A Dot on the Ocean

Published on 10.04.2007 - The Arctic Arc

Overflying the Arctic Arc camp - Copyright: IPF

Overflying the Arctic Arc camp - Copyright: IPF

© International Polar Foundation

The Antonov 74 carrying the resupply team left Longyearbyen at 10 20 in the morning and, two and a half hours later, touched down in Barneo. Aboard was a mixed bag of people, some heading to do the last degree, others to prepare longer expeditions, and yet others to join research teams. Spouses of Alain and Dixie, Gigi and Julie Brown were there at the invitation of Viktor Boyarsky of Vicaar to participate in the resupply of the Arctic Arc Expedition.

A call to the Arctic Arc camp has been scheduled by satellite phone, but there is no possibility of getting a connection. Then, the iridum rings.This is it! We set the GPS to the coordinates that Alain has given: N87 37'06 E83 22', and push the "go to" function.

When we finally locate the camp and descend, it is amazing to see how well they look, fit, happy and so clean. This is not the usual spectacle that you expect after such a long tussle with the forces of the pack ice. True, there are the patches of frost bite on the nose and fingers, but they are calm and solid, still focussed on what they are doing. You feel in awe, proud of them, afraid for them.

Then we swing into action, loading unloading sorting packing, setting up the batteries and the computers to exchange the data. We share a bottle of Bordeaux that Julie has brought and are intensely aware that the clock is ticking. Too soon, the helicopter begins to whine and the blades turn. The ladder is up and the MI8 is rapidly gaining altitude so we quickly lose sight of them.

We unpack their gear, the replaced sleeping bags are almost solid with ice and water. We shudder in horror at the image of them sliding into those cold hard lumpy forms, and marvel that they did.

Longyearbyen experiences Pole Fever every April, and this year is no different. Everyone is here or coming. Apart from Viktor, who is an authentic Polar hero in his own right, Jean Louis Etienne, Eric Phillips, Ramon Larramendi, and a host of others are in town. We meet dog-sledders, last degree-ers, North Pole Marathon runners, the Malaysian UMNO youth group who will take some young people to the North Pole to do a parachute jump.

Tomorrow, Eric Brossier has invited us to visit the Vagabond frozen in a Spitsbergen Fjord. After this, we will go pay a call on Jens Abild from the Norwegian Polar Institute, who advised us on crevasse handling in the Antarctic during BELARE 2006-07. Scientists from Alfred Wegener Institut are arriving, including Christian Haas who is coming to carry out some EMI work on the ice. Jamie Morison from the University of Washington in Seattle, is also heading for Barneo.

Life is beckoning and we move back towards it with our feet dragging a little. Part of us is still out there trailing behind Alain and Dixie as they struggle to move forward against the wind, the drift and the embrace of the ice.

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