The Arctic Polar Expedition / Season Spring 2005
|One World Expedition (Lonnie Dupre & Eric Larsen )
Display here our map covering all the spring 2005 expeditions
Samedi 4 juin / Les Américains abandonnent
Leur site n'en disait mot mais, entre les lignes, on comprenait depuis une semaine au moins qu'il serait quasiment impossible pour les deux hommes de continuer leur expédition - à moins de mettre gravement en danger leur propre existence.
Les conditions de progression d'une part - une glace à la fois pas assez solide pour skier dessus et trop épaisse pour la traverser avec les traîneaux tranformés en canoë, une dérive qui les a empêchés de progresser, le pack trop fissuré et la venue sans doute précoce de l'été, et un sens des responsabilités de l'autre, tout cela a conduit les deux voyageurs polaires à prendre une sage décision : mettre fin à leur tentative de traversée complète de l'océan Arctique. Ce sont d'ailleurs ces arguments-là que Dupré a avancé pour expliquer, en date du 3 juin, leur abandon. Il ajoute en plus l'épaisseur de la neige qui était tombée sur la banquise les derniers jours ainsi qu'un problème de fuel pour les hélicoptères russes MI8 (il leur en manque paraît-il...) et leur incapacité à voler par temps de brouillard. On comprend les problèmes de météo couplés à ceux de la sécurité, on comprend moins le manque de fuel...
Quoiqu'il en soit, après avoir connu encore quelques solides frayeurs avec des ours polaires qui les ont suivis de près pendant deux ou trois jours (suivant même la trace de leurs skis !!!), les deux hommes ont été récupérés sur la banquise arctique par un MI8 de la logistique Vicaar Agency. Déposés à Stredny avant d'être embarqués pour Khatanga et puis Moscou. Leur position de pick up : 81°53'N / 94°12'E.
Lors du survol de la toundra (au cours du trajet Stredny-Norilsk), le tandem a pu se rendre compte depuis la cabine que les rivières de cette grande plaine étaient maintenant toutes dégelées, ce qui les a conduit à se demander si ils ne constataient pas là, de visu, les effets du réchauffement climatique.
A lire leur dernier communiqué, on apprend qu'ils pensent déjà à une autre grande aventure.
Sunday 29th May / Still this dreadful backward drifting movement
Things are not going very well for the One World Expedition team. Despite that, there is no discernible sense of despondency coming from the dispatches published at their site. But we can't help making a few calculations, though, and have come to realise that the pair's progress is still slow and pretty hazardous to boot. The cause is not poor preparation, nor is it a lack of physical ability on the part of the two polar adventurers. No, the problem is simply with the drifting pack-ice, which every night eliminates the distance they have covered during the day by carrying them back the way they came. Between 22nd and 26th May, they only covered about 7 km and since 10th May, making a total of 18 days, they have only advanced approximately 68 km northwards.
There was a little aside about global warming in their dispatches of 27th and 28th May: as encounters with bears are virtually daily occurrences (or at least with bear tracks), on Friday 27th May, one of them came and used his paw to give a gentle shake to the tent in which the two men were still asleep. Lonnie and Eric commented on the fact that in less than 50 years, in all probability, the Arctic pack-ice will have disappeared and these majestic mammals with it!
Their position on 26th May: 81°48.04'N / 96°59.92'E.
Monday 23rd May / Making progress... but very slowly!
In the space of four days, between 19th and 22nd May to be precise, the two men have advanced a third of one degree towards the north. Which corresponds to approximately thirty or so kilometres. But there's one positive point in all this: they have at least stopped going backwards. They are now moving forward and have passed the latitude of Cape Arktichevsky. But despite this, the going is still just as difficult: there seems to be sleet every other day, which in this case is a thin drizzle of rain mixed with fine snow, and it is hindering their progress considerably. There is also the fact that there are not enough open leads of water for their liking and even when they are able to make a catamaran by lashing their two kayaks side by side, they still have to paddle in a sort of treacle that is not thin enough for them to advance naturally with paddle strokes through the water, nor is it solid enough for them to walk on in any safety. Another positive point, though: on 20th May, they put their skis on for the first time and put away their snow shoes.
Thursday May 19th / Let's try to keep the moral high
The early part of the expedition was very hard for the two men. First of all, the ice was anything but hospitable ( “Today,” wrote Dupré last Monday 17th May , “we both fell through this dreadful ice on several occasions..." - which meant that they were unable to continue paddling and had to make their way hauling their sledges...). But worse still, the efforts they were making by day to struggle through a mile or two were wiped out by the drifting movement of the ice that they not only had to battle during the day, but which also continued without their realising it as they slept. The result: their position was 81°31' on Saturday 14th May (see below), but three days later, by Tuesday 17th, it was 81°10'. 72 hours of superhuman effort only to find themselves a few miles further back than where they started.
