The Arctic Polar Expedition / Season Spring 2005


Barclays Capital Ultimate North Expedition (Tom Avery, Andrew Gerber, George Wells, Matty McNair, Hugh Dale-Harris)


Display here our map covering all the spring 2005 expeditions

Wednesady April 27th
Triumphant conclusion to the adventure of Tom Avery, who had set out in the footsteps of Peary. Despite a strong drifting movement, which caused them to backtrack a few miles every night, the 4 adventurers and their eight dogs reached the North Pole on Day 37 of their trek, after covering 445 miles. According to their latest dispatch, they even managed to get there on time and just pip Peary's rate of progress, ending up 7 miles ahead of him!
Nevertheless, the final day was not without incident, because as they were crossing a channel of open water, four of the dogs fell through the ice, plunging into the Arctic Ocean. Fortunately, the sledge did not follow them in, and they were able to haul themselves back on to the ice and get the feel of solid ice underfoot once more. This is a fine achievement for Tom Avery's team.

Tuesday April 26th
After a few days of great stress (caused by the gradual running out of food rations and fuel), the 3rd supply drop was finally able to take place on 20th April when the Ken Borek Air Twin Otter was able to take off from Eureka base and land on the pack-ice. Once this was done, Tom Avery and his companions were able to put their foot down and reach the North Pole before their target time, which was 26th April before 4.21 pm!
But even in their final rush to their goal, they were slowed down significantly, especially by the increasing presence of leads of open water that became difficult to cross on account of their expanding size.
Cherry on the cake: from 24th April onwards, a strong north wind suddenly sprang up, creating an alarming southerly drift to the pack-ice. “Since last night,” wrote Tom in his diary on the evening of 25th April, “and throughout all of today, our GPS has indicated that we are drifting to the South at a speed of 0.3 knots. So, assuming that the drift remained constant throughout this final day, we can say that we have drifted 9 miles towards the South since our last camp yesterday evening...!”
Which is not really the best news when there are only a few more miles to go before reaching the Pole and the expedition being a success!

Monday April 18th
April 14th (Day 24) : For the first time, the expedition has a man into the water : "Not realising that the piece of ice he was standing on was overhanging, writes Tom Avery, George suddenly disappeared from view as the ledge gave way, dunking George into the icy water of the Arctic Ocean. After bobbing about in the water for a second or two, George was soon safely on dry land. If getting out of the swimming pool was ever made an Olympic sport, George's panic-induced exit from the water would have broken many records..."

April 15th : Mileage record today with 18.4 miles on the counter. Milder temperatures also with - 17°C. They feel better in the tent at night.

April 17th (Day 28) : Since two days, the team experience a quite strong southerly drift - another 3 miles lost last night for example. For once let loose, the dogs break into one of the sleds and pilfer two days of emergency food.

April 18th (Day 29) : Beautiful clear morning, big big open water in front of them but the team manage to get to the next resupply position, which is Peary's Barlett Camp. From there on, no resupply anymore and only 9 days to go. Twin Otter is supposed to land tomorrow morning.

Their position : 87° 49' N / 77° 38' W

Wednesday April 13th
April 13thay 19) : The two teams are crossings leads after leads. Here is what Tom writes about these days : "More watery mishaps happened at the next two leads, but luckily it was only the sleds that went swimming. Skiing across these leads definitely gets the heart racing. The ice is very rubbery as you ski across, with an ever-growing bow wave beyond your ski tips as you shuffle away across. And when you look back at the lead once you're safely across, the first thing you notice are the puddles of sea water lying in your ski tracks..."

April12th (Day 23) : A quite hard time for the humans and the dogs. Not only the ice conditions seem to be worse than ever but also the drift of the ice pack changed from north to south... "And to make matters even worse, Sedna (the Inuit goddess of the sea) has switched on the Arctic conveyor belt and we're currently drifting south at a rate of nearly three miles a day. It's pretty disheartening to know that when we wake up tomorrow morning, most of today's hard fought for 3.6 miles will have been wiped out..." A positive point : they've made it to their second resupply point, Marvin Camp.
On April 12th, they found themselves furhter away from the pole than they were 48 hours ago !
Their position on April 12th : 86° 28' N / 73° 17' W

Tuesday April 5th
Everything is going well for the expedition of Tom Avery and his three companions, Andrew Gerber, George Wells and Matty McNair, who are currently at Borus Camp. At the moment, they are a day and a half ahead of Peary in terms of his log, which of course means that morale is high with the troops. The dogs are also behaving themselves well and deliveries of the two sets of new supplies that the team has received thus far (the first on 30th March at Goodsell Camp and the second at Borus Camp on 5th April) went well, although during the first landing, the pilot of the Twin Otter said that the "runway" prepared by the expedition could have been a few metres longer, as this type of aircraft needs a minimum of 500 metres to land safely.

