I promised to not send another pic of someone in a white blanket but if I can’t escape it then why should you :))))
Yes, we have been forced to make the decision to abandon our attempt to reach Canada. Ken Borek Air’s deadline of latest landing on the sea ice has arrived, May 12, and we cannot guarantee reaching Canada with our remaining food, which means in effect we would be stranded if we didn’t make it to land. The distance remaining, average daily distance to date and food in reserve just doesn’t add up. From my respect as a polar guide it’s an easy decision to make, and Martin too who has been here many times before. In fact the decision was made for us. But for Bernice it’s a dream crushed. This was her baby and she is feeling the hopelessness acutely. But we continue to ski south as we await better weather for a plane to land. With the pressure off we are enjoying these unfettered days immensely, seeing the polar sea with new eyes, despite our 11th consecutive day of poor visibility. Today we skied 6km in poor light but no wind.
Pic of my goggle-eyed perspective of the route ahead.
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.
We never thought it could come to this but we are forced to leave the expedition whenever an airplane from Kenn Borek can get to us. We are currently 194 km from the coast of Canada and have been given a May 12 deadline for an ice pick up. We have tried to get an extension but the answer is no. Where ice pick ups possible in the past few years as late as June 13 now due to unpredictable weather in combination with arctic ice conditions, this date has been set much earlier since it is too risky to land on ice much later in the season. We are currently dealing with challenging conditions, many leads of open water, problematic pressure ridges and add to that a cocktail of zero visibility, accumulative snow, easterly drift again and strong winds as a series of storms have been nailing us during the last 11 days.
The road ahead is too unpredictable to risk without a safety net of a pick up in case of an emergency, an uncrossable lead or pressure ridge. Through the Canadian Ice Survey we have been given updates and know that some more difficult terrain is ahead of us as the ice collides and stacks up vertically against the coast. The storms and relentless southwest winds has mobilized the ice and it is breaking up. You can tally the distances from our last 10 days, and you will see we can’t stick to progress despite committing to long and hard days in adverse weather and ice conditions. We have given it our best effort.
This sadly leaves us to only one conclusion, the hardest one to make, and to take the last flight before Kenn Borek shuts down for the season.
This expedition has never been about a new route, a record or any kind of polar laurels but our aim has always been to simply show and tell how treacherous and spectacular the Arctic is and what is at stake. In these 40 days here, I believe we have given the world the best of our impressions in words and image and soon in film. The Arctic is incredible yet fragile and we desperately need to protect and preserve what remains left of it and I feel we have been successful in this. We are very fortunate to have been part of this expedition and for Plant for the Planet to commit and support to this experience. We dealt with adverse conditions that hindered us in a brutal way but also gave us an opportunity to witness and document what is at stake as we have crossed the various latitudes on our way south. We drifted 175 km to the east, 40 km to the North, had 3 major long lasting blizzards but we still manage to ski over 500 km. We continue skiing and documenting until the airplane lands which at this point is still uncertain because, yes once again, the visibility is zero. I will keep updating this blog until we are in Resolute Bay in Canada. Thank you all for your incredible support, this has meant and still means a lot to us..
I promise this is the very last photo of some bloke fighting his way across a white blanket
We have entered the dramatic zone that the Canadian Arctic Survey calls “trouble”.
Did only 2 km today through wicked yet spectacular ice fields and frozen leads that will last 10 km. We are camped in the middle of it now and spend the rest of the day filming pulling sleds in the pressure ridges. The sky cleared, wind stopped and the sun poked through.We climbed on top of an iceberg and saw for the first time the incredible anarchy of ice blocks all around us. The horizon is filled with blue ice and black reflections of leads. Incredible to see, scary to have to go through.
We were warned by Trudy from the Canadian Ice Service about a 10km band of rubble and pressure seen by satellite. We are in the thick of it now. At least it seems we managed to avoid some big leads.
Only 2km for an afternoon’s work, the morning spent on the phone to the outside world, and filming interviews.
Happy Mother’s Day!!!
Pic of the indomitable Martin Hartley during yesterday’s blizzard, camera at the ready, indelible smile.
Bernice hauls herself & her sledge out of yet another invisible hole in yet another day of ‘whiteout’