Arctic wrap-up: I feel fortunate to have succeeded when there's so many odds against us there at the end.

Posted: May 07, 2009 01:00 pm EDT

(ThePoles.com, updated May 28) John Huston posted some thoughts and facts about their last days on the North Pole ice. Solo Italian, Michele Pontrandolfo reached the 1996 position of the Magnetic NP successfully. Arnaud and Charles experienced negative drift. And Vicaar sent their seasons end report to ExWeb.

Unsupported, Unassisted (90°N)

John Huston and Tyler Fish (USA); Ward Hunt Start

They were still in Oslo. John said he and Tyler have started to fatten up a little bit and were warm without having to work. I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt - that feels so nice to be warm without having to work. But my hands are bit tingly, and so are my quadriceps.

Here goes Johns account: Well it has been what Tyler and I can safely say it's been one of the most intense weeks of our lives. Last Saturday [25 April], although the days are quite blurry, we arrived at our destination of the expedition the North Pole at 5:30 pm CST, almost exactly 10 hours before our April 26th deadline of being picked up at the North Pole.

The last 66 hours, or roughly 4 days of the expedition, Tyler and I slept only 3 hours. What had happened, which is still quite emotional to think about, is that around day April 21st, Day 51 or 52 of the expedition, Tyler and I realized that the southerly drift of 6 to 8 nautical miles per 24 hours was just too much for our current travel schedule and that we needed to do something extreme if we were going to succeed in our mission of becoming the first Americans to ski unsupported to the North Pole.

So, after a whole lot of deliberation, quite a bit of stress and a little bit of fear of failure which always comes with expeditions and the kind of "do or die" moments on expeditions as that moment was, Tyler and I decided to travel for 12 hours, put up the tent and then sleep for 1 hour and have a meal and then about 4 hours later continue on our way toward the North Pole. So that's roughly 12 hours of travel and 3 or 4 hours in the tent with only 1 of those hours sleeping.

Our food resources, which we had rationed just perfectly, held out and we were actually able to up our calorie intake to 10,000 calories per 24 hours for those last few days.

Our fuel situation, which we were worried about the entire expedition; fuel is our lifeblood, without fuel we can't cook and we can't turn snow into water. Our fuel turned out just perfect as well. We reached the North Pole with over 1 liter of fuel left, which is roughly 2 days of fuel.

Knowing that April 26th was the deadline because of the Russian company who operates an airstrip near the North Pole during the month of April, we were in communication with this logistics base the entire race for the last week.

They knew our position and if we had failed to reach the Pole they would pick us up at the location we had reach by April 26, short of the North Pole.

Not sleeping was a huge challenge, especially for Tyler whose body kind of shuts down at 10:00pm to 2:00pm everyday. So, it's safe to say that both Tyler and I did some sleepwalking, although very safely.

We were looking out for each other quite closely during those last intense 66 hours to make sure that we felt safe and that the decisions we were making were well thought out and not impacted by sleep deprivation.

We reach the North Pole exhausted and without enough energy for a jubilant celebration. In fact the moment didn't warrant such a celebration in that we were more so awestruck and humbled by the power of the Arctic Ocean and the immense energy output it took every single day, culminating in 66 hours with only 3 hours of sleep in order to race the drift to reach the North Pole.

It's hard to describe all the emotions coming together at that point that are still affecting us. But I think humility and I think a bit optimism that we are able to reflect upon our strategy successfully. It's an extraordinarily proud moment. I feel fortunate to have succeeded when there's so many odds against us there at the end.

Unsupported/Unassisted Magnetic North Pole; 1996 position (78°35'42"N, 104°11'54"W)

Michele Pontrandolfo (Italy)

Michele notified ExplorerWeb that he has reached his destination successfully. (Ed note May 28, 2009: During the expedition Michele was evacuated because of medical reasons. After treatment he continued where he stopped. See here)

North Pole (90°N) to Greenland

Arnaud Tortel (guide) and Charles Hedrich (France)

Their home teams update on 5 May:

Charles and Arnaud are still fine, they're physically OK yet their adventure is colossal. The pulkas tend to be lighter, though they still weight about 115/120 kilos.

The weather is completely incredible. The temperatures have been positive for 3 days whereas - 15 or - 20° would be a fair average for early May: consequently, the pack-ice is mellow and full of water. Crossing 500 m wide water channels is exhausting for their arms forced to paddle. The Arctic specialist Arnaud remains astonished by the conditions: he's never seen the pack-ice like this.