What in fact has greatly helped the team in the early stages of their adventure is the extreme cold out in this area of the Arctic icecap. Although the cold does not make their day-to-day existence very easy (“the sleeping bags,” wrote Tom in his diary on 5th April, “are twice as heavy today than they were at the beginning of the expedition, because they accumulate ice every day and it doesn't melt totally before we set out in the morning. I have to say that to wriggle into one of these ice boxes in the evening is not the most pleasant experience...”); but on the other hand, when the mercury doesn't nudge above minus 35°C, the leads of open water freeze over solid, which makes things a lot easier for the expedition to make progress.
They now have 21 days and 9 hours to reach their destination within the timeframe and so have to reach the North Pole by the 26th April before 4.21 pm ...

Tuesday March 29th
A few days ago, the expedition members were complaining about the terrible cold out on the ice-cap: “The hardest part of the day,” they wrote, “is between 6.00 am and 6.15 am when we have to climb out of our sleeping bags. ... And at night, when we turn off the stoves, the temperature inside the tent plummets from plus 15º to minus 40º in less than 5 minutes!”
The going has been less difficult for the past 24 hours (a fact also reported by the two female explorers Bancroft and Arnesen), there are successive stretches of flat ice and the compression zones between the flat areas are the only real difficulty. The sledges are also lighter by about twenty kilos every day. And also, the final reason for their morale being set fair, they are slightly ahead of Peary's route plan.

Friday March 25th
Tom Avery's expedition was finally able to set out on the ice on 21st March. Since then, the men, 8 dogs and sledges (made out of wood, as they were in Peary's day) have crossed the severe compression zone that is a feature of the icy Arctic coastline. Their ice guru, Wayne Davidson, has informed them that according to the satellite images he is receiving, the difficult zone of jumbled ice covers an area approximately 30 miles wide. So they will have to be careful and patient as they go.
We should remember that with this expedition, the time factor is crucial because the team has set itself the challenge of proving that the time of 38 days taken (so he claimed) by Peary in 1909 is plausible. A daily chart at their website is comparing their progress; at the moment, i.e. on 25th March, the Barclays Capital Ultimate North expedition is 24.2 miles behind on the progress chart established by the famous explorer. For them to achieve their goal, they need to reach the North Pole by 26th April at the latest.
The men are not worrying for the time being. Their equipment is performing well, as are the sledges, and morale is very high. In fact, they have just reached the 25 mile mark into their trek.

The signpost apparently left by Peary in 1909 after passing Cape Columbia

Sunday March 21st
No luck for the team trying to create Peary's journey. After arriving at Resolute on 14th March (see the dispatch below), they should have flown on to their departure point three days later on Thursday 17th. But with bad weather blanketing the landing zone in the north of Ellesmere Island , they had to put their departure back 24 hours. Kenn Borek Air's two Twin Otters finally took off with the expedition and the eight dogs at dawn last Friday. No problem until they reached the Eureka weather station where the twin-engined planes usually refuel when they are dropping off polar travellers at Ward Hunt (and which is the most northerly base in the world), but after taking off after this stop, the pilot of one of the two helicopters notified the expedition members of a major equipment failure; the hydraulic liquid used to operate the flaps had completely leaked out unexpectedly. They returned immediately to Resolute while the other section of the expedition landed without problem at Cape Columbia.
The following day, after repairs, the aircraft set out again and joined the other part of the expedition waiting for them at Cape Columbia at around midday - this time without any problem.

Monday March 14th
The all team of Barclays Capital Ultimate North Expedition has landed at Resolute Bay yesterday, Sunday March 12th. et s'apprête à partir pour le cap Columbia - son point de départ - demain matin mardi 15 mars. D'après la météo publiée sur leur site, il ferait pas moins de -50°C là-bas !

Sunday March 13th
Greetings from the Arctic! We've been in Iqaluit for ten days now, making the final preparations for our expedition to the North Pole. It's been absolutely manic since our arrival with so much to do from finishing building our two wooden sleds to training the dogs to packing up all the provisions we will need for the expedition. Everyone's suffering a bit from lack of sleep, but these last-minute stresses seem to be part and parcel of big trips...