Thursday, April 14, 2011

Back in Longyearbyen...

The team was picked up by helicopter today near the North Pole and brought back to the Borneo basecamp where they caught their return flight to Longyearbyen. From the helicopter window the team had a birds-eye view of the pack ice and it was with respect and admiration that they watched the familiar miles pass beneath them. Soon they were back at the Borneo basecamp where they boarded their return flight to Longyearbyen.

The helicopter that picked them up at the North Pole.

Back in Longyearbyen the air was warm (at least to the team!) and the return to civilization brought with it some luxuries, namely a hot shower and comfortable bed! The team had a celebratory dinner where they were presented with official certificates and awards commemorating their successful expedition. When they called in their report there was so much laughter and festivity in the background that it was hard to hear them!

One common experience on the first night back "indoors" is to wake up in the middle of the night sweating with the urge to throw off all sheets and blankets. We'll see if any of our team members experience this sensation, but that would require them to go to bed in the first place! Make sure to listen to Sichen's audio report below to hear more.

Though this will be the last posting from the Arctic we will keep this blog up and we hope to add additional photos and video footage from the expedition, as well as memories from the expedition. Thank you for following this incredible adventure and check back soon for more from the Arctic Fox Mission!

A parting shot from the North Pole.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The North Pole!

Congratulations to the Arctic Fox Mission! Today the team reached the North Pole - the top of the world, where all time zones converge and all lines of longitude meet! It was another beautiful day with a bright blue sky that made the snow sparkle like diamonds in the sun. Upon reaching the North Pole the team celebrated with hugs, handshakes, laughter, tears, and plenty of photos to document the occasion.

The team taking a break from skiing during the final miles to the North Pole. 

Standing at 90 degrees North, the Geographic North Pole!

After celebrating their achievement and internalizing the moment, the team set up camp and prepared for a continuation of the festivities. The green dining tent was converted into a special salon for the first-ever official North Pole Poetry Slam in honor of the Arctic Fox Mission team leader and acclaimed poet Mr. Nubo Huang. Each team member shared a special poem (or two, or three...) and together the team celebrated friendship, poetry, family, adventure, and the Arctic, whose 24 hour sun was circling overhead. 

The team expects to be picked up tomorrow by helicopter and returned to the Borneo basecamp, from which they will fly back to Longyearbyen. They have phoned in some very special audio reports, including poetry, so make sure to listen to each of the audio files below, and check back in again tomorrow for another update from the team. Once again, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the Arctic Fox Mission on their very successful expedition! Way to go!!!

Interesting trivia: Strange as it may sound finding the exact North Pole can be a challenge, even with a GPS. Sometimes it is possible to look for 5 or 10 minutes within a 20 square foot area! There is no sign or post marking the spot (it would drift away in a few minutes) and all the while that a person is looking for 90.00.000 N to appear on their GPS the ice beneath them is in constant motion. Thus, it is like searching for a precise location while on a moving treadmill. It makes it all the more special when the GPS flashes that special number 90.00.000. The North Pole.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Almost there...

The team made great progress today, logging 8 nautical miles in 7 hours of skiing. They were also "given" a couple miles last night while they slept by a positive northward drift (see below for more information abot drift). Both Sichen and Hrafnkell took the lead today, guiding the team across the pack ice for approximately 2 hours each. Choosing the route and navigating north can be both exciting and challenging and we hear that they did great jobs being "out in front". When they called in the sky had turned cloudy and there was a wind out of the south west. The team was in camp and getting ready for a big dinner and hot drinks.

Traveling north in perfect conditions.
Today the team saw signs of Arctic life... polar bear footprints frozen in the snow. They estimate that the print was several days old. The bear was obviously heading north in search of seals, its primary source of food. Seeing polar bears or polar bear foot prints so far north is uncommon. Polar bears much prefer to live further to the south where open water and seals are much more plentiful. The polar bear footprints are a special reminder that even at the end of the Earth there is life to be celebrated and admired.

The foot of a polar bear vs. the foot of a skier.

