Team Expedition Hope were faced with a difficult decision on Friday. The weather and conditions had made progress extremely difficult and several teams had already been rescued from the ice. Until now Expedition Hope had managed to defy the weather and conditions and were hopeful of reaching Cape Discovery. In fact only one other person remained on the ice.
However, after the resupply, apart from a couple of good days, the team’s daily progress was down to only a few kilometers per day and most of this was quickly lost by the negative drift the team had been experiencing. The blizzards and currents were simply pushing the ice away from Canada – and team Expedition Hope with it. One reason for this is thought to be that because the ice is much thinner this year, the currents and winds have an easier job moving the ice. It was an untimely reminder of just how fragile the arctic is. The team hoped to reach Canada by 22 May and had enough supplies to last several days more. However based on their current progress, they might need weeks not days to reach Canada, if the team were able to reach it at all.
The conditions also meant that should the team continue, it would very soon be unsafe for a plane to land on the sea-ice should they need a rescue. In recent years a plane had landed and then fallen through the ice. The pilots were also nervous. A decision had to be made.
Over the weekend the debate raged – should the team continue or not. Would the weather clear? Could they reach land ice for a rescue if necessary? How long would the supplies last? The team desperately wanted to continue. However, concerns about safety won and on Sunday the decision was made: on grounds of safety for the team, Expedition Hope will be taken off of the ice and returned by plane to Canada. They have fought through blizzards, swum and paddled across huge leads, been on the lookout for polar bears and navigated blocks of ice as big as houses. They were agonizingly close to reaching their goal (less than 200km away), but at the end of the day the safety of Bernice, Eric and Martin takes priority. The other remaining person on the ice, a Norwegian, is being picked-up too.
The team might not have reached Canada under their own steam, but the message they have carried with them remains the same:
The Arctic is in trouble.
Now is the time to act.
Now is the time to plant trees.