Best of ExplorersWeb 2004 Awards: Dominick Arduin

Posted: Dec 28, 2004 05:00 am EST
ExplorersWeb has been awarded best of adventure by National Geographic and best of the web by Forbes magazine. What is then the Best of ExplorersWeb?

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2004. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in the year of 2004.

Today number 4: Dominick Arduin

"I want a real expedition, not this %^&* bullshit!" shouted Dominick through the roar of chopper blades after she had been airlifted with the other teams 36 nautical miles towards the North Pole.

With those last words to the other polar trekkers, Dominick turned around and came right back with the chopper to the proper starting point - the coast of Russia.

2004 North Pole expeditions

Five expeditions set out for a North Pole expedition this year, all from the Russian side. Wave Vidmar to be the first American to ski solo and unsupported to the North Pole. Frédéric Chamard-Boudet to do the same for France. British Ben Saunders attempted a first solo, unsupported crossing. Danish/French duo Bettina Aller and Jean Gabriel Leynaud would ski to the pole with support and French/Finnish woman Dominick Arduin would attempt the first solo, supported female North Pole trek. None of the expeditions completed, and one perished.

An open water lead

The teams came out late and a big open water lead just off the starting point posed the first immediate problem. Three of the five expeditions took a helicopter across the opening; British Ben Saunders, American Wave Vidmar, and the Danish Bettina/Jean-Gabriel duo all opted to airlift over the 50 kms of open water off Cape Arkticheskiys coast.

Two solo skiers, French/Finnish woman Dominick and Frenchman Frederic decided to ski/paddle across the huge, 55 km semi open water area, in an attempt for a full North Pole expedition (which must start from land). An avid canoeist living in Arctic Finland, Dominick brought 10 kg of snow with her for fresh water, a canoe and a dry suit. Frederic, decided to try to ski around the lead.

A full moon

The next day, a full moon rose. A full moon causes tidal changes forcing the Arctic sea ice in motion and breaking it up. The full moon's impact is most violent near the coast. The danger time zone, peaking at the moon's full phase, in fact stretches from a few days before to a few days after. A Scientific Arctic base sank further out on the ice on March 3, the same day the teams had been flown out.

A storm

Simultaneously, a storm alert went out. The full moon and approaching storm both set the Arctic Ocean in full motion, breaking up the ice with the pans colliding in a dark, cold torrent. Several North Pole teams now reported issues with their ARGOS positioning beacon. Dominick's beacon transmitted only faint signals.

Frederic narrowly escaped death. Skiing a section of thin ice without his survival suit on (the suit slows the skier down) the ice broke and Frederic fell into the water. The skier spent 4 minutes in the freezing ocean before being able to haul himself up amidst the thin ice. A Russian chopper managed to the rescue Frederic early next morning.

The spirit of adventure

Whilst looking for Frederic, the chopper did a detour over the last known GPS position of Dominick - but found only tracks disappearing in ice rubble. A frantic search for her was organized by ExplorersWeb and the Finish community. But it was too late and Dominick was lost to the Arctic Ocean.

What followed next was a display of self-justification by some fellow explorers and most of all the outfitter, who severely delayed the rescues claiming lack of money. Lies and slander of Dominick began to appear in media and within a group of explorers, trashing Dominick post mortum.

But their words couldn't kill the integrity Dominick had clearly proved. In the end, the when's and the why's and the how's are all unimportant - including death. An expedition is nothing but a test, a miniature of your life - a mirror of yourself. Dom's final expedition lasted only a few days and she never made it to her destination. She was not famous, not striking, and not very popular. Dominick was just a brave, little French/Finnish girl who refused to compromise her goals.

Amidst all media politics, cheats and loud claims in much of today's exploration, Dom's small expedition was a big manifest to the true Spirit of Adventure.
"I want a real expedition, not this %^&* bullshit," were her last words. That's something we'll never forget.

By their performance, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage
- Determination
- Persistence
- Self reliance
- Ingenuity
- Pioneering
- Idealism
- Comradeship
- Compassion
- Respect towards competition
- Honesty

8 expeditions have been chosen best in the world of adventure in 2004.

Previous in the countdown:

5. The SpaceShipOne team for their self reliance, pioneering and ingenuity.
6. The Russian North Wall team (Mount Everest) for persistence, pioneering, courage and comradeship.
7. The Russian Extreme Project (Amin Brakk BASE jump) for pioneering, ingenuity and courage.
8. Fiona and Rosie (South Pole) for their record-breaking performance and respect for each other.

An additional 4 expeditions received a special mention award:

Edurne Pasaban and Juanito Oiarzabal (K2) - for their courage and honesty.
Henk De Velde (NW Passage) - for his battle to the bitter end.
Pavel Rezvoy (Ocean rowing) - for his power of will and refusal to retire.
Nawang Sherpa (Mount Everest) - for his determination and ground-breaking performance.