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The Arctic Polar Expedition / Season Spring 2006


The North Pole in Winter (Borge Ousland & Mike Horn)



From their website

March 26, 2006 / Our slow transition to civilization
Well, our story continues… We have arrived safely at Ice Base Borneo. The first helicopter landed here yesterday – before that, there was only barren ice. But yesterday the Russian arrive, set up their first tents, and received an airdrop of fuel and necessities from Murmansk. Then their helicopter flew to pick us up at the North Poles, landing at 18h00 last night, Norwegian time. The flight only took 15–20 minutes. This year Ice Station Borneo is situated at N89°32' – in other words very close to the North Pole.
Yes, Mike and I have met civilization again, or at least its most northerly outpost, after having been on our own for over two months.
The plan was to stay in the spacious tents that the Russians have set up. But it was simply too hot for us there – and far too noisy and full of smoke. We decided to set up our tent once again and stay there. I suppose we felt a need to retreat. It's good to have a haven that is only ours, so we slept in the tent as usual.
It's been great to have that option, while feeling most welcome to visit the Russians' camp, to warm ourselves and enjoy meals there. We're not suffering any discomfort. We have arrived safely, and we're both fine, physically and mentally. Mike is more than eighty percent recovered, and it will soon be ninety percent. He's on the last round of antibiotics and his body seems to be healing really well.

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.
The Russian team has found the perfect lead, and it is right nearby. But surrounding it there is loose ice and it is covered with snow. To clean the “runway” they use a small tractor equipped with a snowplough. Well, things didn't exactly go as planned. Yesterday they dropped this tractor from the aeroplane – but the parachute failed to open. When it hit the ice hard it shattered into a thousand pieces. Tomorrow they are flying in a new tractor to clear the icy airstrip. It will be a while before it's ready, but they still have a week before the plane is coming to pick us up. That lands here on April 2.

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 23, 2006 / At the Pole !

Børge and Mike have arrived safely at 90 degrees latitude – better known as the North Pole.
This journey has been so tough that I think it will be a very long time until someone tries to repeat our expedition,” says Børge Ousland. Even so, he is in excellent form, and his friend and expedition partner Mike Horn is in much better than a couple of days ago.
At this moment they're setting up their tent and establishing their camp.
“I'll give you the details later. There's a long list of people that I have promised to call. And I'll soon send some more photos.”

March 22, 2006 / Just 21 km to go
Yes, we have reached N89°48'39”, E87°25'34” – and I have good news! Mike's medicine has started worked; he's far better today. He was fatigued this morning, but he is definitely improving. We've put him on a double dose of medication, so everything is looking good here.
We have 21 km to go, and we're extremely motivated for the final stretch. Tomorrow we're looking toward the North Pole – there isn't much else to say.

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're following our routine, sleeping soon and waking up at our normal time tomorrow. Then we're pushing for the Pole on what we expect to be the last day. The weather has already changed; the wind is blowing from the Northwest, so we'll probably drift a bit back tonight. But we put 25 km behind us today too after walking for 11 hours – so everything is looking good.

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
Yes, here I am again – or more precisely at N89°21'26”, E79°05'25”. From here it is 71.8 km to the North Pole. We walked 25 km today and in this respect we have had a good day.

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
Yes, today we reached 89th latitude with a good margin – the golden latitude! – and our position now is N89°07'55”, E78°49'41”. After walking 26 km today we have 97 km to go. It's been a good day, for me, with good ice, even though we have felt the grip of the strong wind from east-northeast. We've had alternating white-out and sun. Never seemed like it wanted to go down – the sun has followed us along the horizon.

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
Mike and I have had a really good day! We have walked 31 km and drifted 5 km last night, putting a distance of 36 km between the two camps. That leaves 124 km to go before we reach the North Pole. Tonight's position is N88°53'19”, E80°14'47”.
The wind has come from the east and the ice continues to drift northwards. The ice is really moving fast – it's amazing how much conditions can change from one day to the next. The drift has certainly been useful and it seems to have closed the leads. Ice conditions have been excellent.
We enjoyed the company of the sun for four hours today. For a while it was completely over the horizon, before slowly sinking sideways just below. It's light round-the-clock now.

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.
I wasn't satisfied with the ski repairs that I did last night, and saw the need for some improvements. Anyways, I've been at it a couple of hours now, making the adjustments I want. I have doubled the skis with the sections that I sawed off the back, screwed and bolted them together as best I can, before refastening the bindings. Now they're twice as thick, much stronger, and really should last all the way to the North Pole.
We're not far away from 89th degree latitude. We'll reach that tomorrow.

