ARKTOS EXPEDITION / MIKE HORN
After his abandon on Arctic Icepack last spring (2002), South-African Mike Horn
goes on with his
around Arctic Polar Circle
Here are the press communiqués published during the spring 2002
October 21st, 2004 - Latest News - Congratulations Mike !!!
Mike arrived back at the North Cape, Norway to meet his wife Cathy and 2 children (starting and finishing point of his expedition), 27 months later, exhausted, but in very good shape. Greeted by 80 or so people, journalists, sponsors and friends, he says, “Man, am I happy to be here! After all this time, it's great to be back. I sometimes thought I would never make it - but I did - and I'm proud of myself!”
15th of October 2004 - Mike's writes from Norway!
" The trip from Murmansk through to Norway on my bicycle was not the easiest. All the bad weather that was predicted on sea was blown inland. The terrain was very hilly, and the strong winds combined with snow and rain, made for slow progress. I was soaking wet within the first five minutes after leaving Murmansk. The temperature dropped and the road turned into a sheet of ice and snow, along with me and all my drinking water. I had some difficulty cycling uphill, not to mention going downhill. I had to constantly keep my wheels turning so I had some traction on the road and I had to be careful not to touch the brakes. If I did I would do some amazing acrobatics. I was lucky - I managed to stay on my bike most of the time and only once did I make hard contact with Russian soil."
"I covered the distance of 300 km in two days. I cycled most of the day and night. There is very little shelter along the way so the only thing I could do to keep warm was to keep on moving."
"As I was approaching the Russian border I was preparing myself for a very long delay. To my surprise they let me cycle the 20 km of no-mans land in between the two Russian control points without any questions. On presentation of my passport I was treated as a hero. People were already talking about the first man to ski, kayak, sail and cycle around the Arctic Circle. The border guards were awaiting my arrival and consequently the formalities were done very rapidly and without any problems."
"My arrival in Norway was not so smooth but I think I understand why. Who wants a dirty, smelly, bearded and longhaired man on a bicycle in their country? This also might explain why the Russians wanted to get rid of me so rapidly. I had to give two names of people I know in Norway who would take responsibility of me while I am in Norway. Thanks to Stig-Tore Johansen and Borge Ousland for helping me out. I was met on the Norwegian side by Stig-Tore and I want to thank him his wife and kids for opening up their house to the expedition and helping in all the ways possible. Stig showed me to his home in Kirkenes where I was invited to have a well deserved shower and sleep."
"As I cycled towards the Norwegian border that I left two years and 20 000 km ago, I could not help to nod my head in satisfaction. In my mind I told myself that I have done a good job. I am happy with what I have seen and experienced. Nothing was said out loud - the silence around me said it all. I returned to Norway a humble and happy man. I kept on cycling, lowered my head and thanked God for keeping me safe and alive in the Arctic."
"I have one goal now and that is to reach the North Cape and close the door on this expedition. The door that was so heavy to move at times. The harder the expedition is, the more difficult it is to stop. That is life - but now I am ready to turn the page."
13th of October 2004 - Mike is in Norway!
At 13H00 on the 12th of October, Mike cycled with his Trek bicycle over the border joining Russia and Norway. "It's difficult to believe that I am now in Norway. It's a great feeling! My last month in Russia seemed to be one problem after another. Now, I am now on the home stretch. In just one week I will reach the North Cape and the Arktos expedition will come to an end."
"I can't wait to see my friends and family again. It's been a long time since I've seen my wife and daughters. Sounds like there will be a few people on the North Cape waiting for me. It'll be great!"
Mike's Corsair sailboat will arrive in Norway today and an important decision must be made. If weather permits he will finish his expedition on his sailboat and sail pass the cliffs of the North Cape. If the weather is bad MIke will cycle to the North Cape.
