2008 North Pole Dogsled & Ski Expedition Blog
April 27 2008:
Current position: SAS Radisson, Longyearbyen, Norway! Both teams are back in Longyearbyen. They returned by charter air from basecamp Borneo today and thoroughly enjoyed a well deserved shower and rest. As you will hear from the updates below, they are also thoroughly enjoying their celebratory dinner! Many thanks to everyone who has helped the teams from a number of different angles- physical training, mental and emotional support- there are so many who have played a part in the success of both of these teams. We thank you one and all! Once again, major congratulations to everyone!
April 26 2008:
The team enjoyed a final beautiful day in camp- blue skies, sunny, unlimited visibility, temperature around -10 C (-14 F). They were then picked up for their helicopter flight to basecamp Borneo They plan to enjoy a final night of festivities at Borneo before their flight back to Longyearbyen tomorrow. They anticipate arriving in Longyearbyen around 5:00 PM. They will have time to enjoy a shower- what a concept! And then a final celebratory dinner. They will give their final update tomorrow evening. Here is the most recent posting.
April 25 2008:
The team had a well deserved rest and slept in till 1:00 PM! They spent the day lounging in their tents, going outside to ta ke pictures, visit with others in their tents and play with the dogs. They had breakfast around 4:45 PM, then started snacks for dinner at 5:15 PM. They were just starting dinner at 10:45 PM- a feast of cheesy quesadillas and pasta. When you have 24 hour sunlight, time definitely changes perspective! There had been rumors yesterday of a football (soccer to Americans) or rugby match between the dogsled team and the ski team. Excuses from the dogsled team tonight were that weather conditions weren’t great- blowing snow and flat light so the match has been weather delayed…. Right! But there’s always tomorrow. The current plan is for both the dogsled and ski teams to be picked up by helicopter tomorrow around 5:00 PM for the flight to basecamp Borneo. Their current position is 89° 54’ 40” North, 002° 39’ West. So the southerly drift continues with a vengeance! The good news is they don’t have to travel back to 90° to meet the helicopter but rather will be picked up at their camp. They will spend the night Saturday at Borneo, then return by charter air to Longyearbyen on Sunday.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the guides- Tommy Jordbrudal, lead musher from Longyearbyen, Rick Sweitzer and Annie Aggens of Polar Explorers (Wilmette, IL). They all did a phenomenal job leading the team through very challenging Arctic conditions, keeping everyone’s spirits up and reaching their ultimate goal. And congratulations again to team members Dennis Woods and Alan Bussey (UK), Scott Anderson (US) and Richard “Rex” Excoffier (France). And finally the true heroes of the expedition- the dogs! One team was made up of Ula and Atla in front, Zilde and Luffen next in line followed by Frost and Rosko and just before the sled Voje and Grace. The other team was Birk and Skaidi in front followed by Kubbuk and Brance, then Killti and Lila and finally Pan and Tress. They all did a fantastic job and thoroughly deserved their day of rest, lots of food and lots of hugs today. They were let off lines today in pairs and had a glorious time frolicking and playing. For those who may be wondering, Voje (the “wander” dog) is doing spectacularly! No problem letting her off line today- at Borneo, she had been freaked out by the noise of the helicopter, planes, all the activity. She now has all her friends and family around and is surrounded by love and lots of hugs. Updates from Dennis, Scott and Alan (Susan- you better listen to this one!).
April 24 2008:
Current position is 90° North!! Congratulations to an incredible team on reaching the North Pole today! They had a long, hard day but achieved their goal. They awoke to blue skies, sunshine, minimal wind and a sense that this could be THE DAY. The ice and weather conditions were in their favor and they successfully reached the North Pole in the early evening. They encountered a few tricky leads but nothing compared with the challenges they had previously faced. They enjoyed a well deserved celebration with champagne, photos and satellite phone calls to friends and family (one very, very special one as you will hear in the update below!). Major congratulations to all on a hard fought victory! Spending days making no progress and eventually moving backwards is quite discouraging to say the least. But they kept up their spirits, kept plugging away and deserve to feel very proud of themselves. Congratulations to our two degree dogsled team members Dennis Woods and Alan Bussey and to our one degree team members Richard Excoffier and Scott Anderson. And Scott gets major kudos for being our Pole-to-Pole team member. He completed a two degree ski expedition to the South Pole in 2003 with Polar Explorers and is now an official member of the Bi-Polar Club! Bravo to all!!
