(By Correne Coetzer, translated from Russian by Galya Morrell) With the North Pole ski season about to start, veteran Russian Polar Explorer, Dmitry Shparo shares some North Pole advice with the polar community on Explorersweb.
1) Beware of polar bears.
They are everywhere now due to climate change. In 2006 when we were helping HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco to dog-sled to the North Pole we came upon two polar bears near the pole. Last year our youth expedition encountered a polar bear on the North Pole itself.
In my time, in 1979, when we skied from the Soviet shores to the Pole and later when our Soviet-Canadian Expedition transversed the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole we did not see any polar bears at all. We did not have any fear of them. Bears feed on seals. And seals are in open water. Today open water is everywhere.
2) Climate change is a reality and there is an ever increasing amount of open waters throughout the Polar Ocean.
Anti-exposure suits (drysuites) are now part of the standard equipment for an expedition in this region. Such suits weigh less than 1 kg. We buy our suits in Norway from the company Hansen Protection. Their suits are so much more comfortable and safe than what we used 10 or 20 years ago.
3) Sea ice around the North Pole drifts much faster than 50 years ago.
Of course, you can precisely reach the North Pole with the help of a GPS. But when planning your last camp before arriving to the North Pole you have to take into account that your camp's location may drift up to 20 km during one night. Explorers who go to the North Pole understand this fact quite well. But still, I would reiterate: study the ice flow charts very closely when deciding on your exact starting point and route for your expedition.
4) About air temperature.
Every year in April, since 2008 we have organized a Youth Expedition to the North Pole on Skies. Seven teenagers 16 to 18 years old representing different regions within Russia ski for 7 days starting from the Russian drifting ice station Barneo to the North Pole. The group is led by the polar explorers Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin, who previously reached the North Pole during the polar night of 2007-2008. So, in the years 2008 - 2012 the air temperature was minus 15 -18°С. And then in 2013 it was much colder during the entire expedition: minus 22-25 °С.
5) And my last advice. You must always fear the North Pole.
It is not only heavenly beautiful, not only so distant from civilisation, not only geographically unique – but it is also inherently mortally dangerous. And each person who travels to the North Pole must be constantly aware of his entire surroundings. Feel your fear. Be sure to take your emergency beacon. And always think about the possibility of retreat.
Dmitry Shparo, 1941, Ph.D.Mathematics, is the Leader and the Director of the Adventure Club in Russia. He was the leader of the first ski expedition from Russia to the North Pole (1979). In 1988, the Soviet-Canadian ski expedition under the leadership of Dmitry Shparo completed the first traverse of the Arctic ocean from Russia via the Geographic North Pole to Canada.
In 1989 Dmitry founded the Adventure Club. Since 1991, one of the main commitments of the Club is a sport rehabilitation program of people, and in particular children, with disabilities; among the activities, taking kids on a ski expedition from Barneo to the North Pole.
In 1998 Dmitry Shparo and his son Matvey become the first people to ski across the Bering Strait, dividing Asia and America.
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