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Reboot of the Dark Ice Project

Poles

British polar adventurer Alex Hibbert returns with his ambitious Dark Ice Project

British Polar adventurer Alex Hibbert (31) has re-launched his ‘Dark Ice Project’ with a ‘show of concept’ journey in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Hibbert started his polar career in 2008 when he and George Bullard completed a 1374 mile unsupported journey across the Greenland icecap.

In 2012 Hibbert conceived the ‘Dark Ice Project’, an expedition to reach the Geographic North Pole from Qaanaaq, North Western Greenland in winter (Hence ‘Dark Ice’). Phase One would consist of man hauling supplies to lay as depots along the Nares Strait until reaching the Lincoln Sea, then returning to Qaanaaq. A year later in Phase Two the journey would retrace these steps and push onwards to the North Pole, returning along the same route. An ambitious plan requiring 300 days of travel over more than two years.

In late 2012 the first phase was aborted however, due to Hibbert’s teammate suffering a hernia early into the journey. Returning in 2013 with a new four-man team and a plan to instead lay depots by boat, the expedition was again rebuffed, this time due to poor ice conditions in the Nares Strait.

Hibbert has not given up on the project, however, and in July of 2017 attracted crowd funding (Indiegogo.com) to modify and re-launch the expedition once more. This time he is working with trusted past teammates George Bullard and James Wheeldon. The approach is somewhat different, and has an emphasis on environmental data collection (which will be made open access). Taken from the team’s crowd funding page, the latest plan is as follows:

• Boat. Launching from some of the northernmost shores of land anywhere on Earth (exact location is currently under wraps), the team will travel north in a modified science craft through the last weeks prior to the onslaught of the winter freeze-up.

• Drift. Using special equipment, they will set up a floating, drifting headquarters on the dynamic sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. This phase will allow for many weeks of the most ambitious scientific work. All will occur in the darkness of polar winter.

• Ski. Once in position and taking into account weather, drift and dozens of other factors, the Dark Ice team then take to skis and complete the final few hundred miles across pressure ridges and open water to the North Pole. Theirs will be the first to reach the North Pole in true winter conditions and without resupplies. They will have lightweight science instruments with them in order to continue their work and widen the sphere of discovery.

In preparation for this journey the team left the UK, headed for Yellowknife (Canada), on January 8th, 2018. Their intention is to perform a ‘dress rehearsal’ of new routines, scientific data collection and filming, over a route of approximately 500 miles.

According to latest updates on social media, and after some delay with equipment going missing in transit, the team left Yellowknife on January 15th. As of the 21st January the team, heading North East, have hauled 170 km over 6 days, with temperatures below -30 degrees centigrade. With the planned route to the West apparently blocked, the intention is to head North and ski a loop across the Barren Grounds of the Northwest Territories, returning in a few weeks time.

Whilst further details on the ‘Dark Ice Project’ are yet to be released, this is an exciting development in an ambitious polar project.

In 2006 the Norwegian and South African duo, Børge Ousland and Mike Horn, attempted the North Pole in Winter, unassisted, unsupported; starting January 22 and arrived at the North Pole March 23; after 61 days on the ice and only two days after sunrise/equinox. They did it unassisted, unsupported by pulling all their food, fuel and gear with them from the start at Cape Arktichesky.

The Russians, Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin, started their Winter expedition on December 22, 2007, the day of winter solstice, from the Arktichesky Cape. They reached the GNP on March 14, 2008, after 84 days of traveling and one week before sunrise, the beginning of the Polar Day. They received one resupply by air.

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Previous/Links:

ExWeb interview Alex Hibbert and Justin Miles: two-phase winter Arctic expedition

North Pole: Alex Hibbert's Dark Ice Project continuing in 2013-14

Alex Hibbert’s Winter North Pole project kicks off

Alex Hibbert’s Winter North Pole project cancelled

Indiegogo crowding funding - Dark Ice Project

Dark Ice Project website

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer with a PhD in Exercise Science. He lives in the UK and has also written for Rock and Ice, Outside, UK Climbing etc. He recently led a 634km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. See more at www.ashrouten.com.

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