April 23 2008:
Current position is 89° 54’ 27” North, 40° 39’ 21” West
The team got a helicopter lift today from the “land of 10,000 lakes” as lead guide Rick Sweitzer described it. He felt like they were in the middle of northern Minnesota rather than the “frozen” Arctic Ocean. Global warming has definitely hit hard! They were shuttled to an area with significantly more solid ice and landed at 89° 47’ 25” North. They traveled for about 5 hours to their current position, covering 7.5 nautical miles. The conditions were excellent compared with what they had been dealing with and everyone’s spirits are high. They did run across a few leads which made them feel good that they hadn’t left all the challenges behind. At one point, they were skiing across water that was probably frozen within the last couple of days and the ice looked like a field of Hershey’s ® kisses popping up. The dogs were running fast and overall everyone is doing great! Hear the live update from Dennis, Scott and Alan below:
April 22 2008:
Current position is 89° 17’1” North, 008° 118’51” West. The team continues to drift southwest. They have been significantly challenged by the Arctic treadmill (drifting south as quickly as they can make northward progress) combined with massive amounts of open water, more than they have seen in the 15 years they have been leading North Pole expeditions. Last night they camped on the edge of a “lake” several hundred meters across and 400-800 meters wide. They spent the last couple of hours of travel yesterday trying to find a way around it and eventually made camp. This morning, conditions had changed enough that they were able to continue some progress north though again encountered lots of open water and a strong southerly drift. Lead guide Annie Aggens reported that it feels more like the ice is a portage between areas of open water. The wind has been strong from the north-east (20-30 knots).
The current plan is for the team to get a lift by helicopter tomorrow over this huge area of open water to a position with firmer ice conditions closer to the North Pole. They will then continue their trek to the north. All are in great spirits as you can hear in the two updates below from team members. Continuing the international flavor, you will hear from Scott Anderson (CA), Dennis Woods (UK) and Richard Excoffier (France).
April 21 2008:
The team drifted south 3.5 nautical miles last night which is not the best way to start the day! They encountered more challenging conditions today than they have previously- strong winds from the North, clouds and snow. They have been traveling directly into the teeth of the wind all day. They have encountered many large leads which they have had to navigate around. Between the southerly drift, the leads and the winds, they are finishing the day right where they ended yesterday which is rather discouraging. But the live update from Dennis Woods and Scott Anderson below remains upbeat.
April 20 2008:
Current position is 89° 20’ North though they have drifted south some since making camp. The team reports a wonderful day in terms of weather with blue skies, unlimited sunshine, white as far as the eye can see. They did have quite challenging traveling conditions with many open leads and rubble fields (areas of significant pressure ridges or big blocks of ice that jumble together). However, the team negotiated their way through the obstacles and were still able to cover 7.5 nautical miles (though probably twice that much once one factors in the negotiations around the leads and up and over the pressure ridges). Listen below for the live updates from Richard Excoffier and Dennis Woods.
April 19 2008:
Current position is 89° 15’ North. This has been the toughest day of travel for the team thus far. They awoke to cloudy skies, snow having fallen overnight and flat light. This makes negotiating the varied terrain extremely challenging as there is almost no definition to the rises and falls of the Arctic Ocean. They encountered many significant leads, some of which led to several different attempts before being able to negotiate the crossings. The team covered 7.5 nautical miles which is very commendable in light of the conditions. Listen to the live report from team members Dennis Woods, Scott Anderson and Richard (“Rex”) Excoffier below.