March 18, 2006 / The temperature rises – time for a swim
Now we're in the tent again. Almost anybody can ski when the weather is fine, but it's only the best that can make something when faced with difficult conditions and poor weather. In all humility, I think Mike and I count ourselves in the latter category. Today the northeasterly wind was coming at us fiercely, blowing 8–10 seconds per metre, and gave us a really chilly start. But we walked all day and pushed ourselves 15 km northwards, no doubt losing a few kilometres to the ice drift. When we woke up this morning, we registered that we had already lost 2–3 km compared to where we pitched our tent last night. Well, this evening there is 160 km left to go. Our new position is N88°33'51, E83°54' 36”.

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.
Very early in the day, we came to a rather narrow lead. Here we place our two pulks next to each other, making a fairly stable bridge and crawling across on top of them. A week ago I sent you a photo where we used that very same technique.

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.
Nevertheless it has been a day with many challenges – and they're not over yet. My right ski snapped, right under the binding. Sheltered in the tent, I cut that ski, moved the binding forward, leaving me with an extremely short ski. I think I'll manage all right; I only need it to last a few more days, enough for us to complete our journey.

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
We have walked 10 hours today and put 22 km behind us, leaving 172 km between tonight's camp and the pole. If the arithmetic doesn't quite add up with what I told you last night, that's because we drifted 2 km south while in our tents. Even though it's perfectly calm, we still seem to be drifting the wrong way at a pace of 0.3 km per hour.

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.
Today, part of the sun's orb peered over the horizon for several hours. A bit strange, really, because it isn't really “shining” – it seems more like a very distant glowing ball.

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.
We're now at N88°27'37”, E87°02'20”. With luck that position won't change much while we sleep. Talk to you tomorrow.

March 16, 2006 / “Summer temperatures!”
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 on good ice again, much better than the slushy and sandy ice that had plagued us the last few days. The sandy ice is due to sediments flowing down the great Siberian rivers, but I think we've seen the last of it. Hope so.

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!
I am going to make one last attempt to repair them now. If that doesn't help, then I have to cut them off, move the binding forward, and continue the trip on extremely short skis. I'll manage somehow.
It's been cloudy today, with a pretty strong wind coming at us from the north, carrying snow. That is the reason for the southerly drift. Well, that's how it is. We'll see what tomorrow bring and move closer yet to our goal.

March 15, 2006 / With the North Pole as Master
The North Pole gave us a real beating yesterday; it was a real lesson, driving home the fact that you can't just “run ahead” up here. The weather forecast we received yesterday says it all – northerly winds all week.

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.
That's our goal. And we realized that couldn't do it by continuing to press on with 12-hour days when the Arctic weather was fighting us. So we calmed things down a bit.
Well, it's time to re-fasten that steel edge with Araldite glue. I've been waiting for it to thaw a bit. If I do the repairs now, the ski should be fully usable in the morning. Really glad we have an excellent repair kit!

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”.
There is every indication that reaching N89° latitude is going to be a real tribulation. The cold weather makes us very tired. Yesterday was one of the hardest days so far. Now we're just trying to keep our routine; the plan is to carry on tomorrow, unless the weather is truly miserable.

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.
Yesterday I must have been too exhausted to mention that we saw a glimpse of the sun on the southern horizon. It's light 24 hours a day now, and the sun will soon rise. The light makes life easier up here. We're only struggling with the chill and weather. It all has a lot to do with the lunar cycle. When the moon is full, as it is now, the weather usually improves. Well, better and better… it gets colder but calmer. When the wind blows, temperatures have a tendency to rise a bit.

March 14, 2006 / Harsh northerly wind drains our strength
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.
We simply have to let go of the idea of reaching the North Pole in a hurry, be sensible in this extreme weather, and make safe decisions. There is still a long ways to go. Tomorrow we're falling back into a less strenuous routine, settling for 10 hours walking, and no longer stretching the day beyond 24 hours. We simply can't walk 12 hours and make do with 6 hours sleep when the weather is fighting us. We have to have the weather on our side if we're to push that hard – and the winds and weather are definitely not. It's against us, and according to the forecast we can expect northerly winds and chilly temperatures all week. So that's why we're calming down our pace.

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.
The most goal of this expedition is to reach the North Pole in a sensible way. The great difficulties and major challenges are behind us. Now we have to mind our well being. If the weather suddenly improves, we can make an extra effort. Otherwise we're going to continue at a normal pace.
We're both exhausted and hope to soon be asleep.

March 13, 2006 / Enjoying 7000 calories per day
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.
It's been a week of extreme cold. Today was ever so slightly better than yesterday, with the thermometer showing between –36° and –37°C. I must admit that we're tired of these cold temperatures, literally. The cold saps our strength and leaves us really exhausted at the end of the day. This morning it took us an extra hour before we were ready to go.

