From their website
March 26, 2006 / Our slow transition to civilization
The key to positioning Ice Base Borneo is to find a good runway. They require a nice and smooth and wide lead that has been frozen since early this winter, and which hasn't been ruined by compression and pack ice. That's why the latitude of this drifting ice base can vary so much from year to year, depending on the ice conditions.
I'll try to send you some photos from life at Borneo. Our daily routine is very relaxed now, we're giving a helpful hand here and there, but mostly we are just kicking back and getting used to the thought of returning to civilization and the life that we must gradually once again become a part of at home.
March 22, 2006 / Just 21 km to go
I'm in excellent shape. I have good thoughts, it's a fine day, I think it's great to be up here – and I am really looking forward to finishing this journey while enjoying the light of the midnight sun. It's here now. I was very worried about my friend for a while and have been a nurse these recent days, doing the tasks that need doing in the camp and en route. But my form is good and I feel great. The pains I had in my foot are gone now. My short skis are working well and holding together, no change there.
We'll talk more tomorrow, hopefully from the North Pole.
Demanding exertion to reach our goal
Our position is N89°35'19”, E79°37'51”. We have walked 25 km, but our situation is unchanged – Mike is in very poor condition. The day before yesterday was his worst on the expedition, and yesterday was even worse. Today has been a bit more stable.
It seems that the total strain on his body has been excessive. Well over a month ago he got frostbite and infections in his hands, and soon afterwards a lot of pus came out of his thumb. After that he has been chilled and frozen several times. His nails are cracked and his hands do not look good. All this and the incredible exertion of walking 10–12 hours a day has surely taken its toll. It's a month ago since we had our last day of rest. The result seems to be that he now has a general infection in his body. He is very run down and is barely hanging together.
I do my utmost to carry out the tasks and routines and have transferred as much weight as possible to my pulk. We really do need a day of rest. The problem is that already on Thursday the weather is changing and we'll be getting northeasterly winds, and from Friday and through next week the forecast is strong northwesterly wind – that's the worst direction. We simply don't think we stand much of a chance walking against that wind and would probably just drift backwards. So our only chance to reach the Pole is to continue walking and get it over in the next few days. Fortunately, we only have about 45 km to go.
We have talked about this thoroughly, and it is, of course, entirely Mike's decision how much he wants to press himself. I have time and again repeated that the most important thing is our health. But he insists on not giving up and is dead set on continuing. The only question is whether his body is willing. We're taking it one day at a time.
Today we have managed to continue. Mike is taking a double dose of antibiotics – and we just have to hope that the medication works. His symptoms indicate internal problems. He is tired, greatly fatigued, is suffering from nausea and stomach cramps. Last night he was unable to eat and simply had to throw it away before freezing… He has problems with… hasn't vomited yet, but he has to stop now and again when we walk because of his cramps. It's rough for him and he is clearly suffering.
On the other hand, Mike has an iron will and is extremely motivated to finish this journey. I am doing everything I can to help him, making sure that he rests and sleeps as much as possible. We can only cross our fingers and hope that we can make the final, obviously demanding stretch. Our challenges are not over yet, but I am convinced that we're gong to make it.
Otherwise conditions have been stable today; the ice has been more or less the same today. Temperatures have been about –28°C and the winds calm. Today the tent poles snapped once again, just suddenly. We are extremely careful, knowing the materials have proven to be very fragile in these Arctic conditions. We were setting up the tent when we just heard a small explosion, and the tent pole snapped in three places all at once. The tent itself is great, it's incredibly good – it's our home, it's spacious and we love it. There is, however, something very wrong with the tent pole materials. We can only hope…
March 21, 2006 / True sunrise – and antibiotics
We thought our surprises were over – but this morning we woke up to a truly magnificent sight! Suddenly the sun seemed much brighter; we saw it in a completely different light, so to speak. There were shadows that hadn't been there before. We started wondering if what we thought was a glimpse of the sun the last few days, wasn't that at all – merely an illusion created by sunlight bending over the horizon. We know that happens at the North Pole a few days before the sun really comes up.