April 18 2008:
Current position is 89° 05’ 96” North, 005° 17’ 2” East. The team covered 10 nautical miles today in challenging conditions. They encountered lead after lead, some large enough that they had to build ice bridges in order to cross. They had drifted 3 miles south overnight so had some make-up work to do. They were delighted to have Voje, Rick and Tommy join them this morning by charter helicopter from Borneo. New team members are Scott Anderson (Pacific Palisades, CA) and Richard Excoffier (Paris, France). The one and two degree teams are gelling well and making great progress. It has been a glorious, sunny day with the ice and snow sparkling brightly.
Click below for live updates from Dennis (two degree team) and Scott (one degree team).
April 17 2008: VOJE THE “WANDER” DOG
One of our expedition team members proved to have a more adventurous streak than we counted on. Last night during the loading of the transport helicopter, always a tricky moment with the dogsled team, one frisky female, Voje, managed to get out of her harness. Our equally frisky founder and trek leader, Rick Sweitzer, immediately went in pursuit but Voje was intent on her own version of the arctic marathon, evading capture and vanishing into the vastness. Rick stayed behind to continue the search as the other team members were transported to meet the two degree dogsled team. Tommy, our main musher, was already with our expedition on the ice, and as soon as he learned of Voje’s unscheduled solo trek, he hopped on the helicopter for the return flight to Ice Station Borneo. Joining up with Rick, they both spent the night out on the ice searching for her on skis and skidoo, seeing encouraging glimpses of Voje and occasionally spotting her pawprints on the snow. They put food out on the ice during the day, hoping to draw her near. The plan was for Tommy to camp out on the ice tonight near the food. As he was setting up his tent, Voje trotted up to greet him, apparently having decided to rejoin the “group tour” after her unscheduled day of independent travel. After 25 hours of searching, Tommy and Voje triumphantly headed back to Borneo where they all plan to catch another helicopter in the morning to join the expedition. But first there are those pesky arctic paparazzi to contend with – almost everyone at the bustling tent city on the ice wanted a picture taken with Voje the “Wander” Dog.
We’re all very happy and relieved she’s back safely.
April 16 2008:
Current position 89° 09′ 9″ North, 006° 43′ 2″ East. The team spent the day camped out awaiting the arrival of the one degree dogsled and ski expedition members. The other teams were due to fly out of Longyearbyen at 10:00 AM but were delayed due to weather conditions. They did end up flying to Borneo late afternoon and last heard, were on their way by charter helicopter to meet up with the dogsled team.
Annie reported a relaxing day, weather conditions varying from very limited visibility (less than .25 mile or .4 km) to long ranging visibility. The barometric pressure dropped over the course of the day but seemed to be stabilizing by evening. They have been drifting rapidly to the west and anticipate passing over the Prime Meridian overnight. The dogs had a chance to play off leash again today and had a ball! Annie said it felt more like dogs romping in a dog park than the hard working dogs they are on a daily basis. The team eagerly awaits the new members and getting back on the trail.
April 15 2008:
Current position is 88° 59′ 85″ North; 12° 29′ 98″ East. They had a good day being back on the ice. Before breaking camp, they had a visit from a solo North Pole trekker, George, from Switzerland. They enjoyed visiting over a cup of tea and wish him the best on his continued journey.
They encountered their first open water lead and had to negotiate quite a detour to get across it. When crossing, Dennis spotted a lone seal and was able to capture it on film.
The temperature has been quite warm +12° F (-11° C) with fairly strong winds. The barometer continues to drop and the forecast for tomorrow is for snow, blowing snow with lower visibility and a fair amount of wind.
The plan for tomorrow is to meet up with the one degree dogsled expedition team at 89 degrees. Depending on their drift, the team may stay put in camp till the other team joins them. They are looking forward to joining forces with the other team and continuing their trek of the last degree to the North Pole. Listen to the live update from team member Dennis Woods.
