NORTH POLE EXPEDITION 2006  Days 41-45

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FOLLOW THE EXPLOITS OF MIKE HORN AND BORGE OUSLAND AS THEY NAVIGATE THE NORTH POLE

 

 

 

PROGRESS DAY CHART

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 48: COLDEST DAY SO FAR...
Fri, 10 Mar 2006 // 21:27

Quote of the Day:
'You would think that the sledges would slide well when it is cold like this, but in fact, they don't! The snow becomes dry and it feels like we are dragging the sledges over sandpaper...'

DATA LOG
Latest position : N8724'25' E9035'39'
Distance to go: 290km
Temperature: -38C (without windchill)
Wind: Northwesterly 4m/s (9mph)
Ice drift: Southwards 0.3km/hr
Days of food left: 21
Average daily distance required: 14km

Update from Mike: 'We were once again in very cold temperatures today. We walked 12 hours in -38 C (without windchill) and a northwesterly wind (about 4m/s) blowing right into our faces. My fingers can only take 8 hours in these conditions and after that they really start to suffer. They eventually came right once I got back into the tent and was able to warm them up around a hot cup of soup. We did well under these conditions as we managed to advance 23kms even with a southerly drift of 0.3 km/hr.

You would think that the sledges would slide well when it is cold like this, but in fact, they don't! The snow becomes dry and it feels like we are dragging the sledges over sandpaper. There was also a very big accumulation of snow that we had to work our way though. The only advantage in these cold temperatures is that all the open water is frozen and it is normally thick enough to walk over.

Borge is fixing the skins on his skis this evening. They are wearing out wear the ski in bending.

Hope tomorrow will be a warmer day!'

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 44: EVENTFUL WEEK ON THE ICE...
Mon, 6 Mar 2006 // 17:32

Quote of the Day:
'We've once again hit the pack ice - it's impressive, sometimes the ice is up to 5-6 metres high. It's beautiful to see!...'

DATA LOG
Latest position : N8628'59' E9420'30'
Distance to go: 392km
Temperature: -30C
Conditions: Southeast wind
Days of food left: 25
Average daily distance required: 16km (to complete expedition)

Last week was an eventful week for Mike and Borge. With the days getting lighter and ice conditions improving, they made good and steady progress in the past week, covering between 20-28km each day on the ice. After 39 days, they past the halfway mark in terms of distance covered (500km) towards their goal to be the first men to walk unassisted to the North Pole in the Arctic Winter; although it took them almost 40 days to reach this stage, Mike estimated it would take another 30 days to finish the expedition.

Although halfway was a major milestone, there was no time for celebration after suffering repeated equipment failure including tents poles and shoe soles which had broken due to the freezing cold temperatures. They had no choice but to spend a day inside the their tent making vital repairs to the equipment, in particular their skis which if irrepairable would have ended their expedition hopes: 'Usually this should not happen, it's never happened in any of my expeditions and it is a bit of a disappointment. It's like driving a car without a motor.' Mike Horn.

The days that followed bought another added danger to their expedition - close encounters with curious polar bears. The bears have come too close for comfort at times, one time coming within three metres of them, but have not shown any aggression to the duo which means they must be feeding well in their own habitat - good news for Mike and Borge!

Mike and Borge have been surprised to see so many polar bears at this latitude (N86): 'It is usual to see one or two but never in these quantities. It must be the global warming that is pushing the bears further north every year.' (See the 'Did you know?' section below for more detailed information about how global warming is affecting the polar bears.)

Whilst the durability of their ski repairs remains their biggest concern, the extreme cold is an ever-present issue that can bring devastating results. With temperatures dropping to -35C, without taking in to account the wind chill factor, the risk of frostbite is ever high on the list of dangers. The latest wind statistics shows they are experiencing easterly winds of around 5 metres per second, which is 11mph. With wind chill this equates to around -50C posing a huge risk to Mike and Borge - any exposed skin can be frozen within 30 seconds. Even activities in the tent are often impossible due to the extreme cold: 'Simple tasks can be complicated by the extreme cold of metal surfaces; even talking on the satellite phone is difficult.'

Their bodies are also feeling the effects of the recent drop in temperatures, and Mike's fingers are causing him pain, so they are both taking precautions to protect their hands and feet which are most affected.

Now on day 44, they have 392km to go with 25 days of food left, with three extra days of emergency rations just to survive if they need it. To successfully complete the expedition, Mike and Borge currently need to average 17km per day. Mike estimates they will reach the North Pole around 24-29th March. With their average daily distance this week not dipping below 20km, things are looking good.

