Richard Weber leading another North Pole expedition (Adrian Hayes and Iain Morpeth) in 2007. This one is an image of us during a storm, says Richard, ...securing snow walls around the tent ... the strongest winds I have ever seen on the Arctic Ocean (click to enlarge)
Image of Richard and team in not so good weather in the Arctic in 2007. About their South Pole plans he says, The route is the standard Hercules Inlet to South Pole. The goal is to reach the Pole in less than 40 days. We will start late, end of November to get better weather (hopefully). Success will depend on some good weather (click to enlarge)
Richard on the frozen Arctic water in 2006. Antarctica is land, the North Pole is water. A trip to the South Pole is done in summer with lots of light. A trip to the North Pole is done in little and limited sunlight. It is completely different. I have skied on several arctic ice caps; penny Ice cap, Barnes Ice cap, Greenland Ice cap, Ice caps on Ellesmere. These will be more like the South Pole (click to enlarge)
A young Richard Weber in 1986 when he started his expeditions as part of the Will Stegers North Pole expedition. All above images courtesy of Richard Weber (click to enlarge)
When Richard is not on expedition he and his wife, Josée, operate Arctic Watch Lodge on Somerset Island in Nunavut. Richard and Josee also share their polar expertise, systems and gear in a North Pole or Arctic training course in Alcove, Quebec. Image courtesy of arcticwatch.ca (click to enlarge)
ExWebs interview with Richard Weber: Turning his compass South
Posted: Sep 24, 2008 02:45 pm EDT
(ThePoles.com) Richard Weber has been exploring the Arctic for more than 20 years. He has reached the North Pole six times from land with one return journey to Ward Hunt Island with Misha Malakhov. This 2008/9 Antarctic summer Richard is heading to Antarctica for the first time, leading two ultra-marathon runners, Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely. ExWeb's Correne Coetzer caught up with Richard for an interview.
ExWeb: In 1995 you and Misha Malakhov skied from Ward Hunt to the North Pole and back without support. What is the most outstanding memory for you about that expedition?
Richard: There were many memories; the cold, the never ending work, the long days (sometimes we skied for 18 hours), the good company - we never had even one serious argument, but the last 40 hours or so the ice was really broken. Like travelling on an ice porridge.
We could see the final objective, but couldn't quite touch it. It was as if the Arctic Ocean was making a last effort to stop us. Then suddenly we were done. We were standing on the ice shelf in almost exactly the same spot from where we had set out in the February dark four months before. In my mind, the more time that passes the more incredible that expedition seems to become.
ExWeb: When you reached the North Pole, wasnt it psychologically difficult to think you are only half way and the way back will not be a walk in the park?
Richard: No, we had planned and visualized the return trip for years. It was really the exciting part. We had skied to the Pole three times before, the Pole was nothing new. The return journey was a new adventure. Something new, not since Peary had anyone travelled back towards land.
ExWeb: The Arctic ice is moving all the time. You put out caches, could you find your caches easily? Were they not eaten by bears or swallowed by an open lead?
Richard: We skied out from Ward Hunt Island for two weeks and left our sleds on the ice as a caches. The trail from Ward Hunt Island for 45 miles was marked with a series of numbered flags, each flag with a GPS location. There were flags for a kilometer east and west of the depot along the crest of a big pressure ridge. On the depot was a locater / homing beacon such as one would use for tracking wolves.
If the ice drifted we had the trail to follow. The flags in the area of the depot and we could home in on the depot from 10 to 15 km away. We had done research on the ice drift in that area and we concluded that it should not drift more than a couple of miles at that time of year. For the bears, I wired several shotgun shells filled with black powder. If a bear had touched the sleds, the charges would have exploded to frighten the bear away. We had done our research and homework.
ExWeb: You were very active with Arctic expeditions all these years. When did you start your North Pole expeditions? How many times have you skied to the North Pole? What other Arctic places have you explored?
Richard: I started in 1986 as part of the Steger North Pole expedition. I have now skied / walked to the Pole from Land six times. I have done about a dozen one-degree trips.
I have skied all over Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island. As well as Alex Heiberg and parts for Greenland. I have spent about 15 summers in the in arctic. For the last decade we have operated a wilderness fly-in tourist lodge on Somerset Island in Nunavut.
ExWeb: What made you decide to go South this coming Antarctic summer?
Richard: I was invited to lead this group. I have wanted to go South for some time but it never happened.
ExWeb: What do you think will be different on Antarctica from what you have experienced in the Arctic?
Richard: As you know Antarctica is land, the North Pole is water. A trip to the South Pole is done in summer with lots of light. A trip to the North Pole is done in little and limited sunlight. It is completely different. I have skied on several arctic ice caps; penny Ice cap, Barnes Ice cap, Greenland Ice cap, Ice caps on Ellesmere. These will be more like the South Pole.
ExWeb: Who are your teammates?
Richard: The expedition is organized by Ray Zahab. Ray is an internationally recognized ultra distance runner. Ray Zahab ran 7500 km across the Sahara in 111 days, averaging 70 km per day. He is extremely fit.
ExWeb: Which route will you be taking? What is the game plan?
Richard: The route is the standard Hercules Inlet to South Pole. The goal is to reach the Pole in less than 40 days. We will start late, end of November to get better weather (hopefully). Success will depend on some good weather.
ExWeb: You used snowshoes to the North Pole, any different/special equipment that you have designed for Antarctica?
Richard: No we will keep it conventional. My team-mates are runners and will walk / run on snowshoes. I will ski. I will use my new ski bindings but that is the only new item of gear.
ExWeb: If you are not on an expedition what do you do?
Richard: JosÃ©e and I operate Arctic Watch Lodge on Somerset Island in Nunavut. It is a unique setup to view arctic wildlife (beluga whales, muskox, bears, etc.) We sea kayak, hike, and raft. But every night everyone returns to the lodge for a hot shower, and a good meal with a glass of wine.
Richard Weber skied to the North Pole for the first time in 1986 with the Will Steger expedition. Richards most outstanding expedition was in 1995 with Russian Mikhail Malakhov. They skied to the North Pole and back without dogs or external support; using only caches they placed out enroute for the return. Richard has skied six times from land to the North Pole and has spent more than 550 nights on the Arctic Ocean.
He and his wife JosÃ©e Auclair offer a comprehensive polar training course in Alcove, Quebec. (50 km from Ottawa) for anyone who has an interest in learning more about Arctic and North Pole travel. They are also consultants for North Pole expeditions for 2009 and 2010. They have also developed and tested unique polar equipment, including the Weber Polar Mukluks.
Three Canadians, veteran Arctic explorer Richard Weber and two ultra-marathon runners, Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely, will ski unsupported from Hercules Inlet to the Geographic South Pole, starting late November 2008.