On the 21st of October 2004, eighty or so people, family, friends, sponsors and journalists will meet Mike on the plateau of the North Cape and Mike will once again create history in the world of exploration. He will become the first man ever to complete the non-stop, solo, unmotorised exploration around the Arctic Circle.
10th of October 2004 - Mike calls on Sunday the 10th of October.
"I'm getting ready to leave Murmansk!" says Mike. "It's been a week since I've been here. After tapping the keel of my boat on entering the harbour of Murmansk, I needed to get it out of the water and check once again for damage. I made further reparations. The boat is now fine but the weather forecast is terrible."
"Bernard Stamm has informed me that there is a depression coming in from the southwest and winds of 45 knots have been forecasted. As my 1 year Russian visa expires soon and I cannot afford to hang around. I must get out of Russia."
"My Trek bicycle is here and I have decided to cycle over the border into Norway. Once again more problems!! The border guards said they would not let me cycle or walk over the 17 kms of military land joining Russia and Norway. The laws state that everybody must be driven across the border. Once again Sergei from 'Polar Consultancy' needed to speak with the Russian authorities and managed to organise a special permit to allow me to cycle over the border. I am now ready to leave."
"The temperatures are dropping. Zero degrees Celsius with snow and rain falling today. I'll put on some Gore-Tex layers, prepare my bike and can head away. It's 300kms on tar sealed road until Norway with a few low hills to cycle over. I think it'll take me about two days to get to the boarder."
"In the meantime, my Corsair sailboat will be taken over the border on a truck and I'll meet up with it again in Norway. I hope that the winds will abate so I will be able to use it to get to the North Cape. Over two years ago, I started the Arktos expedition on a boat from the North Cape of Norway. My dream, is to also finish the expedition on a boat with the cliffs of the North Cape as my witness. Even now, on getting closer to Norway, the scenery is beginning to look similar. Russia has been an amazing experience but I have to say I'm very excited about entering into Norway. I'll ring you as soon I get there. Get the champagne ready!" "Regards to everyone!" Mike
1st of October 2004 - Mike stops at Drozdovka N68°20.359 E38°25.144
At 13h00 GMT Mike sails his boat into a sheltered bay at Drozdovka. "I made it across the Barents Sea! Am I glad to touch ground! It's the same thing every time - I get into my Corsair trimaran and then there's a storm! I was warned about the conditions on the Barents Sea and now I understand why. I had northwesterly winds, blowing a constant 25 - 30 knots and with gusts of up to 45 knots. There were very strong winds around the point of Kanin Nos, and then after that, I had to battle against the southerly swell of water entering into the White Sea Inlet, with breaking waves of up to four and a half meters. My floaters were constantly under the water, so are now full to the brim, one of the mainstays on the mast snapped under the pressure and all three autopilots are now totally water logged and have stopped working."
"My Corsair 28 is a beauty! She's taken my around the world during my last expedition, Latitude Zero, and can still withstand these extreme conditions!"
"I'm now in a sheltered bay and can finally get some sleep and something to eat. Tomorrow I will empty the floaters and fix the mainstay and automatic pilots before heading off again. Bernard Stamm is helping me with the weather and he says the winds are expected to calm this evening and I should be able to get through to Murmansk before more bad weather arrives."
"The border guards are awaiting my arrival in Murmansk. They have specified that I sail within 12 miles of the coast and are watching my every move. Cathy sends them my position daily. I hope they won't mind this unexpected stopover at Drozdovka. They say it'll take me a few days to get permission to leave the country again. Apparently there's a huge procedure in Murmansk, loads of paperwork etc to be done (surprise, surprise!)."
"Only 600kms to go until the North Cape. Not long now and I'll be saying 'goodbye' to Russia and will be sailing back into Norwegian waters, and back where I was 2 years ago." "It's sad and exciting at the same time. I'm looking forward to getting back home!" Mike
18th of September 2004 - A stressful week!
A lot has happened this last week.