Well, we're close to the North Pole, but there is still a ways to go, so we suppose it's only natural that it rises here a little earlier than at N90°. The sun sure looked different today. Suddenly there were true shadows and a terrific play of light on the ice. It gave us a real burst of renewed energy to see our surroundings in a whole new way, with real sunlight, instead of the muted pastel landscape that we have been walking in the last few weeks.
As I've been walking today, I have been recapitulating our journey. There are many great feelings. Today has been a good day with regards to conditions – and I feel in excellent shape.
My friend, however, is quite ill. Rather than getting better, Mike feels worse, having had one of his roughest days ever. He almost never gets sick and can hardly remember the last time. Today we put him on antibiotics. In addition, we have contact with a physician to find out if there is anything else that should be done. Be assured that we're doing everything we can right here. I'm pulling as much weight as possible and have taken over the various and sundry tasks that need doing, in order to make it more manageable for Mike. Naturally we're evaluating the situation continually. He is suffering; there is something wrong with his entire system. And that is a real pity...
March 20, 2006 / A good day for Børge; a tough day for Mike
The ski repairs that I did last night have worked well. Finally! They're half a metre shorter now. That's definitely a disadvantage when there's a white-out, because long skis work like elongated sensor, letting you feel the terrain in front of you. With these short skis, it's more like I'm stumbling ahead, partly blind – I can't even see the tips of the skis below my facemask. But I'll manage, and I think they'll last all the way in. There are just a few days left.
Much worse is the fact that Mike has had real problems with his body today. He's been a bit troubled for several days, but today it was really bad – one of his worst days on this journey. Mike has been tired and nauseous, warm and cold and then warm again, and his kidneys and stomach hurt. We suspected a fuel leakage inside his pulk, and that it may have contaminated some of his food. However, we really don't know; we can't smell any stray fuel in the pulk – but one way or another he got something in his body that he shouldn't have.
That's why it's been a tough day for Mike. I suggested that we camp early, but he insisted on continuing. He's made of tough stuff and endured the entire day – without any significant decrease in pace.
So, that is our story: It's been good for me, terribly tough for Mike. We hope we find the cause of his ailments. In the meantime he can eat as much of my food as he wants. We have more than enough.
March 19, 2006 / Northwards at an impressive pace
Temperatures have been around –28°C, with an easterly wind of 7–8 metres per second. That has made it a bit chilly, but we really haven't had any problems, and we continued walking at a nice even pace for 10 hours. Tonight the winds have calmed completely.
March 18, 2006 / The temperature rises – time for a swim
We swam over two fairly wide leads today. One of them, which was covered with thin ice, we followed for many hours, hoping to find a crossing point. Finally we came to an “island” that divided the lead into two narrower stretches. We donned our special “swimwear” and swam them. A little later, we had to repeat the procedure to cross a new 70 metre wide lead. We managed fine, really.
Let's hope most of the ice movement is behind us. Tonight the wind has died down, and yet temperatures have risen to –15°C. This morning it was –24°, it was windy and cold and miserable. As the day progressed, however, the day became milder and more pleasant.
From our tent we notice how much calmer the wind is now. Perhaps both the wind and the direction of the ice drift are changing. We hope so! It would be really nice to have a few more days with improved progress.
March 17, 2006 / Taking time for reflection
However, the ice conditions are by and large excellent. We encountered fresh pack ice several times today and had to do a bit of climbing over it, but that's really been the only hindrance. It's colder than yesterday; temperatures tend to fall as soon as the weather clears up. This morning it was –32°C, but in the course of the day it reached –36°C. Much of the day there hasn't been a single gust of wind. Mike and I haven't had any problems walking, even though the glide isn't great – but as soon as we take a pause, the chill hits us.
I am glad we're no longer stressing to reach the North Pole in a hurry. I believe it's truly important to have time to think as we're walking, and especially to reflect on what we've really been doing on this expedition. We think about completing our journey in a good way, we think about the friendship that has evolved, the landscape we see around us – and not least of all about what has been happening inside us. For an expedition like this is also a mental journey.