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.
We use two stoves inside the tent – one to heat water and make food, the other to warm up Mike's fingers. We had some problems with the pump to one of the stoves leaking and had to replace the o-rings, but otherwise our equipment is functioning well. Well, that was my report for today. Talk to you tomorrow.

March 12, 2006 / 25 km in 40°C below
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.
Status for the expedition? Position N87°37'44, E90°37'09. That leaves 265 km until N90° – better known as the North Pole. But now it's time for some well-deserved sleep before they tackle yet another of their special, 26-hour Arctic days.

March 11, 2006 / Cautious perseverance on their coldest day
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.
When we're walking for such a long stretch we become tired, and it is very easy to make a fatal mistake. So we have to be very careful. Mike had problems with his fingers at the end of the day. It went fine – no frostbite. But if temperatures are just as cold tomorrow, and a northerly wind on top of that, we're going to have to cut the day short. We simply have to adapt to the situation. That's just the way it is.
This expedition has everything in it. We have far to go. Tonight's position is N87°24'25”, E90°35'39”. That leaves 290 km to go to Pole.

March 9, 2006 / There are more than 24 hours a day
We covered 28 km in what turned out to be a pretty rough day. We've started the final push for the North Pole, deciding to extend our walking time to 12 hours. This evening we came to a huge open lead that was impossible to cross, and we had to settle for changing our course and following the edge of the ice. Our camp has GPS coordinates N87°12'47”, E91°51'37”.

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.
Mike and I are no longer on a 24-hour clock. As mentioned, we will be out on the ice 12 hours every “day”, but also sleeping 1.5 hours longer each “night”. This way a smaller portion of our time is taken up by all the other tasks that need doing. However, it also means that you will be getting our progress reports at irregular times; we'll be reporting in a bit later every day.
Well, we're going to make a run for it! And we'll see how things develop. Naturally we're hoping that the weather, ice conditions and drift will be to our advantage – and not least of all that our equipment performs without fail. I look forward to giving you a new report tomorrow.

March 8, 2006 / Continuing northward at an impressive pace
There was no report from Børge today, but we have confirmation that all is well. They walked 26 km today. Both were extremely exhausted at day's end.
A while back we reported that they needed to gain one degree of latitude every six days in order to make it to the North Pole before winter. In the last couple of weeks, they have progressed far faster than that! And that's counting the day they lost to ski repairs. Ice conditions have been excellent and Børge and Mike have put in 10–11 hours each day to gain as much ground as possible.
At their impressive rate, it suddenly no longer seems impossible to reach the original goal of their expedition: the year's first Polar sunrise at the North Pole. Taking into account their extremely difficult start, this would be a truly incredible achievement!

March 7, 2006 / Pack ice pushed eight metres high!
We have had a good day and are now 25 km north of our last camp. For the time being, the wind is at our backs, but it really started blowing this evening as we pitched our tent. That's not good, because the wind easily pushes the ice around and opens it up. Well, at least the northerly drift works to our advantage, but we'll just have to see whether the ice terrain has changed when we wake up in the morning. Anyways, our position tonight is N86°42'18”, E93°33'20” – which means we have 367 km left to the North Pole and are quickly approaching 87 degrees latitude.

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.
Today we have walked on many long, frozen leads. They have been several kilometres long, in fact, and up to a kilometre wide. A week or so ago they were open, and so the ice in this entire area must have been subjected to great movement not so long ago.
Now the ice has been calm and stable for some time, and we hope it stays that way.
Mike and I are cooperating really well. It took us a while to get to know each other. We're two strong individualists who are used to doing things our own way. It took two weeks or so for the teamwork to really flow smoothly. But we've gotten to know each other's needs, our different ways of thinking and doing things – we come from two very different cultures, you know – and we've become very tight and excellent friends. It's working out really well.
We're putting in the effort every day, doing our best.

March 6, 2006 / “Jungle knowledge” comes in handy
Mike and I are now camped at N86°28'59”, E94°,20'30”. We feared the worst after the wind really started howling last night, but the day turned out much better than we expected. Perhaps partly because we played it safe and put on a double set of winter clothing this morning, on our legs as well as torsos. I cut up a pair of my socks and used them between my boots and galoshes – so today my feet stayed nice and warm.

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.
We have followed many frozen leads today; they're mostly running north–south. We move more quickly and easily on this nice, even ice. But now it seems we've put the leads behind us, and probably the polar bears as well. We haven't seen any tracks or signs of them at all today.