On the 11th of September, the team said their 'goodbye's' to Mike and once again he was on his own. The Corsair trimaran, the same that was used in the last expedition 'Latitude Zero' , was with him and all he needed to do now was to wait for the right weather conditions before leaving, to sail across the Barents Sea towards the North Cape . Things were not as easy as they seemed!
That was when the storms came in. Mike reports, " I fought for 4 days non-stop to try and save my boat. It was moored in the bay but the winds were so strong that the boat was being pushed in all directions. The three anchors were not holding the boat in place. The winds were just too strong - I would say up to 80 kms a hour!!! Me, by myself, I fought all I could to control the boat but it was impossible. I haven't slept for 4 days!"
4 days ago now Mike rang to say that he thought the boat had been damaged, probably hit by a tree trunk. Mike was now forced to get the boat out of the water to make a proper assessment of the damage. The news wasn't good! Mike discovered that the main hull had a fissure of about 40 cm and that boat was now definately unsailable. It needed repairing before it could be used.
In Tobseda there is nothing. A few run down houses and only one inhabitant, a kind old fisherman who is helping Mike as much a he possibly can. Mike is very grateful to him. The next stategy is to get a repair kit to Mike. This kit has been prepared in Switzerland Mike is waiting for the helicopter to bring in the kit so he can quickly get started and repair his boat. The helicopter is due in tomorrow .
We are remaining optimistic that Mike will be able to repair the boat and will be able to head off again soon but the expected arrival at the North Cape at the end of September is looking more and more unlikely as each day goes by.
9th of September 2004 - Mike meets up with his team at Topseda!
After three days of navigation and covering a distance of 860km, Bernard Stamm, Jean-Philippe Patthey and Mike's brother Martin, sailed the Corsair trimaran into the deserted village of Topseda , which is situated on the Cheshkaya Guba, northern coast of Russia .
Jean-Philippe reports, "It was an exciting crossing. Dominant north-westerly winds and a swell from the White Sea pushed us in the right direction. We were lucky to have somebody as experienced as Bernard on board. The Barents Sea is rough but he managed to kept the boat under control at all times. It's great to be on dry land again. Sebastian (photographer) and Raphael (cameraman) flew in from Nar'Yan Mar yesterday and now we are all together, waiting in a sheltered cabin for Mike to arrive. We had phone contact with him this morning and we know he's not far away. He could arrive any minute now....."
Martin was first to see Mike. He was sighted 10 kms away paddling against strong head-on winds.
"It was one of the most wonderful moments of the whole expedition", says Mike. To meet up with your brother who you haven't seen for a year, and to see my friend Bernard again after three years... it's just amazing! You're all alone for months on end paddling through the most barren, deserted land and then all of a sudden you see your friends standing in the middle of absolute nowhere. I cannot describe how it felt, but it's moments like these I'll remember for the rest of my life!"
Their time together is short as the team must fly back to Europe . They will have two days together and will get photos and images of Mike to bring back home.
"This last week has been hard," says Mike. "My decision to cross over land and to avoid the wind thrashed coastline might not have been the best one. I ended up pulling my kayak over the tundra, and only managed to walk half a kilometre in one hour. I did this for the last three days and walked 14 hours everyday. It was hard, but it was worth it - I made it to the coastline."
Now Mike is equipped once again - clean clothes at long last, and a boat full of fresh food and chocolate.
Once he has said goodbye to his team, Mike will sail solo, back across the Barents Sea , and back into Norway . "I'll have to wait for the correct meteo conditions. The Barents Sea is dangerous so I must leave when the winds are in my favour." "I slept my last night in the tent last night. It was a strange feeling. My tent has been my home for two years now."
