North Pole Interview: Martin Murray with dog, Sky

Sky will be companion, co-worker and hiding behind me if we encounter a polar bear.

This year we have two teams who will attempt to ski to the Geographic North Pole (90ºN). Last week we talked to Sebastian Copeland, who is teaming up with Mark George. We also caught up with Martin Murray, who is teaming up with a canine mate, Sky. “He is a hard worker, who really buckles down to pull.”

A business man living in Val Rita, Ontario, Canada, Martin has been eating dry rations in shorter treks for over 10 years, and now it is time to get the North Pole done, Martin told us. He is concerned about the conditions, “not sure what to expect, how bad it will be,” but added, “I am ready, I am planning this without being scared.”

Both teams are starting from Canada, either from Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery, as determined by their pilot. Here go our talk with Martin.

Pythom/Explorersweb: Hi Martin, how are you?

Martin: Doing well, wrapping up my work duties in preparation for my absence.

How is your North Pole preparation doing?

Martin: It is going well, a bit of twist and turn but all is on schedule.

Planned start date?

Martin: Anytime after February 27 weather permitting. I am on the second flight.

Who will fly you to your start point, pick you up at the North Pole, and pick you up incase of emergency?

Martin: SDASI, (Super Dave Air Show Inc – Dave Mathieson) – Dave and his team on standby in Resolute for 60 days.


Martin: One resupply after 21 days or so depending on progress.

Estimated days on the ice?

Martin: I will have food and fuel for 50 days.

What is the cutoff date for arriving at the Pole?

Martin: First week of May, negotiable based on departure time and ice condition.

It is quite a while that you have your eye on the North Pole, am I right?

Martin: Over 10 years of eating dry rations in shorter treks! It is time to get this done. The clock is ticking. I am concerned about the conditions. Climate change is real and concerning. Not sure what to expect, how bad it will be? I have concern for the camps. As part of my safety protocol, the set up will be extremely mobile, in the absence of multiyear ice. Only the slip and tent will be out of the pulkas at night.

Usually people first ski first to the South Pole and then to the North Pole. You haven’t done the South Pole. What attacks you to rather do the North Pole?

Martin: My focus has been to get the NP done. I failed in the planning stages in 2009 and 2012. I have unfinished business, and I’m afraid of penguins!

You have trained in Iqaluit and crossed Great Slave Lake last year. What have you learned crossing the Lake alone?

Martin: The Great Slave Lake crossing was planned to find out if I should continue to pursue the NP expedition plans. I had a decision to make and wanted to know where I stood. The training in Iqaluit served its purpose. We wanted to find out if the team would hold. With a reality check of cold temperature and much more, we mutually agreed to break the partnership and remain on good terms.

Have you trained with Matty McNair and her daughter Sarah in Iqaluit? Matty is keen to share knowledge, what have you learned from her, or from both of them?

Martin: Meeting Matty and Sarah again was great! I met them in 2008 at their polar course. The knowledge transferred is great, it is a must.

Your initial plan was to ski alone, right?

Martin: Back in the days I wanted to do this solo, but with climate change and concern from my mother, I searched for a partner.

Then you had a team mate, who is not going anymore.

Martin: Ben Weber, a great guy. We did our shake-down training in Iqaluit and decided not to proceed together. I am happy that he lent his communication devices and dry suit for the expedition.

Now you have a dog as your team mate. What is his name?

Martin: His name is SKY and he is a hard worker, who really buckles down to pull.

Whose dog is it? Your’s? Matty’s?

Martin: Sky is from Page Burt and John Hinkes from Rankin Inlet. They are great people who have enormous care and concern for dogs. He is a Kivalliq Husky, the traditional breed used along the Hudson Bay coast for the last 80 years or more. The breed includes some Eskimo dog genetics, but I think is mostly from Siberian stock imported from the Western Arctic by the RCMP.

How do you do an expedition with a dog?

