A quite difficult decision to take

Published on 29.04.2011 - Polar Flight 90

Art with Explorers Club Flag #53 at Eureka Weather Station

Art with Explorers Club Flag #53 at Eureka Weather Station

© Art Mortvedt

Because of a consistant bad weather above the icepack and also because of the closing of the Barneo Station, Art Mortvedt had to abandon his project to fly his Cessna to the North Pole.

24 april 2011 : very low ceilings, light snow, blowing snow, and poor visibilities, it is a no fly day for the Polar Pumpkin.  Weather forecasts indicate a one day good weather window for the route tomorrow; then, shortly thereafter, the weather is to come down again.

Time is a big issue for Art

In order to better understand Art's decision of giving up his projet (for this year at least) and to have all the details of the decision process, here are some excerpts of his update : "... Time - for the Polar Pumpkin and myself - is a big issue under these circumstances.  A direct route from Eureka to Ice Station Barneo is a distance of 626 nautical miles.  The Polar Pumpkin has the fuel endurance for such a flight; but it requires a flight time of a bit under 7 hours depending on the winds.  A certain amount of time is required to find my fuel - especially if the Russians leave the drifting ice station tomorrow - refuel, and then fly at least another 7 hours back.  The return flight would likely take longer; since headwinds are forecast at approximately 20-35 knots.  With no rest, the above scenario would likely take 16-18 hours.

"Over the past 30 years of flying - just a bit less than 6,000 hours - in the Alaska bush, it seems that whenever I got in a rush with an airplane, I wish that I hadn't.  This "rush to the Pole" in one day - with no backup support whatsoever - seems to be a very foolish option.

"So . . . in spite of my very best effort to get this far - delayed by a variety of poor weather systems thus far - I may have to take the tough decision, and postpone my flight to the North Pole until next year.  Here at Eureka Weather Station - 80 degrees north latitutde and 86 degrees west longitude - I'm only 600 nautical miles from my goal of the North Pole.  So close, and yet so far. The Polar Pumpkin is fueled and ready to fly North at this moment.  But, to hop in the airplane and blast off into known bad weather - with more bad weather forecast on Tuesday, April 26 - seems irresponsible, and disrespectful of the myriad of fine folks that have supported the Polar Pumpkin's flight thus far..."

A young lady wearing traditional kuspuk

A young lady wearing traditional kuspuk

© art Mortvedt

And the next day, Art writes : "...  When I first phoned Victor Boyarsky at Ice Station Barneo this morning, he was still there - but was planning to leave for Longyearbyen, Svalbard in about 2 hours time.  He noted that the ice station would soon be closed for the season.  When I phoned Victor later in the day, he answered the phone in Longyearbyen; and informed me that Ice Station Barneo was now indeed closed.

The ice pack is a very dynamic unforgiving environment

"In the words of my very experienced polar weather forecaster - residing in Belgium - ". . . after the nice weather spells of today and partly tomorrow, there is no workable weather window showing up for this period.  The risk that in that relative warm/moist air mass, low cloud or fog will form is too big and too dangerous to risk a landing."

"So if I were now to fly the Polar Pumpkin to the North Pole, under these circumstances, I would be totally alone for logistic support - and if anything went even a little bit wrong, it would likely be very much wrong.  I would probably lose the Polar Pumpkin in the crushing ice pack -at least- and maybe lose even more.  My life, for example.  The Arctic Ocean drifting ice pack is a very dynamic unforgiving environment.

"So all things considered, I then had no choice but to cancel my flight from Eureka to the Pole for this season; and immediately begin planning for the flight next April. ..."

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