"Best wishes to you all." Mike
2 September 2004 - 68°27.242N 55°07.047 E
‘We're getting there, slowly but surely. One day on the move, two days halted. The wind never seems to want to stop. It blows constantly from the north-west, right into my face. When it does finally stop blowing, I immediately climb out of my tent and get moving as quickly as possible. Yesterday, I managed to cover 45 km into the wind and I was pleased with my progress. Strong winds are forecast again for tomorrow, so I'm not sure whether I'll be able to get anywhere. Patience is a virtue! The tides are also very high along the coast, with the waves breaking in the distance. It's impossible to navigate behind these breakers because they constantly bring me back to the shore. Once I got through them yesterday, I expected to find a light wind and blue sky. I had to laugh for daring to imagine any such thing! Once again, all I could see in front of me was thick fog, rain, wind, wind and more wind! I've got a new saying: when you think it can't get any worse, it does just that!'
‘Things are looking good for fresh supplies at Indiga. Indiga is a little village on the east coast of Cheshkaya Guba. My good friend, Bernard Stamm has agreed to send my boat from Norway to the village. That will give us the chance to spend a little time together with the logistics team and I will then continue towards Norway while they fly back to Europe . I'll set course towards Norway , crossing the White Sea . That way, I'll have completed my trip around the Arctic Circle , arriving back at the spot I left from two years ago.'
‘It will be nice to see Bernard and the supply team again. Better still… I will at last receive the equipment and warmer clothes I should have had three months ago. I have solved by battery problems thanks to a fellow here who gave me a car battery. I have set up a system for my satellite phone and I'm hauling that along with me. But at least I don't have to worry any more about losing contact with my team. There has not been any other opportunity to provide me with new supplies along the coast. There's nobody here, no houses, nothing. I occasionally come across a fisherman or workers drilling for oil, but the area has very few actual inhabitants. I am only eating half of the rations I was eating during the winter and have just 5 packs left. So I have enough food for 10 days, which should be enough until my team arrives. Apart from that, there is plenty of food in the tundra. When the wind stops me from making any progress, I go out and collect berries and mushrooms. It's a totally vegetarian diet, but it's great to be eating fresh food!!'
‘I'm going out now to see whether I can make any headway on land today. As there has been a lot of rain recently, maybe I'll find a watercourse to launch my kayak. Anyway, I'll do everything I can to stay outside and keep moving forward!' All the best! Mike
24 August 2004 - Back in Europe !
‘It's hard to realise, but I'm back in Europe . I crossed the border yesterday when I passed Khrebet Pay-Khoy point to reach the Barents Sea . Anyone would have thought that Mother Nature was trying to stop me because I have had to battle against a constant head-on wind for the whole of the past week.'
‘After leaving the coast, things changed and I thought that Nature wanted to reward me for all the effort I have made. Carrying my stuff to cross the land, I found a lake and began paddling. Then I saw a polar bear waiting for me on the bank, standing up on its hind legs, taking in my scent. He gave me quite a turn and I have to say that I began paddling faster!! He was quite spectacular. Luckily for me, he decided to leave me alone.'
‘Then yesterday, I came across a herd of walruses, about 60 of them, lounging on the beach. They suddenly began to slip into the water and surround me, swimming very close to the kayak. They poked their heads out of the water to show me their impressive defences. They can be aggressive in the water and I was afraid they might overturn my kayak. Once again I paddled my way to shelter to observe what Nature had decided to offer me as a spectacle.' ‘As I approach the end of the expedition, moments like these seem to take on greater importance. It is so rare for anyone to be able to witness scenes such as these. I am beginning to regret the fact that my Arctic exploration is coming to an end. Sometimes I'd like it to go on forever… but then other things call be home: my family and friends, and my daughters who miss me so much.' ‘We are so privileged to live in a world that offers us so much.' Mike
17 August 2004 - Mike writes from Amderma
‘I am at a weather station looking at the weather map and hoping to find a window or period of calmer weather that will enable me to reach the Barents Sea . Being out on the ocean at this time of the year is not the best place to be, because the Arctic coast is constantly swept by extremely strong and gusting north-westerlies.' ‘I'm so close to my goal, yet still so far away! At this stage, everything depends on the weather. It's very cold and foggy, it never stops raining and there are huge waves pounding the coast, making any progress difficult.'
