A very difficult few days

Published on 22.03.2010 - North Pole Solo 2010

Testing the dry suit before departure

Testing the dry suit before departure

© Christina Franco

After a relatively straightforward start to her expedition, Christina Franco has been battling through a hell of wet and impenetrable ice. And now the drift factor has set in...

The adventurers didn't mention it much last week as they tackled their first few kilometres out on the pack-ice. But now Franco has kicked off her battle with negative drift with some serious setbacks and discouragement.

It all started on 18th March, on day 15 of her trek, when Franco explained that during the night she had been pushed back towards the south and had woken up about 1 km from the position where she pitched her tent the day before. Frustrating... But despite that, she had still managed to cover 14 'real' kilometres to the north, positioning her at 641 kilometres from the pole.

The following day, she had to battle against a strong headwind (hence the negative drift) and protect her face from the wind all day long, while ahead of her stretched lead after lead, each one wider and more impressive than the one before. In mid-afternoon, she reports that she even had to make a detour of over two hours -in the wrong direction, of course -so that she could find a way round a channel with almost no ice that she couldn't cross. On that particular day, she wasn't able to call a halt until 7 in the evening.

But it wasn't until Saturday 20th March that Christina's frustration really reached its peak. To start with, during the day she had to keep her waterproofs on virtually all of the time because there was so much open water and she was frequently in the water. Then, on two occasions, while she was making her way towards an improbable shoreline, she had to go into reverse because the ice towards which she was heading was moving so fast in the same direction as she was swimming that it was impossible for her to reach the other side! We should point out that this is one of the first seasons of our reporting on Arctic expeditions (and we have been following the main polar expeditions since the 1997/1998 Antarctic season– which means we have quite a few years of observation under our belt!) in which from our vantage point here at the HQ of the International Polar Foundation (IPF) in Brussels we are seeing adventurers saying that they are seeing the ice move literally before their eyes, jostling and overlapping on the Arctic Ocean. Finally, at a round 5 in the afternoon, she had to backtrack in the opposite direction because she couldn't find a secure enough location to pitch her tent.

And there was maximum frustration the next morning when she discovered that the negative drift had taken her back to the position where she had set up camp not ONE day before, but TWO!

Fortunately, Christina received fresh supplies on 22nd March. A Twin Otter from Resolute Bay dropped a chunky package by parachute containing all of the things she needed. It was also a rest day for her, which she spent drying out all of her equipment (soaked by repetitive crossings of open leads), as well as resting up and recharging her batteries. On that day, Franco was still 623 kilometres from the pole.

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