As I mentioned, we're not stressing to reach N90°, even though we're putting in the same amount of time out there on the ice as before. Ten hours is a solid stretch and we really feel it at day's end. But we're not nearly as exhausted as when we were pushing ourselves to put in 12 straight hours; that nearly broke us. Last night we slept between 6 and 7 hours – a bit less than ideal. But it's fine for now, really. We've gotten into a good rhythm with 10-hour days, and I think that is what we'll continue to do.
The two of us are now at N88°16'38”, E85°51'10”. We have done 21 km today, leaving 192 km more to go. It's been a good day, really. It was merely –25°C when we stepped out of the tent today – and that's summer temperatures compared to what we've been through! No cold fingers and not a single cold toe; that's wonderful for a change. By the time we went to bed, the thermometer had sunk to –29°C, but even that is more than acceptable.
The wind was not as chilly today – it felt downright kind – and Mike and I have kept a nice and steady pace. However, we're drifting backwards, no doubt about it, because our hours on ice with this good glide would normally have been rewarded with a few additional kilometres of progress.
We're walking at a good and even pace, pushing forward. I only have two problems. One is the pressure pains in my right foot, and especially the heel. I keep trying with spare socks, soles, even bits of foam mattress to alleviate the strain. But regardless of what I have done it's been painful all day, and I don't know why.
The second problem is that the steel edge of my right ski, the one I repaired last night, is already coming undone. That ski won't last more than a couple of days before it snaps in two. These skis, which were supposed to be so strong and wonderful, have proved to be a great disappointment. They're simply not up to it!
March 15, 2006 / With the North Pole as Master
It was –36°C when we started this morning. We have been walking straight into that headwind all day, which has been blowing at 9 metres per second. The northerly wind pushes the ice southwards at 0.7 km per hour, meaning we have less to show for our efforts. In addition we encountered a lot of rubble-like ice and slush ice, which also slows our pace. Our focus is to preserve our health and not take any irresponsible chances, making sure we reach the North Pole in a dignified manner.
Today we slept an hour extra. Mike and I had planned on walking for 9 hours today, when the steel edge of my right ski – the one I hadn't repaired – came loose and stuck out. After 7 hours we stopped and pitched our tent. We had progressed 12 km today, leaving 211 km to go before we reach the Pole. Our position now is N88°06'47”, E86°59'42”.
We'll see what date we end up arriving at our goal – perhaps March 23rd, 24th or 25th. Thereabouts. We're not quite sure, but the North Pole and the weather conditions are master here. Reaching our destination then will be good, really excellent, and far earlier than we expected two or three weeks ago. And March 23rd was the date we had originally set for our arrival.
Mike and I are now at N88°00'23”, E89°26'04”. This has been one of the very toughest days of our expedition.
The day started with temperatures of –34°C, and we had the wind against us all day. When we called it quits, the thermometer showed –37°C. We're taking such a beating from this wind that we simply can't continue in this tempo. The two of us are just getting more and more tired, more and more exhausted, as the chilling wind sucks away all our strength. We've been for 10 hours today.
We have promised to do our best – and that's what we're doing. However, that also means taking care of ourselves and minding our health. Mike is suffering new frostbite damage on his fingertips, which now have cracked open. My feet aren't getting warm and I have pains in my right heel, no doubt after walking long distances and long hours with little pause.
N88° has been one of the hardest yet – and this day one of the toughest. We're exhausted, but are pleased that we only have two degrees of latitude left.
This Day 50 of our expedition. Our position this evening is N87°49'44”, E89°46'07”. We walked for almost 12 hours today and covered 23 km. We're not quite satisfied with that. Our slower progress today was due to poorer ice – a lot of slush ice and a fair number of leads that stretch north–south, no doubt due to the wind the last few days.
Five days ago we put away the headlights. Even at night the southern sky is lit up by the sun as it climbs ever higher towards the horizon. And on the other side of the sky we'll soon have a full moon. Probably tomorrow.
At least we're eating well. I'm now consuming 7000 calories per day. Mike looks better; his larger portions are clearly doing him a world of good.