‘I've worked hard to get this far. My whole body aches. I'm also feeling weary mentally and I'm tired, so I have to keep focusing on my goal at all times and make sure I take the right decisions. A mistake could cost me a lot of time - perhaps even my life. Over these past 2 years I have had to battle against the worst weather conditions anywhere on earth. But that's what I do. All of the energy involved has come from me and at least this energy has been expended positively. It has brought me more, too.' ‘I have had to modify my plans once again. Tomorrow I'm going to paddle as far as a lake, carry my gear for a short distance to get round a fall and some rapids, then rejoin a river that will take me to the Barents Sea . It's a small detour, but while I'm on the move, my mind is kept occupied and I'm happy. I'm seeing things I have never seen before. I'm going to places I've never been to before and my mind knows that little by little I am getting closer to North Cape .'
‘Once I reach the Barents Sea , I will once again be at the mercy of the ocean. I will have to be patient. I'll head for Nar'Yan Mar and that will be my last stop before North Cape . I'm beginning to run out of food, I'm short of fuel for the stove and the temperature has plummeted. I no longer have the right equipment for this time of the year. Organising new supplies in Russia has always been a nightmare, but I have taught myself not to hope for too much - that way I'm not disappointed. The constant bad weather has also taught me to respect Mother Nature, who has taught me to be patient. I have also improved my knowledge and sea kayaking technique. This just goes to show that something positive always comes out of the negative. Everything depends on the way you look at things!!' Cheers, Mike Horn
10 August 2004 - I thought it would never end! (68°29.057 N 67°49.300 E)
‘I crossed the Baydaratskaya Guba this morning … and, oh boy! … it feels so good to have reached the other side!! 11 hours of paddling against a violent wind in huge waves. I thought I'd never make it!! I knew that the conditions would be bad, but I have not been able to go down along the coast because the waves were overwhelming me and pushing me back against the cliffs. Once I got past the point of no return, I could only hope that the conditions would improve and the wind would push me from the other side … well, of course, it didn't happen like that ... and once I was past that point of no return, I simply had to go on and take my kayak through big waves against a wind that sometimes reached 36 km/h. On a number of occasions, the floats on the kayak were totally swamped under the water and I was sure I was going to capsize. I didn't see the coastline until I was 3 km out. That then gave me the energy to forge a way through the waves and finally reach the shore. I tell you, I kissed the ground when I arrived. What a trip: 53.5 km in 11 hours!!!'
‘I'm completely knackered, but very happy to be alive and be able to phone home to tell my wife and children that I'll be coming home soon. 1600 km (as the crow flies) to North Cape . Not as far as all that!!' ‘It should be easy going from now on… at least if the weather improves. There are big black clouds massing on the horizon and strong winds are forecast for the next few days. After that, I hope the conditions will improve and the wind will turn in my favour (for once). At least the wind has kept the mosquitoes at bay (a blessing in disguise) and the temperature has fallen back to around 0°C.' ‘I need fresh supplies. I'm cold, oh so cold, because I'm still using my summer clothes and equipment. My team should be able to make it to Amderma, which is some 280 km from here.'
‘That's all for the moment. I'm looking forward to sleeping. See you soon.' Say hi to everyone!!! Mike
1 August 2004 - From the other side of the Obskafa Guba
‘I've succeeded in crossing the Obskafa Guba!' explains a satisfied Mike. ‘It was a difficult crossing. I studied the weather conditions and winds very carefully with my logistics team in Switzerland . They told me that conditions would be relatively calm for the next few days. So I set out early in the morning and covered the 38 km in five hours. It was fairly hard going because the wind got up after 15 km and the currents were virtually pushing me backwards. I was happy to reach the other side, as were the border guards who were placed along the shore to greet me. Once again I encountered the same problems. My course had taken me in a straight line to a village where I wasn't supposed to go. I had no special permit and they arrested me straight away. Polar Consulting made all the necessary phone calls to the authorities again and, 8 hours later, the message came through that was not a bad guy and so I was able to continue.'