DAY 44 UPDATE: FATIGUE KICKING IN AFTER LONG 10 HOUR DAYS...
'We headed off this morning with a covered sky and calmer easterly winds. It's was a great relief to find that the temperatures had risen to -30 degrees. We had put on all our extra clothing as we were expecting the worst, but found that the conditions were not so bad after all. Later in the day the winds actually turned to SE and died down considerably. It's always a lot more comfortable to have the winds in our backs.

It was wonderful today as we didn't need to use our headlights at all. Having visibility makes things so much easier and it means progression - it's like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel - very encouraging!

We followed many frozen leads today. They're mostly running north-south. We move more quickly and easily on this nice, even ice. It now seems we've put the leads behind us as we've once again hit the pack ice. It's impressive - sometimes the ice is up to 5-6 metres high. It's beautiful to see!

It seems that we have left the polar bears as well. We haven't seen any bears or even tracks today. I guess they finally understood that we didn't want them around after we fired the last signal flare last night. Thank goodness for that - we'll be able to sleep more comfortably tonight!!

We're starting to feel fatigue after these long days. When we walk 10 hours, there is hardly time for anything at the end of the day, other than to set up camp, brush the snow and frost from our clothing and equipment, cook up water, eat dinner and go to bed. That fills up the entire day.

Forecasts predict that the winds may come from the north for the next few days. This is not so good for us as it will mean that we'll once again have a southwards drift and winds in the face.

392 kms to go!! Our goal is getting closer!

Cheers!'

Mike



DID YOU KNOW?

Experts believe global warming is causing the ice pack to melt much faster than compared to twenty years ago. When the ice disappears early, so do the seals, which are the polar bears main source of food. From April until summer when the ice pack breaks up the seals disappear into open water, so polar bears spend their time on the ice in the Arctic winter storing up enough energy for the summer and autumn when there is little food available. With the ice melting at an increasingly quicker rate, the seals time on the ice is becoming shorter, resulting in less time for the polar bears to store up the necessary reserves. For female polar bears with offspring there is even greater risk - without enough food she will stop producing milk and her cubs will inevitably die.


INFORMATION SOURCES

WWF Polar Bear Tracker

National Wildlife Federation

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 43: BEARS EVERYWHERE!
Sun, 5 Mar 2006 // 20:25

Quote of the Day:
'These bears are beautiful, healthy beasts and are obviously not hungry, just inquisitive which is perfectly normal....'

DATA LOG
Latest position : N8614' E9509'
Distance to go: 420km
Temperature: Extremely cold, -35C
Conditions: Very strong easterly winds
Days of food left: 26

Update from Mike: 'It was another exciting day for us and probably one of the most difficult yet! We advanced 25kms with very strong easterly winds. The temperature has once again dropped. It's very, very cold and we are taking precautions to protect or hands and feet. I am taking a vasodilators and aspirin for my aching fingers. My thumb is alright, or at least it is not getting any worst at this stage, but these temperatures certainly are not helping it to improve.

The bears were everywhere today. Our friend from yesterday came to greet us in the morning and once again ripped the cover of my sledge. At one stage he was only about 3 metres away. We fired a flare to tell him politely that he was just a little too close for our liking. This made him leave. Later on, a mother with her two cubs came to visit. The cubs, being curious, came very close while she stood by watching. No aggression has been shown yet and we don't think we will be harmed in any way. These bears are beautiful, healthy beasts and are obviously not hungry, just inquisitive which is perfectly normal.

We followed a lead for two and a half hours today. It was perfectly flat and the ice was solid enough to walk on. We came across open patches of water, which are where the bears are also heading to by the looks of the numerous tracks that we passed. It amazing to see that there are so many bears at this latitude. It is usual to see one or two but never in these quantities. It must be the global warming that is pushing the bears further north every year.

We hope that the temperatures will rise again. It is virtually impossible to do anything in this extreme cold and the presence of the polar bears is not helping us at all.

We are going well. The food rations should be enough to get us to the end of our trip. Our only big worry at this stage, are the skis. Lets hope they'll hold out!!

Bye for now!'

Mike


Click here to view a photo Mike took of one curious polar bear, just metres away.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 42: TROUBLE WITH A PLAYFUL POLAR BEAR
Sat, 4 Mar 2006 // 19:35

Quote of the Day:
'The two of us were ready to go outside when something tugged hard at the tent - it had to be an unexpected visitor, and there are not so many possibilities...a polar bear was standing right outside...'

DATA LOG
Latest position : N8600'42' E96
Distance to go: 445km
Temperature: -32C
Days of food left: 27

After another good day, Mike and Borge have now reached the 86th degree of latitude, advancing 23km in ten hours (2km thanks to the drift) with ski repairs holding well. Borge explains: 'It feels great! We had an astonishing start today. The two of us were ready to go outside when something tugged hard at the tent. Mike insisted that it wasn't him - so it had to be an unexpected visitor, and there are not so many possibilities.

