Arctic wrap-up: North Pole ski ain’t over yet; 100 years ago Scott’s men pretend South Pole ain’t over yet

Posted: Mar 19, 2012 01:05 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) On the North Pole it ain’t over till the Norwegians do it. Norwegian speed skiers, Mads Agerup and Rune Midtgaard arrived in Resolute Bay over the weekend and flew yesterday via Eureka Weather Station and Cape Discovery. The plane picked up the Irish and Japanese teams and flew them back to Resolute.

Yasu Ogita explained why he turned back. British Mark Wood, who wants to ski from 90°N to Canada, talks to Explorersweb about difficult decisions that lie ahead this week.

Hundred years ago Scott wrote in his diary no human being could face what they have to endure. Team mates Bowers and Wilson were still confident of getting through, or pretend to be, Scott added, but he is not sure if they would.

Mads Agerup and Rune Midtgaard

Over the weekend the team arrived in Resolute Bay where they have been packing and fine-tuning their gear. They talked strategy with weather and ice experts and the pilots. Their home team reported, “A series of big storms have played havoc with the ice and made the start unpredictable. There are two places to choose from for the start; Ward Hunt and Cape Discovery. Ward is a bit to the east and a bit further north. But the last Satellite images suggest Discovery is the best bet.”

At Eureka Weather Station where they had stopped to refuel, the weather was great, -35°C and totally clear, reported Mads and Rune to their home team. “On the approach to Eureka they flew over a group of wolfs. Hopefully the last spices of wild animals they will encounter.”

The home team is waiting for news about their start.

Yasu Ogita

Yasu was picked up by the plane that flew the Norwegians in.

Yasu said he aborted because of “the rapid deterioration of the natural environment”. He said each day that passed the situation got worse. The blizzards brought some countless leads. He encountered thin ice and pressure ridges. Progress was steady though slow and time to reach 90°N was running out, he said as Barneo is closing down on April 22. Weather permitting it is the last pick up date for the NP skiers.

He added that it was a tough decision for him and his home team. Yasu said he is in a fairly healthy condition.

Mike O’Shea and Clare O’Leary

The Irish home team reported they have been safely picked after they had to wait for the plane as it was grounded by a blizzard. The pilot brought a surprise from Eureka Weather Station, a lunch pack and bottles of Guinness, along with a St Patrick’s Day green hat. Ireland celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday.

Mark Wood

“This is going to the last week before I set off so I am thinking of alternatives unfortunately,” says Mark Wood to Explorersweb. “Everything is in place as in flight in to the pole, money to cover a pick up, global rescue insurance, etc,” but he adds, he is still trying to cover extraction / non emergency evacuation costs which are proving difficult. “I am still looking for the funds and have a few days left on this.”

Mark tells about a Plan B, but this he will confirm later this week. It will involve his schools program that he started with during his South Pole expedition, as well as some climate and environmental work.

Regarding the teams who have been bought off the ice, Mark says to Explorersweb, “I am saddened by this for them. I know how dam difficult it is to find support / funding and then to do an extremely difficult journey which is against Mother Nature. Very sad for them all. It’s also difficult to bounce back from this as it costs so much to do - they need to work hard for future years to try again. Not any people even consider a journey like this so they should feel proud of even the attempt. Hold your heads high and feel proud.”

Indian Army

Leader Anand Swaroop told Explorersweb they will definitely try to go again next year.

Antarctica 100 years ago

Robert Falcon Scott wrote in his diary:

Sunday, March 18.— To-day, lunch, we are 21 miles from the depot. Ill fortune presses, but better may come.

We have had more wind and drift from ahead yesterday; had to stop marching; wind N.W., force 4, temp. -35°. No human being could face it, and we are worn out

My right foot has gone, nearly all the toes—two days ago I was proud possessor of best feet. These are the steps of my downfall.

Like an ass I mixed a small spoonful of curry powder with my melted pemmican—it gave me violent indigestion. I lay awake and in pain all night; woke and felt done on the march; foot went and I didn't know it. A very small measure of neglect and have a foot which is not pleasant to contemplate.

Bowers takes first place in condition, but there is not much to choose after all. The others are still confident of getting through—or pretend to be—I don't know!

We have the last half fill of oil in our primus and a very small quantity of spirit—this alone between us and thirst. The wind is fair for the moment, and that is perhaps a fact to help. The mileage would have seemed ridiculously small on our outward journey.

Monday, March 19.—Lunch. We camped with difficulty last night, and were dreadfully cold till after our supper of cold pemmican and biscuit and a half a pannikin of cocoa cooked over the spirit. Then, contrary to expectation, we got warm and all slept well.

To-day we started in the usual dragging manner. Sledge dreadfully heavy. We are 15 1/2 miles from the depot and ought to get there in three days. What progress!

We have two days' food but barely a day's fuel.

All our feet are getting bad—Wilson's best, my right foot worst, left all right. There is no chance to nurse one's feet till we can get hot food into us. Amputation is the least I can hope for now, but will the trouble spread? That is the serious question.

The weather doesn't give us a chance—the wind from N. to N.W. and -40° temp, to-day.

The British polar team with Robert Falcon Scott as leader set off from Cape Evans on November 1, 1911 on their quest to discover the South Pole. The polar party who arrived at the already discovered South Pole on January 17, 1912 was Henry R. Bowers, Edward A. Wilson, Lawrence E.G. (Titus) Oates and Edgar Evans (Evans died on the way back, February 17, 1912 and Oates a month later).

Links to 2012 Arctic expedition teams:
Canada (Cape Discovery) to North Pole 90°N
Yasunaga Ogita – Japan (solo, unsupported, unsupplied)
Mads Agerup and Rune Midtgaard – Norway (unsupported, unsupplied)
Mike O'Shea and Clare O'Leary - Ireland (supplied)
Indian Army and Norwegian/Newland guides Ivar Hoel, Bjorn Moa (supplied)

Mark Wood - UK (North Pole to Cape Discovery / Canada)

Weather links courtesy of Canadian Ice Service:
The Arctic Weather products link on the Canadian Ice Service IPY Legacy page

Two-day sea ice drifts for the whole Arctic Ocean on the Danish DMI website

ENVISAT ASAR images on the Polarview website

Other weather links:
Canadian Ice Service

Canada Weather Office satellite image

NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

University of Illinois cryosphere images

Wayne Davidson’s Extremely High Horizon Refraction

Other links
Polar Adventure Rules and Definitions
Polar Statistics

Mads Agerup (born 1961) and Rune Midtgaard (born 1963) are about to start their speed attempt from Canada (Cape Discovery) to the North Pole. Cut-off date for pick up is April 22. Distance 780 km. The image, leaving home last week.
courtesy Mads Agerup and Rune Midtgaard, SOURCE
Clare, Mike and Yasu at Eureka before drop off.
Image by Mandy Wallgirl
Mark Wood to NP teams who have aborted this year's attempt: "Hold your heads high and feel proud."
courtesy Mark Wood