Top image (Jackson and Nansen meeting at Jackson's hut), bottom image (Thomas and Borge) at the spot 112 years after. Images courtesy of the explorers and Long Riders Guild (click to enlarge).
112 years after: Gentlemen explorers - ExWeb interview with Borge and Thomas

Posted: Aug 02, 2007 10:40 pm EDT
( ExplorersWeb has run a Nansen and Jackson special this week, complete with diaries from the pioneers' first meeting. Appropriately, an interview with Thomas and Borge, who just retraced their steps, ends the series. Lucky for us, they are still stranded on the island, waiting by Jackson's hut for a sailboat to pick them up - just the way Nansen once did. <cutoff>

<b>Getting to shore the hardest part</b>

We asked what was most unexpected on their trip. Turned out, that a visit yesterday by an ice breaker carrying mostly American tourists to the North Pole was the biggest shock yet. But 100 people in yellow life jackets interrupting the long solitude were not all bad news. The crew brought bread and Vodka!

Borge said the hardest part of the expedition was beaching. The ice was very broken up and the drift was bad close to shore. The last week, the two were literally jumping from ice hole to ice hole, and it was difficult to find a safe place to camp.

In general - the pack ice was the real crux - walls towered 20 ft high and close to shore huge stretches of open water were challenging to cross even in kayaks.

We also asked about the 'Gentleman thing', and how come many people so often opt for easier trips these days? And are they really the 'lunatic loners' that a recent Lancet study tagged polar explorers? Borge answers most of these questions. Today first though - here goes from Thomas Ulrich:

<b>Thomas: "If I want to climb a mountain, I have to get to the highest point."</b>

<b>ExWeb:</b><i> These guys are all Norwegian and British polar warriors. You are a Swiss mountain guide. Why would you want to do this retrace?</i>

<b>Thomas:</b> "This is an old project of ours (Børge and myself). We both read the books about Nansen and Johansen and were inspired by the courage of the old explorers."

"We figured, that their accomplishment could be understood only by a repeat of their tracks (obviously, our trip cannot really be compared to Nansens/Johansens because we do have much better gear and so much more information on what to expect)."

"We developed the idea many years ago. At first we planned to only repeat their crossing of Franz Joseph Land. But after two unsuccessful attempts to get a permission to do that, we developed the extension of the trip with the approach from the North Pole. I'm glad how perfect it worked out."

<b>ExWeb:</b><i> What is your dream expedition? </i>

<b>Thomas:</b> "This expedition definitely got pretty close. It was new. It was demanding. It was thrilling, versatile and beautiful. The team work was great. It definitely is one of the highlights for me as an explorer."

<b>ExWeb:</b><i> You've scaled Eigernorwand a zillion times, but also had a very scary NP experience last year. Compare the fear...</i>

<b>Thomas:</b> "I think you cannot really compare those two situations. They are just too different. I haven't had serious problems at the Eiger North Face yet - while I was in big trouble at Cape Archtichesky."

"From an objective point of view, I think that the main difference is that the Eiger sits in the middle of Switzerland. That means that even if you are bivouacking at the North Face, you can still see and hear civilization. And you know that a rescue helicopter is only half an hour away. While at Cape Archtichesky, you are really at the end of the world. It takes a long time for rescuers to get to you in case of emergency."

<b>ExWeb:</b><i> Last we spoke, you played with a gun while we were chased by cops on a US highway. Do you agree with scientists that adventurers are potentially criminals ;) </i>

<b>Thomas:</b> I dont think that adventurers or other people with unconventional hobbies behave different from average people."

"They might be more creative (and therefore more potential?) but I think adventure is a very positive way to live out ones creativity. And I see myself definitely more as the social type than the lonely rider."

(Ed note: The above mentioned US patrol chased a speeding car, not ExWeb crew as initially feared. Thomas in turn was only cleaning his polar expedition gun.)

<b>ExWeb:</b><i> Last year at your NP attempt, you were determined to do it "the right way" or bust. Did the outcome change your attitude? (Ed note: Thomas was stranded on a collapsing ice floe upon trying to cross from land to the ocean) </i>

<b>Thomas:</b> No, my attitude has not changed. For me there has always been just one way - the right way to do adventures. If I want to do a full crossing, I have to start from land and end on land. If I want to climb a mountain, I have to get to the highest point. Otherwise its not done. Its as simple as that. And this will not change in future."

"But last year's experience and the recent expedition have still made something clear to me: I will not repeat the solo attempt."

Next: Borge's replies about polar 'PR-stunts', airlifts to the ice, global warming, the future of exploration, Everest, The Lancet psychological study, Jackson and Nansen and future projects.

<a class="linkstylenews" href="" target="_new"> 112 years after: Gentlemen explorers - ExWeb interview with Borge, part 2</a>
<a class="linkstylenews" href="" target="_new"> 112 years after: Gentlemen explorers - ExWeb interview with Borge, part 3</a>
<a class="linkstylenews" href="" target="_new"> 112 years after: Gentlemen explorers - ExWeb interview with Borge, part 4</a>
<a class="linkstylenews" href="" target="_new"> 112 years after: Gentlemen explorers - ExWeb interview with Borge, part 5 final</a>

<i>It took 85 days for Thomas Ulrich and Børge Ousland to retrace Nansen's and Johansens legendary North Pole quest. Last week, they crossed the finish line at Cape Flora, where the Norwegian pioneers met Brit Frederick Jackson.

The Long Riders' Guild described the historic meeting: "Many know the tale of how these two doughty Norwegians left their ship, the Fram, trapped in the ice and set out to reach the North Pole overland. That epic year long struggle brought them furthest north, yet left them stranded in a white wilderness. Thankfully the Norwegians managed to reach an island where they spent a harsh winter living on walrus and polar bear meat. With the advent of warmer weather Nansen and Johansen set off determined to break free from the grip of the north. What they found instead was an unexpected oasis of camaraderie.

Securely berthed in a tidy cabin at Cape Flora, in the remote Franz Josef Land, was one of the forgotten heroes of Arctic exploration, Frederick George Jackson. The English polar explorer was living there with four companions, all of whom were involved in a three year scientific investigation of this still uncharted part of the world.

Thus when the Norwegians stumbled onto Jacksons forward camp, they not only met one of the most remarkable characters in Polar exploration history, they then became involved in one of the most startling, and now forgotten, episodes of geographic chivalry ever recorded. </i>

#Polar #feature