A polar bear was standing right outside. It had torn apart the cover on Mike's sled. You see, we fastened the sleds to the tent to anchor it last night, as well as to warn us if a bear tried to steal our food. Well, our system obviously worked perfectly this morning.

The bear withdrew a little, but soon came back. Finally I had to shoot it right in the chest from 5 metres range, with my signal gun. Only then did it retreat. It must have been a shock to be hit with great force by a flaming projectile, but it's not harmful to the bear. Evidently it wasn't bothered that much, because it kept an eye on us from a few hundred metres away.

We broke camp, packed our sleds and continued our journey northwards. I suspect we got a visitor because we camped close to a lead. Polar bears apparently follow these leads of water when they hunt.

After only 15 minutes or so, the bear came back, heading straight toward us. This time Mike shot it with the signal gun, hitting it in the back from ten twelve metres. Once again it ran off.

As if that wasn't enough, he returned to stalk us in the middle of the day, this time keeping a safer distance. He seemed more curious and playful than threatening, rolling around in the snow - but he kept following us. When he disappeared, it was evening, two hours before we called it a day. We haven't seen him after that and hope he doesn't return. Polar bears destroy equipment and they can be dangerous, too.

There are many small leads in this area. Clearly a lot of movement in the ice. We have seen seals come up to breathe in the open leads, which of course explains why the bears are here. Probably many of them. We saw the fresh tracks of a small bear and a female, as well as faeces. There are also lots of older tracks strongly indicating that we're right in the middle of one of their favoured territories.

Unfortunately we left the pepper spray behind after Mike gave us a dose in the tent a week ago. But we do have the signal gun, and a revolver as a last resort. We're hoping the polar bear that stalked us has had enough, that he's found food, and that he finds no reason to come looking for us again. Actually he didn't seem very aggressive. It was a young bear, perhaps three or four years old, with beautiful pale golden bur. Beautiful to look at - but even so I prefer to keep him at a distance. Hopefully he is more than happy to hunt seals at the edge of the ice floes. We feel safer now that we've moved away from the leads.

More news tomorrow!'

Borge and Mike

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 41: ON THE MOVE AGAIN!
Fri, 3 Mar 2006 // 16:38

Quote of the Day:
'Simple tasks can be complicated by the extreme cold of metal surfaces; even talking on the satellite phone is difficult...'

DATA LOG
Latest position : N8547'34' E92
Distance to go: 469km
Temperature: -35C
Days of food left: 28
Average daily distance required: 17km (to complete expedition)

After spending the whole of yesterday in their tent making vital repairs, Mike and Borge were pleased to be back out walking on the ice today and making good progress: 'Now we're on the move again! We've reached N8547'34" E92, after a day with good ice conditions. We walked 23 km. We encountered a couple of open leads today, but managed to cross them without having to swim. I'm thankful for that, because temperatures have dropped to -35C. I can promise you that you really notice the difference between 30 and 35 below - not so much when we're out walking, but when we're trying to do things inside the tent. Simple tasks can be complicated by the extreme cold of metal surfaces; even talking on the satellite phone is difficult.

Our ski repairs seem to be holding up pretty well...' (broken connection)

Borge and Mike


Click here to view an image of Mike pulling his seldges around some pack ice.

 

 

 

 

 




For latest news on Mike and Borge go to: www.mikehornnorthpole.com


WEB LINKS

Sign up for updates on Mike's progress on his North Pole Winter Expedition at www.mikehornnorthpole.com

Click here to view Mike & Borge's latest position on Google Earth. To download Google Earth click here ( PC and Mac OS X 10.4 only).


For further information on Mike Horn contact:
Josie Robinson
T: +44 (0)870 063 0210
E: josie.robinson@ocgroup.com



MIKE HORN PERSONAL DETAILS


Age: 39
Nationality: South African resides Switzerland
Status: Married to Cathy, two children aged 11 and 12

 

 


MIKE HORN'S PHILOSOPHY:


'The drive to go beyond our physical, mental and spiritual limits is an internal attitude that transcends global borders. It tests our personal limits and opens the way for new levels of achievement in all aspects of life. This philosophy is the driving force behind every endeavour.

Although I find myself in the most extreme circumstances, I always use caution. My philosophical approach is to live the endeavour as an expression of my being. Alone, immersed in nature, with no creature comforts, to surpass the limits imposed by man and nature itself. With faith and determination, one can embody the purest expression of this philosophy.'

 

 

 


 

 

 

ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC EXPLORATION LINKS:

 

 

Ernest Shackleton

Roald Amundsen

Scott of the Antarctic

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Nelson Kruschandl:  We're with you all the way.

 

 

 


 

 

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