Helicopter Crash Forces British Explorer to Abandon North Pole Trek

British explorer Hannah McKeand, a veteran polar guide and former world record holder, has abandoned her current expedition in the Russian Arctic. ”


Hannah McKeand has skied to the South Pole six times, more than anyone else on the planet. In 2006, her solo, unsupported journey, lasting 39 days 9 hours and 33 minutes, set a speed record at the time.

This year Hannah, now a polar guide, had planned to partner with Canadian client Dongsheng Liu on a 970 kilometre trek to the North Pole from the Russian side. The pair had flown by helicopter to a weather station on Golomyanny Island on Saturday. Soon after dropping the pair on the remote island, the helicopter crashed while attempting to land at Cape Arctic. The helicopter suffered severe damage, but fortunately all six occupants, including four tourists, survived.

While Hannah and Dongsheng weren’t involved in the disaster, the accident forced them to abandon their trek. According to fellow guide and explorer Sarah McNair-Landy, who has skied to both poles several times herself, one of the many challenges of this route is the narrow window between the first sunrise on the north coast of Severnaya Zemlya in late February and the end of flying operations on the Arctic Ocean on April 24. This gave the pair at most 60 days to ski almost 1000 kilometres over fractured ice and around sections of open water.

The helicopter still had to shuttle Hannah and Dongsheng from the weather station to their starting point. The crash meant waiting at least a week before a replacement helicopter would arrive.

Also, the most badly injured person on the helicopter was to play a key role as the Russian interface between the expedition and the air support that they might need.

The delay and logistical setback forced them to abort the expedition.

On Tuesday, the pair managed to get picked up by a plane and moved south to Khatanga, one of the northernmost inhabited localities in Russia. Here they will wait to catch the next chartered flight south.

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