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North Pole ski update: Ben Saunders ready to go; RAF evacuated

Posted: Mar 15, 2011 09:07 am EDT

(By Correne Coetzer) If the current weather window holds Ben Saunders will be on the ice in the next 24 hours for his third attempt to speed ski from Canada to North Pole. He says he is feeling more confident and better prepared than ever.

The RAF team has decided to abort their attempt to the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole due to frostbite.

Canada to Geographic North Pole (90°N)
Unassisted, Unsupported
Ben Saunders solo, UK

Ben has been in Resolute Bay for the past 5 days packing, checking and testing. The weight of the sled effectively dictates his speed Ben says and he has become pretty much obsessed with saving weight.

In his latest blog Ben says, Im genuinely keen to get going, and Im feeling more confident and better prepared than ever. I also know that once Im through the shock of the first few days, and I start settling into a routine, there will be times when I wouldnt trade places with anyone else in the world.

Life in Resolute seems to revolve around two thing; the weather, and meal times, he says in his blog. In a warm -33°C Ben went for a photo shoot with his photographer and filmmaker.

Ben Saunders - Living on Ice from Ben Saunders on Vimeo.

1996 Position of the Magnetic North Pole
(78° 35'42.00"N, 104° 11'54.00"W)
Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes (UK, RAF)

The RAF team has decided to be evacuated, reported the team on March 13. This decision was not taken lightly and was made because Jules had sustained cold injuries to his thumb and a number of fingers on his right hand. Although not severe at this stage, if they had refrozen the consequences would have been very different.

Medical advice has been sought since we arrived back in Resolute Bay and confirmed that our initial treatment and the decision, due to concerns over the injury worsening, not to continue was supported.

This decision clearly and unfortunately signifies the end of any further activities in Northern Canada for us this year. Although the correct decision was made, the disappointment and dissatisfaction with our circumstances is presently hard to describe.

They will return to the UK and start the process of planning and rescheduling another expedition to attempt to ski to the Geographic North Pole either in 2012 or 2013.

A few days before they stopped, the team reported to negotiate through rubble ice or a boulder field as they called it. It stretched for many miles. We took it in turns to lead, picking the best route we could fathom, it wasn't easy.

Eventually it made way for flatter ice where they could make better miles. But we are governed by the sun as we are still early in the season with most Magnetic North Pole trips taking place in April. But slow and steady has to be the name of the game.

Last reported position: 74.4959N, 95.5640W

Catlin Arctic Survey

The Catlin Arctic Survey is back on the ice again. A team of four skiers will be travelling up to 350 miles (560 km) across the Arctic Sea Ice during March to May.

Their plan according to their website:
Phase 1: a short transect across Prince Gustav Adolf Sea towards the Catlin Ice Base in Deer Bay. Phase 2: a trek longer from near the Geographic North Pole to Greenland. Their mission is to gather oceanographic and ice data for Dr Boxall and the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK. They will be assisted with resupplies.

Ski Team:
Ann Daniels (UK) co-leader third Catlin Arctic Survey.
Tyler Fish (USA) co-leader
Adrian McCallum (Australia) - Scientist
Phil Coates (UK) - cameraman

The temporary Ice Base will be off the western coast of Ellef Ringnes Island in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. The scientists will undertake on-site experiments during the Spring season.

Ed Note: Check in again for an interview with Eric Philips about his North Pole and South Pole plans.


Ben Saunders (UK, solo) blog

Catlin Arctic Survey
Jules Weekes and Matt Stowers (UK) RAF Northern Exposure 2011 team; daily updates and map
Michele Pontrandolfo (Italy, solo), blog
Michele Pontrandolfo (Italy, solo), homepage
Pat Falvey and Clare OLeary (Ireland)

Other links:

Barneo Ice Camp
Canada Weather Office satellite image

CONTACT 5 expedition technology
CONTACT Augmented route map
HumanEdgeTech expedition technology

Polar rules of Adventure
What is solo?


Jules Weekes and Matt Stowers tent exposed to the Arctic elements.
courtesy RAF Northern Exposure 2011 (sent over Contact 5), SOURCE