Eric Philips trying to raft into the wind, on thin ice. We soon gave that up & skied to another crossing further west!
Wallace, the pilot, said on the radio he didn’t like the landing site we selected. He didn’t think the ice was thick enough. He circled around a few times touched the icy lead briefly but took off again. My heart dropped. It is up to the pilots integrity whether he lands or not. Martin’s stories of landing on ice come to mind and I slightly panicked as the pilot circles around once more and said on the radio he has to look for something else. If he can’t land we get the barrels dropped and that would mean we would have to ski to Canada from this location, which would be unachievable with the food and fuel we have left. Luckily, Wallace found a snow patch a few km away from us. At 22:00 we were airborne, the frozen arctic stretching into infinity below us. I stare at the endless white, broken up by leads, pressure ridges and cracks. Soon this will all be ocean again as it claims the ice in summer. It was the right perspective to get from the air, a cocktail of insanity and pride, but mostly I just sat glued to the window in disbelief what I saw., thinking it is impossible to survive out here and felt vulnerable. Martin filmed for an hour because it was so beautiful and couldn’t put his camera down. It is rare to fly so high over the Arctic in clear conditions. At W077 we saw the biggest lead, scattered like a broken dinner plate, it looked frightening to have to go through. and the pilot decided to drop us at W079. The landing took 4 attempts but on the 5th he touched down and was successful. We unloaded our sleds , Wallace said it would be clear sailing to Canada “there aais nothing in between you and the coast, see you in 10 days”. We laughed because we know better, before we reach the coast, we need to cross sand dunes, pressure ridges as big as apartment buildings, the arctic will throw its last challenge at us, we won’t come off the ice that easy . But if you are a pilot and see it from the air, the arctic looks flat, frozen and uneventful.
The plane arrived around 8.30pm and we received our barrels of food and fuel. Spent some time packing the sleds while the pilot gave the co-pilot a little lesson on drilling for ice thickness.
An hour flight south west took us to N85.53 W79.23. We flew over mostly flat ice but a large open water area in the last few minutes made us thankful the pilot flew us over it.
In bed by 2am, slept in, distributed food and fuel and skied almost 9km in the afternoon with heavy sleds again. Great to be on the move after 2 days hiatus, particularly as the day was windless and blue. Pic of selfie with Bernice and Martin in the distance. Martin carries an electric shaver so the beard is gone as of 2 hours ago.
Eric Philips takes ‘Spring cleaning’ to the extreme ahead of re-supply day!
This morning we slept in until 9 am which we have never done on this expedition. The whole day we are reducing our gear to take on second our leg, fiddling, repairing and checking with each other if we really need all these batteries, bandaids, sugar cubes, extra pair of sunglasses or if we can live without for the next 25 plus days. At 6 pm I called Wallace, our pilot from Ken Borek to get an update of his whereabouts. He is doing great and will be here in 45 minutes. We then have 30 minutes to take all contents out of the barrels into our sleds, and load the sleds into the plane and get dropped at W78 tonight. Since we have been here at this camp, we drifted 15 km to the south and another 12 km to the east. The weather is stunning now and it is a great day to fly, we are very thankful. Lets hope the pilot can land on our strip which Eric has flatten a bit with an ice axe this morning. We will arrive at the location and go to bed immediately for the big days with heavy sleds ahead. Looking forward to part two of the expedition.
Today we have been filming interviews and cleaning out our sleds ready for resupply. The plane is due here in 90 minutes (8pm) and will take 40 minutes to refuel during which we sort and pack food and fuel for 25 days. We will also give the pilots and redundant equipment and clothing all our rubbish. Then they fly us 150km west to N86 W78 where we will camp.
I’m all fired up to resume our trek tomorrow, and feel rejuvenated after staying on a full 6000 calorie diet during 2 days of rest.
Pic of our camp