In the early months of 2014, polar explorers Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters set out across the frozen Arctic ocean to reach the North Pole – a 500 mile (appoximately 805km) journey across some of the bleakest, harshest landscape this world has to offer.
Each towing 150kg sleds full of the essential gear to get them there, including a shotgun in case of curious polar bears, they endured freezing waters, rugged terrain, and impossibly changeable conditions to finish the grueling trek in 53 days.
Their recently published book ‘On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic‘ is their story about what many expect to be the very last unaided and unsupported trek across the frozen wastelands of the Arctic ocean to the North Pole.
— I’ve read plenty of articles where someone has done a trek to the North Pole, South Pole, Everest etc., and I STILL can’t figure out how they do it. Give me a cold beer on a warm beach any day! 🙂
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The team packed two sleds full of gear, each weighing 317 pounds. The shotgun saved their lives on day five when they used it to scare off a mother and cub pair of polar bears.
The going was so rough at the start that they covered less than seven miles in those first five days.
Broken up sheets of ice crash into each other, forming massive hard to cross obstacles.
They’d have to decide whether it’d be better to take hours going around a massive obstacle or to try and clamber over it.
“You’re just constantly faced with these two bad decisions, and oftentimes we would remind ourselves out loud: be decisive, confident, and safe,” Larsen said at a recent talk. “Because at this point, even a bad decision is better than no decision.”
Temperatures of 30 to 40 below were common, with howling storms and fierce winds making things even colder.
Every article of clothing would freeze as it got wet from snow or even the moisture from breath.
“If you want to know what life is like on a major polar expedition, here’s what you do … go home tonight, fill your bathtub up with ice water, sit in it for about 12 hours, and stare at a white sheet of paper,” Larsen said.
Whiteouts, with snow and wind making it impossible to see, mean navigation is incredibly difficult.
On lucky days, they’d hit a flat patch of ice that would allow them to ski for several hours.
But Larsen says these patches are much rarer now than on his two previous expeditions to the Pole.
At night, they’d huddle in a tent, using social media on their satellite phones to keep up with those following the expedition (often falling asleep mid-tweet, Larsen says).
On the last day, they hit open water three-quarters of a mile from the Pole. They had to swim, pulling the sleds behind, and then make up for the distance they’d drifted.
In a way, the end was “anticlimactic,” says Larsen, since you can’t sit and celebrate “at the Pole” — you’re constantly drifting south. They called for a flight out and set up camp.
“As we flew off I looked out the window at all that ice and at this stunning environment that I’ve come to know so well over the past 10 years and that I have a profound respect for — it is such a unique place, the Arctic Ocean, a place like no other,” he said during his talk.
Story courtesy of Businessinsider
All pics courtesy of Eric Larsen