‘But continuing was not as straightforward as planned. I could see the river I wanted to cross, but there was not sufficient water in it. So I approached a local helicopter pilot and asked him if he could ferry my kayak to the mouth of the river Yuribei where it flows into the Arctic Ocean . He agreed to do it on Monday 2 August, so I'll have to wait until Monday to be able to send my kayak off. Once it has gone and I won't have it to weigh me down, I'll begin walking to cross the Poluostrov Yamal: 170 km in a straight line.'
‘I don't think there will be any more hold-ups in terms of permits. I can now make my way towards the Arctic Ocean , get my kayak back and then follow the coastline as far as the Barents Sea .'
‘I'll let you know how things go. Enjoy the festivities on 1 August!' Mike
26 July 2004 - Held up by the border guards!
‘It happened on Friday. I was going so well, too! All of a sudden I found a road that led to the town of Yamburg (at 67°55N 74°50 E) and that's where the border guards stopped me. They questioned me and asked for my papers. From that point on it was obvious that I didn't have a special permit authorising me to cross the area. Incredible! I didn't even mean to go to Yamburg. All I wanted to do was reach a river 30 km further ahead that would take me directly to the coast, where I could use my kayak to try and cross the Obskafa Guba sound at its narrowest point. To make things worse, they arrested me on a Friday evening, so there was no way anything could be done until the Monday morning. So I stayed there all weekend, trying to figure out an escape plan in case the action being taken by Polar Consulting in France on my behalf came to nothing… luckily, it did… and that evening at 5 o'clock , I was allowed to go on my way. I was lucky!'
‘On the other side of the Obskafa Guba I'll get to the small town of Mys Kamenna (68°33.439N 73°30.326 E). This is another oil town and is closed to foreigners. It's likely that I'll also come up against some administrative problems there, but my team is ready and I'm optimistic.'
The next obstacle will be to cross a broad tract of land until I reach the town of Ust Yuribey which is on the northern coast of the Bajdarakaja Guba. There's a river along the way, but that brings me up against the same problem: with all the bends in the river, I have to paddle 50 km to cover 5 km in the right direction. It's very frustrating. The rivers are very low and I scrape along the sandy bottom most of the time. I'll have to get a move one before there's no more water left at all.'
I'll be relieved to reach the Bajdarakaj Guba, because from there on, there are no more major obstacles along the way. Also from there it'll be fairly straightforward to set a course for North Cape . I'll be able to focus on going home and getting back to a normal way of life - far from the mosquitoes!!'
Greetings to everyone, Mike
19 July 2004 - Mike calls from 67°26.864 N 77°24.489 E
‘It's a good feeling to be underway again, but it has been far from easy. My Prijon kayak had been working well, as usual, but the sail system sent from the United States broke after a week. Which left me completely powerless and unable to take advantage of the strong winds that were blowing at the time. I have had a stroke of luck, though. Today I reached a small oil village (pipeline) and two men quickly made me a spare part to replace the broken one on my kayak. So I can use my sail again. These two very pleasant fellows found me a bit strange, but they were happy enough to be able to help me out. Now I'm on my way again and a happy man!' ‘I had a few very frustrating days last week. I was on the water 12 to 14 hours a day to progress about 11 km paddling against the current. I soon noticed that for every 10 km I paddled, I was only going 1 km to the west because of the bends in the river. It is very demoralising to find out I'm going so slowly after making all that effort!'
‘I like being in my kayak. It makes a change and I can take in the magnificent scenery. It's just a pity that the mosquitoes spoil it all. There are black swarms of them all round me!! I can hardly stand it!'