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.
We're starting to feel fatigue after these long days. When we walk 10 hours, there is hardly time for anything at the end of the day, other than to set up camp, brush the snow and frost from our clothing and equipment, cook up water, eat dinner and go to bed. That fills up the entire day.
Even though we have no sun, we have no trouble keeping our direction as we walk. Mike is a real master when it comes to navigating after snowdrifts that may be one or two weeks old. Perhaps his “jungle knowledge” is useful up here in the Arctic, too, because he is fantastic when it comes to reading the terrain.

March 5, 2006 / Matching the milestone of Nansen and Johansen
We're sitting in the tent again after suffering a really cod day – one of the coldest we have had so far. The thermometer showed –33°C, but a strong chill factor in the form of a 5 meter per second easterly wind made it far colder. An extra wind jacket saved me today, but my feet didn't get warm until half the day was over. After five hours my toes finally thawed, and then it hurt like hell. After ten hours we were exhausted and chilled, bus some days are like that.

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'.
This day, too, started in an unusual fashion. At 4am, one hour ahead of schedule, we were rudely awakened by a noise outside the tent. It was our friendly polar bear paying us a visit – the same one who stalked us most of yesterday. When it heard us, it withdrew, but again it came back as we were packing up and followed us most of today as well. Finally we shot it again with the flare gun, a third time. Since then we haven't seen it.

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.
No, I don't think Mike's tasty snacks are the reason for all the bears. It's the frozen leads and the movement in the ice. We're in the midst of their hunting grounds, and the holes in the ice indicate that there are plenty of seals around to prey on. We hope to move out of here as soon as possible, north of where the polar bears frequent. Because it is really bothersome to not know whether it's safe to get some shut-eye at night.
We don't exactly get an abundance of sleep, rarely more than seven hours – and we need that after long days of pressing onward, always pressing on.

March 4, 2006 / Trouble with a playful polar bear
We reached the 86th latitude today – and that feels great! Our position tonight is N86°00'42” and about E96°. It's been another cold day, the thermometer shows –32°C after it warmed up a little toward the end of the day.
We had an astonishing start today. The two of us were ready to go outside when something tugged hard at the tent. Mike insisted that it wasn't him – so it had to be an unexpected visitor, and there are not so many possibilities…
A polar bear was standing right outside. It had torn apart the cover on Mike's pulk. You see, we fastened the pulks to the tent to anchor it last night, as well as to warn us if a bear tried to steal our food. Well, our system obviously worked perfectly this morning.

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.
As if that wasn't enough, he returned to stalk us in the middle of the day, this time keeping a safer distance. He seemed more curious and playful than threatening, rolling around in the snow – but he kept following us. When he disappeared, it was evening, two hours before we called it a day. We haven't seen him after that and hope he doesn't return. Polar bears destroy equipment and they can be dangerous, too.

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.
My ski repairs seem to be holding up well. The ski that I had to reinforce is bending a lot more, so today I used some steel wire to make the joint even tighter. Funny thing is I found this wire on a mountain on my 1997 expedition to the Antarctic, and kept it figuring it would come in handy one day. Well, now it's proved handy.
We had a good day, moving forward 23 km in ten hours, and getting two free kilometres last night. That was just enough to push us beyond N86° today. This is Børge Ousland signing off.

March 2, 2006 / Eleven hours of ski repairs
We have been in the tent the entire day repairing skis. I'm just finished. The operation has taken me 11 hours and it was extremely difficult and demanding!

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.
I'm really hoping this repair job will hold! I think it will. But it's horrible to consider the thought that every single one of our skis might have to be repaired in the same manner. Hopefully we won't have to do that – because it took an insane amount of time.
We're going to have to have a serious word with our ski producer when we get back. These skis are clearly not what they're made out to be and not what we ordered. It looks like they've just given us ordinary skis, and not the reinforced ones that we were promised.
Tomorrow we'll test the results on the ice.

March 1, 2006 / We're halfway!
Tonight we set up camp at N85°33'37”, E97°40'33”, after progressing 20 km – two of them thanks to the northerly ice drift last night. The reason for today's shorter distance is the ice conditions. We walked for 10.5 hours, but spent a fair part of the time going through pack ice or looking for ways around the blocks of ice. Another factor is poor glide; it was –31°C today and that seemed to influence the surface of the snow. But all things considered, we're happy to now have less than 500 km to go – 495 km, to be more precise.

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.
It will be my job, actually. Mike froze his fingers and they don't look so good. His thumbs really swelled up last night, and when we pressed them, pus came out behind the nails. But they are clearly improving.
We've figured out a way to do the repairs and are hoping they will go well. I'll give you a full report when we're done tomorrow.