Ousland and Horn Struggle with Fatigue, Thin Ice

Seventy-six days into their momentous journey, Borge Ousland and Mike Horn continue to struggle forward. A report earlier today that they are waiting for evacuation because of poor sea ice turned out not to be true, according to Lars Ebbesen, a member of Ousland’s support team.

A sturdy vessel has left Tromso, Norway to back up Horn’s own boat, the Pangea, which may not be able to enter the pack ice.

Three experienced Norwegian polar travellers  — Aleksander Gamme, Bengt Rotmo and Knut Espen Solberg — are aboard the pickup vessel and are ready to ski to them with further food. The pair have an estimated 10 days of food left.

Throughout their journey, Ousland and Horn have faced more open water and thin ice than expected. Coupled with a western ice drift since leaving the Pole, the pair has been unable to maintain their intended schedule.

In a social media post last week, Horn lamented the changing sea ice: “[It] is not only shrinking in size, but it has also become younger and thinner in recent years. This causes the ice to break up and move a lot faster than it used to, which are two of the biggest challenges we have encountered so far.”

To add to this, their spirits appear to have been ground down by open sores, swelling, broken teeth and the demands of polar travel in the dark. “What a miserable life we have here,” Horn declared recently. “Stumbling around with headlamps all day, and in the tent brushing ice out of our clothing and sleeping in a plastic bag…But we must just go on.”

Over the weekend, Horn’s daughter, Annika, noted her father’s dwindling enthusiasm. “His morale is very low,” she told the French media. “I’ve never seen him like that, in such an extreme state of fatigue.”

Ousland has likewise suffered with his feet, various open sores and extreme fatigue. “We are very tired at the end of the day, staggering around like zombies,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Ousland broke through the ice while crossing a lead. “I got wet, but luckily only outside clothing,” he said. “It’s a fragile life we live, so easy to miss the small details in the dark. We remind ourselves every day that we must be even more careful, tired as we are now.”

Lars Ebbesen insists that, “Things are under control, but this is an expedition balancing on the edge of what is at all possible…It is touch and go –- a mad dash to reach the goal.”

They hope to reach the very edge of the sea ice north of Svalbard. Their GPS tracker currently reads 84°N, still well short.