April 25, 2011

Back on 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 Keith Heger!

April 24, 2011

Poor weather and another night on the ice...

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.... The team has now drifted 4 miles from the North Pole in the 48 hours that they have been in this camp. Let's all keep our finger's crossed that they make it back to Longyearbyen tomorrow!

Make sure to listen to the audio post below. Nikki would like to pass along birthday greetings to her mom. Happy Birthday Nikki's Mom!

April 23, 2011

Maxin' and relaxin'...

The team phoned in to report that they were happy to be relaxing in their tents all day long. Reading, sleeping, eating, and chilling out were the order of the day. This was especially easy since the weather was very overcast with flat light and moderate wind in the morning. A perfect day for sleeping in!

Chilling in the tents. Thinking of ways to pass the time.

The team had drifted south 2 nautical miles overnight, putting their position at N89.58. Their plan remains to be picked up tomorrow by helicopter and flown back to the Borneo basecamp and then onwards to Longyearbyen. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

There were a couple of questions that came in the last few days that the team wanted to answer:

Q: How do you navigate? Is it all by GPS?
A: Yes, we navigate mostly by GPS. At least we get our bearings that way. Oftentimes once we verify which way is north we will turn off the GPS and navigate by sun or wind. This is very easy to do. You just keep the sun at a certain angle to your direction of travel (such as at two o'clock) and use it as your guide. The sun travels across the sky at a certain speed and if you have a watch you can easily travel north just using the sun all day long (of course this doesn't work so well on overcast days). The wind is a little less predictable because it can shift, but in general if you know the wind hits your left cheek as you ski north you have a very good indicator of direction. When we got close to the pole we relied on GPS 100%. Even with the GPS it wasn't easy to find the North Pole! We can only imagine how difficult it was for the early explorers who used sextants and nautical almanacs to plot their positions. That would be very cold on the fingers!

Q: What happens if you get to the Pole and it is in the middle of water?
A: We are so glad that didn't happen! But if it did we would just have to hope that the ice would drift enough so that in a given amount of time 90 degrees North would again be covered by ice so we could at least stand at the very top of the world and celebrate.

Q: What is your main source of food and drink?
A: We are eating very well. Lots of fatty foods like cheese, butter, and for those of us that eat meat, sausage and bacon. Mmmmm... For dinner we usually start off with soups to rehydrate, then we have bagels fried in butter with cheese, or tortillas fried in butter with cheese, followed by our main course which is a dehydrated dish, but a very good one! Then on most nights we have a special dessert brought by one of the team members. Our lunches are generally energy bars or candy bars packed with nuts and chocolate as well as some other high-energy snacks. Everything we drink comes from collecting snow from around the campsite and melting it over our camp stoves. We are carrying an assortment of hot drinks (coco, tea, chai, coffee, etc.) as well as some cold drink powders like lemonade and electrolyte replacement mixes. Overall, the food is very good. But that could be the hunger talking!

We didn't receive an audio report yet, but if one comes in we will be sure to post it. Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!

April 22, 2011

The North Pole!

A very big congratulations to our 2011 North Pole Last Degree Ski Expedition for reaching the North Pole today at 17:30 Longyearbyen time. Of course at the North Pole all lines of longitude and all time zones converge so they can pick any time zone they want! They can also walk around the whole world in just a couple steps.

Everyone is thrilled to have reached the North Pole. Upon arrival they jumped up and down, took pictures, got out various country flags (Australia and Ireland), college flags, banners and made calls to friends and family back home.

Finally they can stop skiing!
The team had very flat light today, with visibility near zero at many times. Luckily their ice conditions were good with mostly pan ice that was flat and old. It was very warm, perhaps around -10C. They made incredibly fast progress. In only 6 hours they covered the remaining 9.5 nautical miles! That's very fast! Nikki was able to take the lead for the last hour, navigating out in front, which she found exciting and fun. Once near the North Pole Maria, Alexey, Niall and Nikki all went searching for precisely 90 degrees North with GPS's.

Finding exactly 90 degrees North can be surprisingly difficult! Even when you are within a few feet of it! The reason is that the ice is in constant motion and it's a little like trying to reach and maintain a very specific point while you are on a conveyor belt. It's easy to have the GPS read a coordinate such as N89.99.96 (only a couple steps from the North Pole), but to get it to read exactly 90.00.00 can be a challenge - and when you get it, it usually only lasts for a split second before you drift back to N89.99......

The North Pole can be very elusive. Just ask Maria, Alexey, Niiki and Niall.

The team is extremely satisfied and the mood in the camp is festive. We imagine that there will be some partying going on in their tents tonight! They will most likely not get picked up by helicopter until April 24, so they have a full day to relax, sleep in, eat, drink and be merry. No doubt that is very appealing after all their hard work!

Again, a HUGE congratulations to the team on a job very well done! We are proud of each and every team member, and we look forward to sharing more news from the team tomorrow and hopefully some more photos too. Make sure to listen to the audio report below and check back again tomorrow for another update from the North Pole!