Our winter wandering friends may have hoped for warmer weather today – instead temperatures dropped another couple of notches. –40°C is probably far colder than inside your freezer. On the bright side it should be noted that the northwesterly winds abated as the day progressed.
Under these extreme conditions Børge and Mike wrapped themselves in many layers of winter clothing as best they, taken every caution to avoid frostbite. The hands and feet, and their faces, are at risk – and there is no margin for error. They trudged on for 12 hours, progressing another 25 km northwards. The distance would have been greater if they had been spared the southerly drift.
Today was much more drudgery than yesterday. The ice was drifting southwards an average of 300 metres every hour. We're not really aiming at a specific date; our goal has always been to give it our very best shot. The hardest part so far were the weeks in darkness on the ice outside Cape Arktichesky at the start of the expedition.
Now we're just continuing to do what we've done all along – to press onward to reach our destination as quickly as possible. That is why we're stretching our days. And that's really our whole plan. Conditions can change so incredibly quickly here in the Arctic – suddenly the weather can change or our equipment cause problems.
Today was just such a day, on the very edge of what is manageable and safe. It was –38°C, and that's not taking into account the wind factor. All day we were chilled by a 3–4 metre per second wind from the north, and we've been walking against it for 12 hours. On a day like this, there is no room for even one stray thought. Mike and I have been fully concentrated on surviving, each and every hour, keeping our bodies and limbs warm enough and avoiding frostbite.
March 9, 2006 / There are more than 24 hours a day
We had the wind coming at us from northwest today, it was –34°C and a poor glide for our skis on the snow and ice. But we pressed on and are now within 87 degrees latitude and are starting the countdown with 311 km to go.
March 8, 2006 / Continuing northward at an impressive pace
March 7, 2006 / Pack ice pushed eight metres high!
It was more than 30 below when we started walking this morning, but at the end of the day our thermometer showed –26°C. It became milder as it clouded over. I took advantage of the “warm weather” to sew Mike's pulk cover back into one piece, where the polar bear had torn it apart.
This afternoon we passed through an area of pack ice that was absolutely incredible! There were probably two hectares where the ice had been completely pulverised in a compression zone – and we're talking about ice floes that had been two metres thick. In places the pack ice was piled seven–eight metres high. This was all quite fresh, probably only a couple of days old. Mike and I stood there stunned for a bit, immensely grateful that we hadn't been here when those incredible forces were unleashed. I don't know if one could have survived something like that. I'll try to send some photographs so you can see it for yourself.
It took us an hour extra to get through the area. We backtracked and walked around a bit of it, but still had to cross a 20 metre wide area of pack ice that was jam-packed with blocks. Even though our pulks took quite a beating, they don't have a scratch to show for it! They're holding up incredibly well! The short design and factory's expert workmanship have given us pulks that really function perfectly.
March 6, 2006 / “Jungle knowledge” comes in handy
The temperature wasn't actually so bad. It had climbed to –30°C, and fortunately the winder gradually turned from a more southerly direction and died down considerably toward the end of the day. It's always more comfortable to have the wind at our backs. All in all we had a good day, putting 26 km behind, two of which were last nights ice drift. From our position you can see that we're already halfway to 87 degrees latitude – and we're satisfied with that progress.
As far as the bears go, I want to point out that they suffer no damage even though we several times have had to shoot them with our flare guns. The brightly burning flare is designed to frighten, and it cannot penetrate their thick fur. The polar bears, however, don't experience it as fun, so they keep a safer distance. We are not out to injure these magnificent animals. As I pointed out in a previous post, we are the intruders here.
March 5, 2006 / Matching the milestone of Nansen and Johansen
Today we reached a milestone, N86°14'. That's the same latitude Nansen and Johansen reached in 1895. Of course we don't hope to repeat their entire feat – they turned south at this point and finally had to spend the entire winter in the Arctic. Their record and ordeal in Frans Josef Land has always been an inspiration for my own expeditions. It's been a point of reference. By the way, our longitude is now E95°13'.