Most of all, the wind is a hurdle: blowing from the South - another abnormal fact - it pushes our adventurers towards...the North Pole! Unfortunately, the weather forecast is rather bad... A wild fight against renewable energies!

Charles and Arnaud are now about 300 km away from the Pole.
Position: 87°11'N, 30°W

Barneo Ice Station

VICAAR sent their Barneo season-end report to ExplorersWeb:

Dear Friends, we are glad to inform you, that expeditionary season at our Ice Base Barneo is finished. Despite all the problems, our troublesome time might bring, all went smooth and more or less painless.

We already reported on the events, taking place at and around Barneo on the first half of April. The latter half of the month was as live as the former one if not more.

The main feature of the late April was increased drift. Generally, it became slightly warmer but windier, which resulted in stronger south-west motion of the ice.

This made a selection of the starting point for ski expeditions a tricky thing. We did not want a return of the last year situation, when some skiers could not make it to the pole in time due to strong counter drift.

On the other hand, in this season favourable drift helped some groups to make 'last degree' in four, even in three days, as Doug Stoup or Borge Ousland did, for example.

Among other exciting events we should mention a celebration of Russian Easter, with guests, bringing the sacred fire from Jerusalem.

Victorinox expedition from Canada, including two skiers, John Huston and Tyler Fish, reached the Pole at the very last day before Barneo was closed, so we could pick them up and take to Longyearbyen on our last plane from the Ice Base. That made them push hard to get to the Pole just in time.

This year we had a rich program, organized by Rick Sweitzer and devoted to 100-year anniversary of the Robert Peary's Pole achievement. This program included number of events, among them celebration and reception at the Pole, where one of participants was a Peary's descendant. Two other ski expeditions from Canada headed to the Pole as part of Peary Henson Centennial Program. Groups led by Lonnie Dupre and Keith Heger made it on April 25th and 26th and were picked up by MI-8 helicopter at the last day of Barneo operation.

And the last, but not least record has been registered this year. A team of Russian motorists on two specially designed cars, equipped with low pressure tires, for the first time in history could reach the North Pole [90°N] from Cape Arktichesky.

Now, as April is over, allow us to congratulate all the friends and partners with successful season, if not in terms of money, then from the good relationships point of view. We promise you to keep building Barneo every year, and do our best for it to remain a warm island in the great Arctic Ocean.

Links to Arctic 2009 expeditions

Unsupported, Unassisted Geographic North Pole
John Huston and Tyler Fish (USA) - Victorinox North Pole '09 Expedition

Unsupported, Assisted Geographic North Pole
Lonnie Dupre (USA), Max Chaya (Lebanon) and Stuart Smith (USA) Peary-Henson Centennial North Pole Expedition 2009
Max Chayas blog
Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley (UK) Catlin Arctic Survey Expedition

Unsupported/Unassisted Magnetic North Pole (1996 position)
Michele Pontrandolfo (Italy)

Non-land start, Supported, Assisted Geographic North Pole
Keith Heger (USA) and Sebastian Copeland (France/USA) Peary-Henson Centennial North Pole Expedition 2009; last 400 miles

North Pole (90°N) to Greenland
Charles Hedrichs website
Arnaud Tortel (guide) and Charles Hedrich (France); Blog in French

Barneo Ice Station

Last Degree North Pole
Stefan Nestler (Germany) with guide Thomas Ulrich (Switserland) and team
Eric Philips (Australia, guide) and Michael Archer (New Zealand)
Kevin Dempsey (Ireland) with guide, Jason De Carteret (UK) and team
Lance Ranger with guide, Jason De Carteret (UK) and team
Northwest Passage / Polar Explorers
Northwest Passage / Polar Explorers dogsled expedition
Borge Ousland and team
Doug Stoup and team
Christina Franco (Italy/UK)
Meagan McGrath (Canada)
#Polar






John and Tyler at the North Pole. So, after a whole lot of deliberation, quite a bit of stress and a little bit of fear of failure which always comes with expeditions and the kind of "do or die" moments on expeditions as that moment was, Tyler and I decided to travel for 12 hours, put up the tent and then sleep for 1 hour and have a meal and then about 4 hours later continue on our way toward the North Pole. Image courtesy of forwardexpeditions.com (click to enlarge)
VICAAR (2009 Arctic season): A team of Russian motorists on two specially designed cars, equipped with low pressure tires, for the first time in history could reach the North Pole [90°N] from Cape Arktichesky.
courtesy yemelya.ru, SOURCE
Among other exciting events [at Barneo] we should mention a celebration of Russian Easter, with guests, bringing the sacred fire from Jerusalem. Image courtesy of barneo.ru.

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