‘Today I crossed the Tazovskaja Guba, which was a lovely experience in a kayak. It's nearly 40 km wide at the place where I crossed and the wind was very strong and the waves high. I was happy to reach the other side. I intend following the Khadudte River , which will take me northwards, where I am told I will find a road that I could go along - if it really exists. Roads are so rare in this part of the world that I don't always know which way I'll go to reach the Arctic Ocean . I'm continuing to look.'
‘I hope everything is well with you. Enjoy a nice warm summer…with no mosquitoes!!!' ‘Say hi to everyone!' Mike
12 July 2004 - Mike leaves Jusni Seloni, 68°57.850 N 80°39.981 E
‘My Prijon Kayak has arrived and I can finally leave!' says Mike. ‘I could hardly believe it when I was told it was there. I was beginning to think it would never arrive and I'd have to set out again on foot. But there it is - never lose hope. I spent a day repairing a broken paddle, checking the rigging and packing my bags. Now everything is as it should be and I can leave Jusni Seloni.'
‘The first day was a little difficult, but despite that, I was able to cover around 40 km. Where I am the river is very wide but, unfortunately, very shallow as well. I touch the sandy bottom most of the time, which means I cannot travel as quickly as I would like.' ‘The mosquitoes are just horrible here!! They float in the air like clouds, and it's impossible to breathe in without swallowing them. I have to wear a sort of net that covers my face and gives me just a little protection. The only time I can take off my net is at night when I am in my tent and have killed every little insect in sight. The reindeer don't like them either. They find them unbearable in the tundra and seek protection by immersing themselves completely in water. Sometimes I startle them as I paddle alongside them and in their panic they erupt from the river just in front of me.'
‘I am currently in the Yamal region, which is the territory of the local Indians, who are known as Yamal-Nenets. These people breed Arctic reindeer, live in tee-pees and travel long distances across the peninsula, seeking out grazing land the furthest north from the tundra in the summer. They then come back down and take refuge in the sub-Arctic taiga in the winter. It's incredible when you meet them. It's like turning the history book back 15 chapters!' ‘I hope that everything will go smoothly from now on. I will soon have to take an important decision: whether to continue inland towards Vorkuta or take the river Op northwards back to the Arctic Ocean . I'm hoping that that local Indians will be able to help me make the right decision.' ‘I'll write to you soon and tell you what I intend doing.' All's well! Mike
5 July 2004 - Close to Jusni Seloni
‘I'm not progressing very quickly, but there's no reason to hurry at this stage. At the moment, all of the rivers and watercourses are in flood because of the snow thawing and I'm up to my waist in water - that's if I'm not perched precariously on a pipeline. I can't wait for my Projon kayak to arrive.' Polar Consulting in France seems to have pulled a few strings to get Mike's kayak. Last time I heard, the kayak was already at Noril'sk and Mike should be able to pick it up very soon. Tomorrow, Mike will reach a village called Josni Seloni and from there he hopes to continue by kayak along the watercourses and rivers, continuing on his way west.
‘It's becoming clear now and I should be able to make fast progress once I have my kayak, because the level of the water is falling rapidly. The watercourses will soon no longer be in flood and it will not be possible to cross them by kayak. If I can't cross the land, I will have to make a major detour to the north to get back towards the Arctic Ocean .'
‘I have experienced some incredible changes in the weather over the past week, having had a temperature of 26°C for a few days. I wasn't used to that!! The mosquitoes are loving it and are eating me alive. The temperature has now gone back down to 5 degrees, which is normal for this time of the year in the Arctic . Luckily for me, the mosquitoes have left me alone for a few days.' ‘This week, I think I have seen some of the most astonishing scenery ever. I have seen the first flowers bloom, ducks, geese, swans, nests, eggs – so many colours, movements and sounds after months of crossing the sad and austere terrain of the Arctic . It is a great experience to be here and experience all that!
