The Running Horse in Mayfair hosted the North Pole 16 expedition launch party last Friday evening, at which we all wished the team the best of luck before they set off on their incredible journey. The evening hosted by team Chase saw invited guests enjoying Great Chase cocktails and GB&T’s in the warmth of the Running Horse before a few essential speeches took place.
Seasoned explorer Mark Wood took the opportunity to announce the new route for the expedition – ‘Heading into the North Pole in late March will give us minimal time to cross over 470 nautical miles of floating sea ice to the Canadian coast. The record for this is 38 days and we have 35 days to complete our journey so we will need to operate extremely well as a team and remain focused throughout the journey to give us a fighting chance of succeeding. We have the realisation and experience to keep pushing – “Always a Little further”.’
‘As you know this journey will document climate change and its effect on our planet through photographs, daily updates from ice and a documentary. In addition, we would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness and funds for our chosen charity – Hire a Hero – supporting all ex-military personal.’
In 2014 we planned to ski unsupported and unaided from the Canadian coast line to the Geographic North Pole. The airline company who organise the extractions at the North Pole, along with our safety on route, advised us that the ice was extremely unpredictable and too difficult to judge for them to organise a pick up. In short we could not consider this route as it could put other lives at risk. We then turned to Russia which is the only other option as we wanted to leave from the coast. So we worked extensively with the Russian logistic team on an ambitious journey to the North Pole from the Russian coast line - unsupported and unaided. The planning and negotiations have been complex and extremely time consuming. In the last few weeks, with our start date looming, we were then hit by two big factors;
1. The satellite images of the ice around the coast are extremely weak - open areas of ocean surrounded by ice that is only two years old. We did anticipate this though and were preparing to face these obstacles.
2. Our group visa in the final hours was refused by the Russian government with no reason given - we can only speculate; but in the end as explorers with neutral political views we have to respect this decision.
Our extensive experience in the Polar Regions allows us to then reassess the risks to keep the spirit of the expedition alive. There is now only one option left, the one we were dreading, that and ironically allows us to work with both the Russian and Canadian logistic teams. Our aim for the expedition has always been to cross the Arctic Ocean this unforgiving, unstable area of our planet to form an honest documentary that will bring the viewer into the expedition with us as the “The Fourth Member of the team”
New Mission 16
On April 1st 2016 we will fly across the Arctic Ocean from Spitsbergen - a Norwegian archipelago on the ocean to a Russian ice station called Barneo roughly calculated as 30 Nautical miles from the Geographic North Pole. From here we will fly in a long range helicopter to be dropped off at the North Pole itself. Leaving civilisation behind we will then head South towards the coast line of Canada the Canadians cannot land on the ocean after the 5th May as the ice will be too thin so we will have only 35 days to cover over 470 Nautical miles of floating sea ice. Our target will be to reach Ward Hunt Island which has a small remote run way on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Only a hand full of teams in history have covered this reversed route and the fastest time has been 38 days. As a documentary polar exploration team we won’t be racing or trying to break records it’s not within us to do this. We will seize the opportunity that we are left with to capture our moment on ice the change in world climate has dictated the expedition we are allowed to do without risking the lives of others. Two years ago the expedition was named "A Race Against Time" with everything stacked against us these words now bring on new meanings. This North Pole Race Against Time expedition involves the only team in the world this year that will attempt to cross the Arctic ocean, unsupported and unaided your support is vital. To follow the journey and to support us by supporting our chosen military charity HIRE A HERO please go to; www.northpole16.com
5 major issues with heading from the North Pole to South to Canada;
1. Freezing temperatures will help our crossing on hard ice but as the weeks pass the temperatures will get warmer which will turn the ice to slush and create open stretches of exposed ocean (open leads).
2. Open leads will mean the team might have to enter the water and swim across to the next expanse of hard ice. We will then pull the sledges across the water to continue in a straight line.
3. We will follow the ocean drift which is good but the navigation needs to be spot on as the team may drift East or West - taking us miles of course.
4. Polar bears are a big problem when the ice melts as this is their hunting period for mainly seals - they are the only predator on the planet that has been known to actively hunt human beings. We need to stay alert throughout the journey, especially at night when they could eat our food, trash our equipment and then think about us!
5. Time is against us - in reality we would ideally require a further 10 to 15 days to be comfortably in with a fighting chance of reaching the coast line. We aim to move slowly and directly as a team, this is a calculated journey to get us as far as possible, our timings and speed will change from day to day due to the environment.
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