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North Pole to Svalbard ski and kayak: sea ice satellite image

Posted: May 07, 2012 07:58 pm EDT

(Correne Coetzer) Norwegian Audun Tholfsen and Estonian Timo Palo started their ski and kayak expedition from the Geographic North Pole to Svalbard on April 23 after the Barneo MI-8 helicopter dropped them near the Pole. They first had to ski north to 90 degrees before they could start skiing south.

The two mates have been out on the ice for 15 days now and reported “better terrain” lately. Some days they even travel 20 km.

But it was not always good weather. They encountered two storms and were tent bounded until they could carry on in better weather. “After the storm days the ice was much better for skiing and pulling kayaks,” they reported. “Seems that ice is younger and bit thinner now. No more such high ice ridges; near the Pole there were many of them, several meters high and it was very time consuming to cross.”

They also encountered some open water leads. In most cases they found bridges to cross them but had kayaked over one lead.

Open water

Trudy Wohlleben from Canadian Ice Service sent over the image showing the current sea ice conditions with open water near Svalbard. The team expects to reach Svalbard within two months after their departure.

Katre Palo from Timo and Audun’s home team told ExplorersWeb that the critical area is near Svalbard. “There is the problem with cooking and sleeping [on large open water]. We hope that the open water area is not very large. We will see what is going to happen with the ice.”

Audun Tholfsen and Timo Palo will not receive any resupplies in the 1000 km stretch until they set foot on Svalbard. They have a depot on Nordaustlandet (an island in the Svalbard archipelago) where they will stock up on food and fuel and continue another 400 km to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen.

Biographies courtesy of the expedition website:

Audun Tholfsen (born 1972) is a Norwegian, who is born in Lillehammer 1972. Since the time of teenager he has immersed himself in the outdoors. He worked as a white water river guide and photographer for several years. After that Audun moved further north to Spitsbergen, where worked as snowmobile guide and dog musher. Previously he has done several ski trips in Svalbard and Norway.

Together with Timo, they crossed Greenland icecap on skies. Audun spent ten months as crewmember on French sailing vessel Tara. She froze into the Arctic pack ice close to New Siberian Islands and drifted across the entire Arctic Ocean. Currently, Audun works in Longyearbyen to provide logistic solutions and field support in Arctic regions.

Timo Palo (born 1979) is an Estonian, born in Võru 1979. He is from the scenic southern-east part of Estonia. Skiing became his passion in early days already. After years of practicing biathlon and tasting of adventure sport, he is now fully concentrated to the polar regions. Working and studying in polar meteorology as a PhD student in University of Tartu, he has been participated on several scientific cruises and field work campaigns in the Arctic and lately also in Antarctica.

Timo has previously done several ski trips in Svalbard, Norway and Khibiny mountains. In 2008 he and Audun crossed Greenland ice cap. Before Timo had crossed Estonia and Hardangervidda mountain plateau in Norway. He also worked as a crewmember on board of schooner Tara during her transpolar drift. Seasonally Timo has been working in Spitsbergen on the logistic and field support in the same company as Audun do. Some years for now Timo has had a passion in outdoor photography, focusing on polar world.

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

Other links:

ExplorersWeb Expedition List

Follow Timo and Audun’s dispatches in ExWeb’s live stream.

The CIS satellite image showing open water near Svalbard, the destination of the two skiers/kayakers.
Image by Canadian Ice Service courtesy Trudy Wohlleben
Still some distance to kayak-haul and lead-paddle to reach Svalbard. The expedition is estimated to last two months.
Timo and Audun’s position on May 5.
Timo Palo
Audun Tholfsen