Then to boost their morale, they have been writing some interesting things in their dispatches. Which is how we have found out (Sunday 15th May) that a professor of psychology attached to the university of Minnesota - a Mrs Gloria Leon - is in the process of monitoring them and analysing their responses to situations for the purpose of writing a report about the stress generated in extreme situations. And if you go to Gloria Leon's website at ( http://www.psych.umn.edu/faculty/leon.htm ), the first thing you will discover is that she is by no means a beginner in the area of the stress experienced by polar travellers (she has already studied the expedition made up of women only who made a short crossing of Antarctica). And apparently the fruits of her labours will be used to prepare for the first manned flights to Mars.
Another interesting snippet received from the duo on 18th May, which showed us how Eric Larsen was gathering samples of snow for the Climate Change Institute at the university of Maine while his companion was preparing the evening meal (see the dispatch).
Saturday May 14 th / First dance with a polar bear
81 31.30N / 96 76.40E, Soft slushy snow
Check out today's audio entry for Lonnie's account of their first polar bear encounter.
Friday May 13th / Snowing
81 17.56'N / 96 06.20'E, / 20 f snowing
We were about to write how this has been our best progress forward to date...how we covered almost four miles and how our small boats performed nicely in the water. We are in the tent after a long day in a big snowstorm. Instead, we just took out the GPS and found that we've actually drifted further back than where we started yesterday. We had drifted almost a half mile north the night before and with a strong south wind blowing all day, our lack of progress can only be blamed on the fact that it's Friday the 13th.
Besides that bit of bad news we had a great travel day. For a while, we could close our eyes and pretend we were paddling in Minnesota 's BWCAW. We spent most of the day paddling on large 'lakes' (up to 1/2 mile wide and much longer). Between the lakes, of course, there were some brutal portages and finding a place to land was oftentimes difficult at best. The sinking feeling we often felt was just that, us sinking through semi-frozen brash ice.
Three ring seals followed our progress for part of the day. They were most curious about us and seemed to think we were a great distraction from finding food and other seal things. We are still relaying canoes when pulling, which makes progress slow, but it would be impossible to do otherwise. We are going to sleep hoping for a change in the drift!
Thurday May 12th / Back and Forth
81 20.14'N / 96 06.22'E, / 15 F overcast
It is hard to gain perspective standing in pressured ice as far as the eye can see. For us, there are two ways to solve this dilemma - understand that this is only our third day out or climb up on a tall piece of ice. Today was full of both. We have been relaying our canoe sleds forward one at a time. There is so much pressure that it would be impossible to move them alone. Lonnie has been doing the lion's share of the work as my (Eric's) cold was at its worst this morning.
We are moving slowly, but finally moving in a more northerly direction after veering way east. This morning there was severely pressured ice everywhere. From our camp tonight, the ice ahead looks better, not much, but slightly improved enough to make two small people see the world from a new perspective. We made 2.8 miles of forward progress today. Get a full update by listening to the audio report.
Wednesday May 11 th / On the ice
81 16.89'N / 95 58.94E, / 15 F overcast
Today is a day that we wouldn't like to repeat. All day was a struggle. The lead we were hoping to be open ended up being covered with an inch of new ice. It was what we had most feared - ice too thin to ski across, yet too thick to paddle through. We ended up spending nearly the entire day skirting a mile-wide-by-three-miles-long lead. It was brutal travel at best, and in the end we progressed only a half mile toward the pole after seven hours of grueling travel.
Lonnie was the hero of the day running ahead on scouting forays.
Tuesday May 10 th / Cape Arctichesky
15 F sunny
Slowly we have cut ties with the outside world. Of course the transition was not abrupt, but happened in subtle stages. First, we left Minnesota, then New York , and after that Moscow . Now, here we are on the Arctic Ocean all alone.
We'd be lying if we didn't say that today was an emotional day, because it was. It's a stark realization that we are leaving the world as we know it behind. But we also know the world of ice, too. Packing our canoes on the edge of the ocean was so familiar. This is what we do.
We ended up relaying boats throughout the day. After all of our fear of an open ocean crossing, who would have thought that we'd be dealing with pressured ice right away? It was a hard day, but we made good progress considering the terrain.
On a positive note, the tent is really warm right now - even under ambient light conditions. On the down side, I (Eric) seem to have caught a Russian virus and have almost no energy.
Monday May 9 th / Stredny
5 F cloudy
It's a good thing our mothers didn't see the plane we flew in today. Several key safety features were a bit suspect as was one of the crew members who took an emergency bottle of oxygen off the wall, hooked up a mask and took a few long pulls. Landing in Sredny was a bit foreboding as well with two crashed planes alongside the runway. Needless to say, we arrived safely at weather station Golomiannyi outside of Sredny and we are poised to depart tomorrow morning.
It looks like we will only have an open ocean crossing of about five kilometers, which is also good news. Our gear is packed and we're ready to go. Get a full update on today by listening to the audio report.