made skis called North Pole Limited Edition, based on the E-99 but with a strengthened core to withstand the rigours of bridging cracks in the ice. Boots, which are similar to a winter snow boot rather than a ski boot, are custom made by Hichaud in Canada and the bindings are also custom made to accommodate the larger boot.

The team will all sleep in one tent which looks something like a mini 'circus big-top'. The tent is a custom design by Richard, Misha and Josée made from special light-weight but ultra-strong parachute fabric and is held up by skis and ski poles, saving on the weight of tent pegs.

Team members will use down sleeping bags rated to -40oC and a vapour barrier liner to keep body moisture from soaking the down. Two sleeping mats, one closed cell foam and the other down or air filled, will help to ensure a comfortable sleep.

Proper clothing is vital and team members will all be wearing various layers of thermal underwear and fleece designed first to 'wick' moisture away from the skin and then to insulate. These layers will be topped off by specially designed breathable wind suits. The jackets are 'topped off' by a fur ruff around the hood which helps prevent frost from forming on the face.

Expedition diet

The team's diet will be a high fat, high calorie diet (at least 6000 cals per day) to provide the energy needed to sustain the daily effort of hauling heavily loaded sleds in very cold temperatures.

Breakfast and dinner will be based on pemmican (a mixture of fat, meat and grains), supplemented by rice, pasta, dried cheese, milk, maple sugar, tea and coffee.

'Lunch' will consist of butter, double smoked bacon, nuts, chocolate, maple sugar candy, fruit cake, dried fruits and herb tea.

Expedition life

Expedition

Initially the team will operate on a 24 hour day. At the beginning of the expedition the sun will be low in the Arctic sky. However, as the days progress, the sun will rise higher and with 24 hour sunlight the 'days' will soon start to stretch out to 28 hours or more. The team will ski in 'marches' of 1.5 hours with 15 minute breaks for eating 'lunch' and a sip of herbal tea. Because of the difficulty and fuel requirements of melting ice team members will be limited to 1 litre of fluid throughout the day. Initially the team will ski 6 marches per day. If the team is to meet its schedule it will need to ski at least 24 kms per day. On many days ice conditions will make this impossible. Therefore, if necessary to meet the schedule, the number of marches will be increased and the skiing day lengthened. At the end of the 'day' the team will halt to put up the tent, cook, and start the lengthy process of melting ice for drinking and cooking.

Challenges and dangers

The Ice

Expedition

Expedition

The polar ice cap is floating on the Arctic Ocean. Ocean currents and wind mean that the ice is constantly moving. Thanks to the Beaufort Gyre there is a predominantly eastward drift to polar ice, which must be taken into account when navigating. The drift may work with the team. Or, as is more often the case, it may work against them, sending them backwards over night so they have to 'retrace' some of their distance gained the following day. The currents and wind also combine to drive pieces of ice together forming large pressure ridges of broken ice chunks and smaller fields of ice rubble. The team will spend endless hours dragging their sleds over these piles of rubble. In addition, what is driven together can be just as easily driven apart. Particularly where the full moon cycle influences the rise and fall of the ocean, the ice will break up forming open water leads which must be traversed on tenuously frozen ice or skied around. The team will constantly be on the alert for the tell tale 'whoompf' of breaking ice beneath their feet or tent.

The Cold

Temperatures experienced by the team will range from -45C to -15C. Operating in this cold will sap their strength and also expose them to the danger of frostbite. Even the simplest task such as dressing and going to the toilet will be difficult at these temperatures. The team will have to be careful to ensure that fingers and toes are well protected and that skin is not exposed. The key will be to keep moving and to move quickly.

Polar Bears

Expedition

The Arctic is the home of the polar bear. Far from 'cute and cuddly', polar bears are extremely dangerous and effective hunters. The team will carry a gun and flares to scare off any inquisitive bears. Rosemary has seen many polar bears in the wild and will be perfectly happy not to see any on this trip.