About drift... Many people don't realize that the Arctic Ocean is in constant motion and the Arctic Fox team  is at the whim of the ocean's currents and drift. If the current is drifting to the north the team will also drift north, if the currents turn to the south the team will also drift to the south. The drift is unpredictable in its direction and intensity. Every night when the team goes to bed they check their location on their GPS. In the morning one of the first things they do is check the GPS to see where the drift has taken them. Sometimes it may only be a hundred meters east or west, and other times it can be several nautical miles! Polar drift is unique to the North Pole, and it is one of the factors that makes any North Pole expedition so unpredictable!

Make sure to listen to today's daily audio reports from the team (the first one is in English) and check back tomorrow for another update from the team! We expect that they will reach the North Pole tomorrow!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue skies and more good conditions...

Another beautiful day on the Arctic Ocean for the Arctic Fox Mission. Blue skies and calm winds combined with a cool temperature of -26C made for excellent traveling conditions. The team encountered a few more pressure ridges today that required some fancy footwork. The team is quickly becaoming very accustomed to travel on the ice. They are efficient and strong.

Sichen pulling his sled across the Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Fox Mission camp. The green tent is the dining tent.

We received some excellent photos from the team today, including the sun as it appeared yesterday. You may recall that they were skiing towards the sun all day and now you can see for yourself the incredible view. As the team called in they were making themselves comfortable after a long day of skiing, and getting ready to eat a big meal of mexican chicken with rice.

Skiing into the sun, surrounded by an beautiful halo.
Make sure to listen to the audio blog and check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A great day of travel...

Today the team made great progress logging 10 nautical miles of northward gain. the temperature was around -25 degrees C with a breeze coming across their left cheeks. With the longitudinal positioning of the team North was almost directly into the sun for much of the day which was a beautiful sight because there was a halo around the sun caused by atmospheric conditions.

Good conditions allowed for great progress
The team experienced very good traveling conditions with few open water "leads" and only a handful of small pressure ridges. When we spoke with the team they were in their dining tent enjoying hot drinks and soup in advance of Dinner. Ragnar was also sharing some dried Icelandic fish that he brought from home. He has very good reason to celebrate. He learned today that he is a new grandfather! Make sure to listen to Sichen's audio report below and check back again tomorrow for more news from the team!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On the ice and skiing North!

After a sometimes frustrating delay the Arctic Fox Mission departed Longyearbyen today for the Arctic Ocean. When they touched down on the ice runway they were excited and relieved to be there! Remember, they had already flown nearly the whole distance several days ago before having to turn back due to a crack in the runway.

The Borneo basecamp and runway from the air.

Unloading the plane.

After a warm dinner served by the Borneo staff the team wasted no time in heading North. They skied several miles during which time they made good progress across the ice. The team is excited, energized, and happy to be on the move. The sun was out and the temperature was minus 27 degrees with a slight wind from the south east.

Heading North!
From this point on the team will travel 6-10 hours a day, in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. They will navigate around open water "leads" and pressure ridges of ice. Each day, and each hour will bring new and different challenges. Make sure to listen to the daily audio report from the team, and check back again tomorrow for another update from the ice!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hoping to fly tomorrow...

It was a beautiful day in Longyearbyen and with the day unexpectedly "free" the team took full advantage of the sun. Chris and Ragnar went on a snowmobile trip while Hjorleifur, Hrafnkell, Dirk and Chris climbed to the summit of the mountain that overlooks Longyearbyen. The temperature was around -18 degrees C and atop the mountain the winds were gusting to 25 miles per hour. It allowed Hjorleifur and Hrafnkell a good opportunity to test out their face masks, which they decided were pretty good.

Ragnar and Chris explored the area by snowmobile.

Typical Longyearbyen houses. The mountain in the background
is the same mountain that several members of the team climbed today.
 In the afternoon they got a call to be on stand-by for a possible flight to the Borneo ice camp, but the flight was a no-go. The charter providers have been hard at work to resolve the runway issue and they are hopeful to have inbound flights with passengers starting tomorrow. The Arctic Fox Mission team will learn more at 10 AM tomorrow morning. They are ready to depart at a moment's notice and they are looking forward to the next part of their journey. The team has been receiving messages from friends and family and they are thankful for the support. They look forward to answering your questions about the expedition once they get on the ice! Make sure to listen to the audio update below, and check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.