‘I'll let you know about the arrival of my kayak. Cross your fingers for me.' See you, Mike
25 June 2004 – Slow going!
‘It has been an interesting week! You can't imagine the difference between now and a week ago!!' ‘There are absolutely no more traces of snow, as I found out a day from Dudinka when I had to give up my sledge and skis. So now I'm on foot, with a rucksack and everything is going fairly well… but it's so different!'
‘With the snow thawing, the countryside has turned into a vast swamp and there is water everywhere, sometimes up to my waist. I have found a rather interesting way of overcoming this problem by following the pipelines that head west… not under the ground, but above it!! It's fun and like walking on a tightrope in the circus, because the pipes are quite narrow. I have to be very careful all of the time, though, because the pipes sometimes reach a height of 10 to 15 metres above the ground. I'd compare it with walking up and over the Golden Gate Bridge . I mustn't make a mistake, though, because if I slip, I may fall and that would be the end of the expedition. Having said that, it's a good way to make progress and I keep dry. I have been told that the pipes continue west for about 200 km.'
‘The temperature has risen significantly. Yesterday it was around 20 degrees and I had to contend with mosquitoes for the first time in the expedition. I can tell you that they're big and I very much regret having given back the mosquito repellent to my logistics team when they visited last.'
‘Yesterday, I came to a river and the pipe ducked under the water. So I wondered how I'd be able to cross. Fortunately for me, I saw some people camping on the bank a little higher up. They lent me a raft they had cobbled together and I spent almost all morning fashioning a sort of oar. I finally managed to cross, but did not cover much ground because of all that. These people told me they had seen a grizzly two days previously and that there were lots of them in the area. They are just waking up from their hibernation, so I'll have to be careful!!' ‘At this stage, my plan is to head west towards a small village called Messo Yakha, which is where I hope I will be able to pick up my Prijon kayak. Once again there are problems with the authorities. The members of my supply team cannot bring in my kayak themselves because they visited me not long ago and their permits are no longer valid. So we are now relying on the airlines to send the kayak…which is a worry, but there is no other solution at this stage!!' ‘Apart from all that, everything is fine. It's odd not to have snow any more, but it makes a pleasant change. The scenery is magnificent!' ‘ I hope you are all well. A special kiss for my children who are missing me so much!!' Mike
It's also summer in the Arctic : 26°C!!! Regards, Philippe
7 June 2004 - Mike is beyond the town of Noril'sk - 69°29.493 N - 86°36.340 E
Over the past few days I have been able to see the town of Noril'sk on the horizon, but had to content myself by making a detour to the north. I prefer avoid the big towns and their whirlwind of cars and people. The contrast is too great with what I have lived with for the past two years on the Arktos expedition. This probably means I will never be able to settle back into civilisation?!?! (perhaps I should prepare for it.)' ‘I am happy with my progress, because I have managed to cover an average of 45 km a day in very, very heavy snow and a very thick whiteout day. Today is the first day this week when the snow has stopped falling and sky is blue. Such a pleasure for the eyes!'
‘When there is a change in the weather, there are always one or two minor problems to resolve. One of these, which I have at the moment, is that the snow sticks to my boots and the heat from my feet melts the snow, which means I have cold and wet feet all the time. Another problem with fresh snow is that it sticks to the skins underneath my skis and so they stop sliding so well. My logistics team has asked Montana Sports and they will bring me some new skins and a spray to solve the problem.'
‘Next Thursday I'll see my supply team again, as well as the sponsors and media at Panerai Watches. I think there could well be a sort of party in the middle of the tundra! I'm really looking forward to it and will be relieved to have fresh supplies of food and new equipment. All of my equipment needs replacing – everything has worn out after two years of hard labour: GPS, telephone, etc. Only another 3000 km and I will have completed the circle and finished my expedition, so I really can't stop now!!' ‘I believe that summer is coming where you are and everything must be in full bloom. I often try to remember what it looks like, to feel the heat and see the colours of the spring!!'