Martin: With a lot of patience 😉 We will pull together attached to a pulley with two knots 2 meters apart (knot one meter – pulley – one meter – knot). This way when the pulks gets stuck, I will lock the knot in the pulley and move the load forward and if Sky wants to walk faster, he will lock it and get full load.

Do you keep the dog on a leash attached to you?

Martin: Yes, the leash is a bit longer than the first knot on my side.

What will you do at leads with Sky?

Martin: I have a 10 % rule for the first three open leads and straight North for the others. I will travel 10% of my daily mileage to find safe passage, and then if I need to swim I will. The dog will be secured on the pulks and then hauled across.

What food do you carry for Sky?

Martin: Inukshuk , 32/32 1 ¾ pound with 1/4 pound of lard. I will reduce lard if Sky has issues.

Does Sky carry/pull anything?

Martin: Plans are for him to pull full load starting day 15 to 21 and 35 to 42.

Dogs eat snow for water, right?

Martin: Yes, and I will also soak his food with ½ a litre of water.

I presume Sky will also be your Polar bear watchdog.

Martin: Sky will be companion, co-worker and hiding behind me if we encounter a polar bear. He is very timid.

Anything else?

Martin: It has been a dream of mine for a long time. I have followed Tom and Tina in the early days of Explorersweb. I have read about expeditions and people going guided by the pros! A guided trip was not for me. This time I am ready, I am planning this without being scared. Wow, it is a nice feeling! Hopefully, I will bring to the expedition community a different way of travel on the Arctic Ocean. I hope to get out of there soon as possible. Knowing how the glide is at -30 /-40 I have a lot of respect for the explorers that pulled to the Pole the traditional way.

Personals please:

Family & Friends: I have three great kids and my girlfriend who I can’t keep up to on a bicycle, always eating her dust! My family is supportive and I could not do this without the commitment of my brothers and co-workers to hold the fort at the business. I learned from my friends of the Lake Abitibi crossing. They taught me the ropes and kept the sport alive.

Work: I am a partner in OK Tire and Mechanical shops in Val-Rita, Kapuskasing, Timmins and the recently acquired Longlac and a proud initiator of our OK Tire Giant Tire Repair Facility.

Hobbies: Biking, skiing, sleeping through movies, politics and news, dining at the most expensive restaurant I could find in Kapuskasing.

Favorite food/music/book/person/motto: Steak, Richard Seguin, “Dead Lucky”, I have always looked up to and trusted Justin, my twin brother, “Early bird gets the worm!”

Martin’s Website and Facebook

NEXT: Pythom/Explorersweb North Pole Interview with Sky, the Dog: “Things might get bloody”

Previous 2017:

2017 Ski North Pole Expedition List by Explorersweb/Pythom

Interview: Sebastian Copeland, North Pole attempt despite grave notes

Note: A North Pole Ski expedition covers the full distance between land (Canada/Russia/Greenland) and the Pole, no flying part/most of the route. The distance from Land to Pole is calculated in a straight line from where the skiers start. What is not added to this distance, are all the detours around high ridges, hummocks, ice blocks, rubble, thin ice, or leads (open water). Also not added, are the negative drift, and relying sleds.

The two 2017 teams will start from Canada: ice-depending, either Ward Hunt Island (775 km) or Cape Discovery (780 km) on Ellesmere Island, February 27, or soon thereafter.

Previous and Related

KK6PGW to RW0BG: Messages From Russia (Interview)

New-design Russian Amphibious Vehicle to attempt North Pole return drive

The last successful North Pole expedition, 2014

North Pole success: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen arrived at the 90ºN!

ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, “the North Pole is like going into battle”

ExWeb interview with Eric Larsen: “The North Pole is easily ten times harder than Everest or the South Pole”

Must-Watch: ’Melting: Last Race to the Pole,’ an Animal Planet show

#Arctica #NorthPole #NorthPoleSki2017