Why do folks go to the North or South Pole?
One reason is… actually – no specific reason at all; just to go because… why not? To stand at the top or bottom of the world is just kinda cool.
Another reason: just the extremeness of it all. Some folks prefer a total lack of extremity: comfort, sun, beach, nice home/hotel, all the mod cons. Others are bored by comfort, but they like extreme contrasts between extremity and comfort ).
Another: some folks just follow their instinctual urge to ski and then walk to a pole over several days – only it won’t be ‘several days’, as a polar day can last five months!
Another: surely, some kinda crazy polar magnetism that attracts certain folks!
In the past, there was another reason: to get to a Pole first.
Regarding the South Pole, around 1910-11, two expeditions – Amundsen‘s and Scott‘s – made it to the South Pole, the former pipping the latter to the post pole! The Norwegians made it back too. The Brits, tragically, did not; a sad, yet heroic, tale. Macabrely, to this day, the Terra Nova Expeditioners still lie there, in their tents, long since gobbled up by the Antarctic ice (specifically – and even more gruesomely – under more than 20 meters of snow, and shifted by the glacier ~50 kilometers over 100+ years).
But regarding the North Pole, hmmm… I couldn’t recall who made it there first, so I had to look it up. Well, there are many claims to reaching it first, but the first undisputed one is that of a Soviet expedition in April 1948, i.e., 36 years after the South Pole! Btw, other expeditions soon after followed the Soviets’ lead, while the South Pole waited a full 44 years until it was to be visited by another expedition.
So, it turns out getting to the North Pole is harder than getting to the South Pole. Interesting. The Antarctic climate is much fiercer than the Arctic one, but crossing the firmly compacted snow underfoot in Antarctica is a lot simpler than crossing the loose, fluffy snow of the Arctic. Then there are the fissures in the Arctic ice you have to somehow navigate. There’s also the shorter window in the Arctic for getting to it – before the ice starts melting. In Antarctica there’s no danger of ice melting and merging with the ocean below it – there’s a whole terra-firma continent underfootice ).
Why is it colder in Antarctica than in the Arctic? Simple: ocean currents push warm waters toward the Arctic and cold waters away from it; the wind’s warmer too up north. Down south, there are no warm currents coming in from elsewhere: the currents just go round and round the pole, forever staying cold. Not all that far away it’s hot as heck; poor old Antarctica – in an eternal deep freeze.
This underwater still life seems to hint that many millions of years ago Antarctica was attached – overground – to what is now South America. So it could have once had not so harsh a climate, but then slow tectonic movements put paid to that.
But I digress…
Back to why folks go to the Poles… rather – why I go to the Poles, this year, specifically – the North Pole.
As I’ve already written here, 11 intrepid women were on an expedition, which we helped a little, to the North Pole – on skis! So I just had to get myself to said Pole to meet and great them when they arrived!
…With flowers and champagne – naturally ).
The finish-camp – from a helicopter:
(Btw: these nice pics were taken by Maxim Avdeev, who was also with the welcoming party)
So, the ladies arrive at their destination – hurray! – while we lazy bones fly from Barneo to the Pole in these here brightly painted helicopters.
Lazy – yes – but useful! We took with us warm drinks and snacks for the polar-party!
Off we fly!…
Don’t like the look of those cracks…
Mercifully, the ladies didn’t get wet navigating across any of the cracks that were in their way.
A little further… 89°58′38″ latitude…
We didn’t see any polar bears, but did see… some green ones:
But it’s time to pack up already. Time to get these ladies home! And we’re off – back to Terra Firma.
But it wasn’t straight home just yet. The girls got to the North Pole yesterday, and overnight (a polar night) the Pole-side camp had shifted some five kilometers! Time to find today’s Pole!
Hurray! The girls reach the North Pole – again!
Now – really > home…
Phew again… or do I sense a slight anti-climax feeling? Perfectly understandable ).
Our old friend olly_ru here being shamelessly exploited for polar-selfie purposes:
Next up – the journey home, which is a whole other story – and blogpost )…