For two and a half hours we followed a frozen lead due north, a perfect surface and completely flat, and that really helped us gain some distance. We chalked up 25 km and are very satisfied. Following that lead, we saw the fresh track of a mother and two cubs. Then suddenly they were standing there in front of us. They were skittish and ran off as soon as they spotted us. That gave me cause for reflection; up here I guess everybody eats everybody – eat or be eaten – and polar bears can be fearsome cannibals. At first glance those three polar bears seemed afraid of anything that moved. But we were very wrong. When we were setting up camp, they abruptly appeared almost right next to us. The cubs just sauntered over as if to say hello, while the mother watched from a safer distance, and we had to talk sternly to scare them off.
As we sat inside the tent, we heard a rustling sound outside. It was one of the cubs again, gleefully exploring the contents of Mike's pulk – he must have something really tasty in that pulk since the bears keep coming back. But its curiosity was too close for comfort, and it was only five feet from the tent when I fired the flare gun at the scoundrel. That's what it took se send it darting to safety somewhere out on the ice.
March 4, 2006 / Trouble with a playful polar bear
The bear withdrew a little, but soon came back. Finally I had to shoot it right in the chest from 5 metres' range, with my signal gun. Only then did it retreat. It must have been a shock to be hit with great force by a flaming projectile, but it's not harmful to the bear. Evidently it wasn't bothered that much, because it kept an eye on us from a few hundred metres away.
We broke camp, packed our pulks and continued our journey northwards. I suspect we got a visitor because we camped close to a lead. Polar bears apparently follow these leads of water when they hunt.
After only 15 minutes or so, the bear came back, heading straight toward us. This time Mike shot it with the signal gun, hitting it in the back from ten–twelve metres. Once again it ran off.
There are many small leads in this area. Clearly a lot of movement in the ice. We have seen seals come up to breathe in the open leads, which of course explains why the bears are here. Probably many of them. We saw the fresh tracks, probably a cub and a mother, as well as faeces. There are also lots of older tracks strongly indicating that we're right in the middle of one of their favoured territories.
Unfortunately we left the pepper spray behind after Mike gave us a dose in the tent a week ago. But we do have the signal gun, and a revolver as a last resort. We're hoping the polar bear that stalked us has had enough, that he's found food, and that he finds no reason to come looking for us again. Actually he didn't seem very aggressive. It was a young bear, perhaps three or four years old, with beautiful pale golden fur. Beautiful to look at – but even so I prefer to keep him at a distance. Hopefully he is more than happy to hunt seals at the edge of the ice floes.
We feel safer now that we've moved away from the leads.
March 2, 2006 / Eleven hours of ski repairs
The first thing we did was to move the bindings on three of our skis 5–6 cm further back. Each of them are now positioned immediately above where we registered the strain in the materials. This moves the main strain point – and hopefully in time. We can only hope that the skis are not so damaged inside that they break anyway.
The big repair job that I had to carry out on my one broken ski was excruciatingly difficult. And we still don't know how it will hold, since we haven't had a chance to walk at all today. What I did was to first saw off 25 cm from the back of that ski. Then I used that piece as a reinforcement where the ski was completely broken, attaching the binding to it, and screwed it onto the middle of the main section of the ski. Well, actually since we don't have so many screws, I had to find an alternative way to attach them. I drilled 16 holes through the ski and the reinforcement, and then used a shoelace – I have very strong shoelaces – to tighten it all. That should give a strong yet flexible joint.
March 1, 2006 / We're halfway!
We experienced a small catastrophe today. My left ski broke. This was not an accident, but rather material strain. All the skis are showing this on the steel edge, just behind the bindings, a typical place for this sort of problem. But this is so unnecessary! We had these skis specially made so they would have the strength to handle this expedition. It's the first time I have ever had a ski break on me. It must be a production fault.
Now we're facing some difficult repairs and expect to spend most of tomorrow on that. If we do nothing, every one of the skis will break sooner or later. When the steel edge breaks, that break will keep eating further into the ski until it just snaps off – so we have to fix them all.