‘Headlong to the North Pole’ would have been a suitable alternative title. ‘Ladies go north’ another. And they’re going to the northernmost north – there is no further north!
I can imagine some of you, dear regular readers, might be a bit confused by mention here of the North Pole, since I’ve just finished a mini-series on mid-Pacific islands like Fiji and Tahiti. But no, I haven’t got the equator and the North Pole mixed up in my post-intense-tourism haze; this is for real…
The (Ant)Arctic theme began way back in 2009. That’s when we met Felicity Aston and went on to support her all-woman Antarctic group expedition to the South Pole (details in my book New Year at the South Pole!). Three years later, again with our support, she went one further and skied coast to coast across Antarctica – on her own! – covering almost 1800km over 60 days.
Fast forward to 2018, and here she goes again – but this time to the other pole – the one up at the top of the world in the Arctic!
Here’s the low-down:
11 brave skiers from 10 countries will set off skiing from the Russian Arctic Camp Barneo to the North Pole.
But this won’t be just an Arctic journey pushing the limits of human possibilities. It’s also serious scientific research into the effects of extreme environmental conditions and similarly extreme physical burdens – on both the body and the mind. Besides, this is going to be a test run of various life-supporting technologies (clothes, hygiene, communications, etc.) so as to eventually be able to use them in space. In short, it’s a tearing-up-of-the-rulebook hi-tech scientific expedition undertaken by 11 extraordinary individuals who aren’t afraid of adversity. Sounds great, and just our cup of tea :).
The more cynical reader may of course look at the distance involved – 150km from Barneo to the top of the world – and possibly scoff, (the little devil!) at its much less a distance than Felicity’s solo Antarctic ski. Here’s my answer to such naughty cynicism:
Sure, at first glance this may seem like a bit of a step backward in terms of the difficulty factor. However!…
Both the North and South Poles are of course similar in that they sit bang in the middle of endless barren and freezing white deserts. But the climate of the North Pole is a lot harsher than that of the South Pole: high humidity (v. important), wind (v. v. important), polar bears, cracks in the thick ice covering the Arctic Ocean. And that’s what will make this expedition a lot riskier – and a lot more interesting and challenging.
After two years of preparation for the trip, the girls are almost ready. They’re already on Svalbard – waiting for the weather to be ok enough to be able to land at Barneo and get the expedition-proper started.
Btw, our friend O.R. will also be taking part. She too is already in Svalbard waiting for the green light re the weather up at Barneo…
Just the other day she wrote me to tell how she’s getting on:
“I’m an introvert; therefore, I carry a spade in my hand all the time. My new friends speak strange languages – it’s all Greek to me. Therefore, I always make it seem I’m always digging for something. I’m also covered in hi-tech sensors – six so far, and we haven’t had lunch yet.”
Oh, that Russian sense of humor ).
Actually: no spade in hand: only a glove on each paw:
More Olga: “Today we walked to the shore with sledges! Not quite sure why: it was a strange and very cold, but in places very beautiful. But I didn’t get a sledge! So, as she hasn’t arrived yet, I borrowed Felicity’s kit-sledge – if only to be able to take a pic – above. I kept all my clothes on, but some French students – well, as you can see – ooh la la!”
For now though, a huge GOOD LUCK to you ladies! We’ll be rooting for you all the way to top of the world!