Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Last Stop Before the Pole

Rating – *****

                The poles are dome of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet. Thanks to global warming, polar expeditions in the Canadian arctic are getting harder and harder. Thin ice, open water, pressure ridges and polar bears are just some of the problems that explorers can face when trying to get to the North Pole. Oh, and did I mention that they’re trying this during the winter, when the arctic is almost always dark?

                This article is about the problems faced by several teams before their arctic expedition when they are waiting, packing, repacking, and stressing in the northern town of Resolute. All the adventurers in the article are waiting for their departure date in the South Camp Inn, run by Aziz “Ozzie” Kheraj. In this hotel, there are lots of people, all with their equipment and food taking up space. There is team made up of an Irishman and a 40-year-old Irish woman, who has reached the South Pole and climbed the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. There is an eight-man Indian army team with two Norwegian guides, whose polar sleds (pulks) are somewhere in either Oslo, Montreal, or Munich. The pulks only arrive five days after the ten man team was supposed to leave. And there is the Japanese man whose goal is to ski the 780 kilometres from Cape Discovery to the North Pole solo, with no resupply drops. At the end of the article, we learn that not a single expedition made it to the North Pole, due to weather, delays, and the cost of an emergency pickup should the explorer not reach the end of their trip on time.

                This article was incredible. It mentions many risks about polar expeditions, and tells stories about what happened to veteran adventurers who have returned this year. It discusses the lengths that people will go to to reduce weight, including removing buckles from boots and clothing, and removing the wrappers from countless energy bars. If there was one thing that the article taught me, it was this: the arctic is harsh, unforgiving, and desolate. This is why some people find it so amazing, and keep going back.

Pfeiff, Margo. “Last Stop Before the Pole.” Explore Winter 2012: 52–57 + 74–75.

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