Mike and Borge reached the North Pole unsupported after two months on the ice - the trip was done mostly in winter. Image of Mike (left) and Borge (right) courtesy of Ousland's website (click to enlarge).
Borge Ousland and Mike Horn at the Pole: They made it!
Posted: Mar 23, 2006 06:55 pm EST
(ThePoles.com) Norwegian Borge Ousland and South African Mike Horn have reached the Pole - unsupported after two months on the ice.
This journey has been so tough that I think it will be a very long time until someone tries to repeat our expedition, said Borge Ousland.
In fact it's the first time an unsupported expedition to the North Pole has been successful from Russia since Rune and Torry's Arctic crossing in 2001 (they started out mid February from Cape Arktichevsky on their unsupported crossing of the entire Arctic ice). Also from Canada, the NP has been untouched by unsupported expeditions since 2003. And this year, a number of expeditions have aborted already - the North Pole is a tough nut to crack.
Skiing in the darkness
Borge and Mike are now setting up their tent and establishing camp. Tomorrow will be a day of rest their first in more than a month.
The pair departed from Cape Arktichevsky on January 22, in full Arctic night. They have done most of the trip in darkness, and endured frequent negative drift (especially at the beginning of the trip) and severe cold (mostly towards the end of the expedition, in the transition between winter and spring). Locals living in the Arctic areas say that temperatures are at their coldest around spring break - an interesting fact seemingly confirmed by Borge and Mike's temperature reports.
Ousland has reported feeling good and strong during the entire trip. Eventually he complained of cold feet, but the problems have subsided. Mike Horn, on the contrary, has suffered from frostbite in his fingers, and got seriously sick in the last days of the trip. However, Borge helped Mike with some of his load and tasks, and Mike also improved with antibiotics.
Missed winter - by two days...
The team hoped to reach the Pole in time to see the sun rising on the ice for the first time in six months. "We will try to arrive before the 23rd of March, which is the first day of spring and when the sun begins to appear above the horizon at the North Pole," Borge told ExplorersWeb in an interview prior to departure.
According to recent reports (plus the fact that calendar spring begins on March 21) the skiers missed a full winter expedition by only a few days. However, the pair knew they were slightly delayed from their original schedule, and decided to reach the Pole whenever possible - before or after the sunrise. "Well see what date we end up arriving at our goal perhaps March 23rd, 24th or 25th. Our focus is to preserve our health and not take any irresponsible chances, making sure we reach the North Pole in a dignified manner, they dispatched as the sun showed up on the Arctic horizon.
With the difficulties of open water involved in Russian NP trips, the polar community might well see earlier departure times in the future - at least if the trips are unsupported and made by seasoned polar explorers such as the ever-amazing Norwegians.
Norwegian Borge Ousland is a remarkable polar explorer. He was the first to do an unsupported expedition from Russia to the North Pole in 1994. Borge was solo and fast, and beat the second runner up team of 8 Russian skiers by two weeks. Among his feats are a solo kite crossing of Antarctica from Berkner Island to McMurdo in 96/97 and a solo Arctic kite traverse in 2001 (March 3 to April 23, Russia-Canada, one resupply).
He has also attempted Everest and done an unsupplied, kite-supported crossing of the Patagonian Ice Cap: Borge and Thomas Ulrich completed that expedition at top speed (49 days), but at an earlier exit point than the Chilean pioneers on the route it is thus not considered a complete crossing.
South African Mike Horn, traveled around the equator in 2000. In August 2002 he launched Arktos expedition, a multi-disciplinary voyage around the Arctic Circle. The adventure was covered by professional photographers and an extensive support team. Mike completed the circumnavigation by the end of October, 2004, after a number of legs accomplished by boat, kayak, ski sail, bicycle and on foot. Starting and Finishing point was North Cape, Norway.
Borge and Mike hit the ice on January 20, but had to return to Cape Arktichevsky after two hours of progression due to bad ice conditions. They started again on January 22.