April 14 2008:
Current position is 88° 51′ 06″ North, 014° 44′ 4″ degrees East. The team took a layover day today but still drifted approximately 4 nautical miles north. They were ahead of schedule and as noted in yesterdays audio update, had camped at the edge of a major rubble field- pressure ridges as far as the eye can see. Their weather deteriorated overnight and they woke up to the tents flapping in the wind. The wind was 10-15 mph in the morning with gusts up to 20+. They also had very poor visibility. Negotiating through rubble fields with big pressure ridges is tricky enough in good conditions but extremely challenging with limited visibility and strong winds. At times when the team went out to walk around, they found themselves falling as it was almost impossible to see the contrasts in the ice elevations. They relaxed in their tents all day and took a well deserved break. The dogs even had a 20 minute off leash play time which they thoroughly enjoyed and deserved. The team enjoyed a delicious dinner of “Spitsbergen Spaghetti” and hope that the weather will improve tomorrow. The barometric pressure earlier in the day dropped precipitously but seems to be leveling out in the evening and the winds are subsiding somewhat. Listen below for all the details.
April 13 2008:
Current position 88° 47′ 48″ degrees North, 16° 15′ 02″ East.
Another beautiful day with great weather. They passed some amazing ice sculptures. The dogsledding was very fun and Alan reportedly looks like Evil Knievel on the back of the sled, getting it back upright after it tilts to a 70° angle. They are drifting North and East. Click the button below for the full audio update.
April 12 2008:
Current position is 88° 39′ 90″ North, 15° 50′ 99″ East. Dennis Woods called in the update tonight. The team made excellent progress again, covering 10 NM. Conditions have been fantastic- veteran polar guide and Polar Explorers’ director Annie Aggens tells the team it doesn’t get any better that this! And she certainly knows, having been guiding Polar expeditions for close to a decade. They report traveling through landscape that looks close to Jurassic in nature- ice sculptures resembling dinosaurs, leaping dolphins, big fins etc. Alan Bussey is becoming a professional musher with Tommy’s help. They are enjoying a fine dinner of lasagna imported from England- many thanks to Dennis’ wife! Click the link below to hear all the details.
April 11 2008:
Current position is 88° 30′ North. The team had a wonderful travel day today. Conditions were excellent, the kind of day you dream about for Arctic travel. Sunny, clear, excellent visibility, a slight wind from the south that helped push them north. They did encounter some pressure ridges and had a few falls on the bumpy ice but still had a lot of fun. The temperature was around -25° C (-13° F). They passed some beautiful ice sculptures and frost flowers in the ice. After a great meal, they’re tired and ready for a well deserved night’s sleep.
April 10 2008:
Alan Bussey (Berkshire, UK) called in the update today- click below to listen. The team was ready and eagerly awaiting their charter flight from Longyearbyen to Borneo this morning. They had a very smooth flight and reported that the dogs all did very well. They arrived in Borneo around 1:00 PM Longyearben time (all times in these updates will be local time in Longyearbyen, Norway). They unloaded and prepped their gear and had a chance to explore Borneo a bit. They left Borneo around 5:00 PM and proceeded to their current position at 88°19′ N, 14° 22′ 06″ E. The ice is currently drifting to the east with a bit of a southerly drift. The conditions are beautiful- no wind, lots of sunshine, clear skies, temperature -22° C (-7.6° F). They are excited to begin their official trek to the Pole tomorrow and look forward to a wonderful night.
April 9 2008:
Dennis Woods (Surrey, UK) just called in an update right before going to bed. Everyone is all packed, and rearing to fly out tomorrow at 8 AM to Borneo, the ice station where we launch all our expeditions. Weather reports show that it’s going to be cold, -30° C (-22° F), with the pack ice flowing away from the pole at a few hundred meters per hour.
April 8 2008:
Annie called in her first update from the Dogsled & Ski Expedition! Click below to listen:
“Hi, this is Annie, and it is April 8 – the start of the 2-degree dogsled expedition. We kicked off our expedition with a really nice dinner tonight, and had a great time, and we’re off to bed for a busy day tomorrow. We’re going to spend the day going over all sorts of logistics, and supplies, and all sorts of things – go meet the dogs, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’ll be in touch with more exciting news tomorrow, so check back in. Bye.”
We are in final preparations for our upcoming expedition to the North Pole. As we speak, over 1000 lbs of food and gear are being packed and shipped to Norway. Make sure to check back starting April 8 for the latest on the expedition!