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Ousland got a polar heroes welcome

Posted: Oct 24, 2010 08:58 am EDT

A couple of hundred people greeted Ousland and Thorleifsson as they sailed in to the Fram Museum in Oslo Saturday. Explorersweb Jon Amtrup caught up with Ousland for an interview.

Børge Ousland, expedition leader, and Thorleif Thorleifsson, captain on Northern Passage, was the core crew as their 31 feet foldable trimaran made its way through the Northeast and Northwest Passage this summer. They had several different crews from various nations along the way. They made it to Pond Inlet, the town you check in and out of for the Northwest Passage after the young Russian crew on Peter 1st. But Ousland and his men pushed on through the Atlantic to make sure they crossed their wake before the Russians and to complete their circumnavigation around the North Pole in one season. Peter 1st crossed their own course a week later, and both teams can path themselves on the back for a trip well done.

ExWeb: Congratulations with this yet another great adventure. How does it feel to be back in Oslo four months after you left, and how did you perceive your chances for success before you left?

Ousland: We thought we had a good plan, and I can not say it enough times that planning is the key to success on such a trip. We were a week late in to Point Barrow because of all the headwinds and calm weather, but we won it back and when we reached Pond Inlet, we were two days ahead of schedule. It was all the headwind in the northwest Passage that created problems

Sometimes along the way you wonder how smart this really is, but thats thoughts that always hit you when you are trying to lead the way and do something that no one else has done before. In the end our plan stood up to the test.

ExWeb: What was the hardest part, mentally and physical, of the journey?

Ousland: The hardest part wasnt the ice. We had very good satellite information as we worked with Radarsat in Canada. That made us able to select safe routes through the ice belt, and this worked very well. For someone who is accustomed to pulling sleighs day in and day out it was frustrating to sit on a boat so long without being able to go anywhere. Since we constantly had to chase on to get through before the ice closed for the winter, we were hardly on dry land along the way, and it is a long time to sit for months in such a small boat.

ExWeb: How was it two compete/sail together with Peter 1st?

Ousland: It was a friendly relationship with Peter 1, and we had good contact where we met, and we helped each other repeatedly. The differences were quite large when it comes to type of vessel we used and number of people. Our boat is a 31 feet trimaran and we sailed almost the whole way. We had only a 10 hp outboard motor and we were a very environmental friendly expedition, one of the most environmentally friendly who have traveled in these waters. We also have a clear focus on climate change, and one of the main objectives for the expedition is to show how much the ice is retreating. Through all my expeditions seen how much thinner the ice has become. Our expedition is a confirmation of what scientists describe, but a lot more visual example.

ExWeb: Would this trip in the yacht you choose been possible without a weather router?

Ousland: Yes, this boat can withstand a storm. Mike Horn has used it over both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean before, but it is clear there is an advantage to be able to hide from the storm when you know they come. We had gales many times and endured it well.

ExWeb: How did the boat stand up to the trip?

Ousland: The boat worked really well. We were a little too heavily loaded to take full advantage of the potential speed in a trimaran, but when the wind was good there was no trouble sailing from Peter 1. When the wind was not good or there was no wind, they could use their powerful engines.

ExWeb: How do you see the future for both commercial and leisure shipping in the area in light of the environmental changes?

Ousland: I think we're going to see a large increase in the number of boats wishing to sail through the Northeast and the Northwest Passage. If you are going to the Pacific Ocean, for example, the Northeast Passage a clearly attractive alternative even for relatively small boats. When it comes to commercial traffic this will probably also increase, but the season is short so any explosive increase is hardly realistic for a while.

ExWeb: How does this trip compare to the other expeditions you have made?

Ousland: This is not such a physically challenging trip, more of a technical tour where good planning, teamwork and execution are critical. But it's probably one of the major trips I've done, it shows concretely that the ice has pulled back dramatically. There is no more than 8 years since the first yacht came through the one passage without winter. (Vagabond, with Eric Brossier), so that we have managed this with a small boat is a testament to how big the changes are. The disappearing of the drift ice affects both locally on animals and climate in the north, but also globally, as temperature decreasing in the Arctic affects the entire earth's climate, and with a possibility that the large glaciers on land is melting faster than before.

ExWeb: Whats your next expedition?

Ousland: I do not know that this stage, its far too early to think about anther trip. Right now I am just happy two be back home, sleep in a bed, take a shower and open the fridge whenever I want.

Børge Ousland has more than 20 years experience with record-breaking Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. He was the first person to complete a solo expedition to the North Pole without re-supplying, and the first to cross the Antarctic continent alone. He is still the only person to have accomplished both feats.

Børge Ousland ascended Cho Oyo in 1999; in 2003 he had to turn back just below the peak of Mount Everest.

In 2003 Børge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich crossed the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This is the third largest glacier in the world only Antarctica and the inland ice cap of Greenland is larger.

In 2007, Børge and Thomas Ulrich followed in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen through Franz Josef Land. They where picked up by Thorleif Thorleifsson in his sailboat and continued to Murmansk, and then Bodø.

Thorleif Thorleifsson is a former Naval Officer a submariner. In the last three decades he has sailed extensively in the North Atlantic, North Sea and Barents Sea.

The Corsair 31UC has proven itself earlier in the ice. Thanks to her sandwich construction, she cannot sink, even if she should become entirely filled with water.
Mike Horn used it on circumnavigation and also crossed the Bering Straits with it. In 2006 he joined Ousland on a winter expedition to the North Pole, and the skiers missed a full Arctic winter expedition by only a few days.

#Oceans #interview

Borge Ousland returned to Oslo Saturday after a four month circumnavigation of the North Pole.
Image by Jon Amtrup courtesy Jon Amtrup, SOURCE
Stas Kostayashkin, Borge Ousland, Thorleif Thorleifsson, and Vincent Colliard sailed together.
Image by Jon Amtrup courtesy Jon Amtrup, SOURCE
Northern Passage, a 31 feet foldable trimaran, was the instrument of choice for Ousland - and it did the job.
Image by Jon Amtrup courtesy Jon Amtrup, SOURCE
While Ousland came to Oslo, Peter 1st where taken under tow in to Arendal to get their motor and some sails repaired.
Image by Lars Ingeberg courtesy Lars Ingeberg