Bardout : Tension Mounts…

Published on 30.04.2010 - Under the Pole.com

Ghislain Bardout and his partners in crime have decided that the adventure would be shorter than planned. The icecap is too dislocated to envisage continuing and getting themselves picked up at a later date. So the pick-up has to be organised. But with which plane?

88° 12' 39" N / 40° 42' 32": such will therefore roughly be the last position of the Deepsea Under The Pole.com expedition. With the drift of the icecap, it is abundantly clear that the camp will move a few more kilometres, but Ghislain Bardout's men, for their part, will not be moving any more, except of course by means of the drift.

The decision was made on 21 April because it had became too dangerous to continue to go forward on pack ice that was so fractured and so liquid. Not that the men would have been unable to thread their way through this maze of chaotic ice. But on the one hand, they could no longer think of getting to Ward Hunt on foot and, on the other, they had thought of the planes that would have to come to collect them.

And it is precisely the pick-up that is causing the problem. For the expedition not only consists of eight men (too many people for a single Twin Otter), but it also some very heavy luggage, the diving equipment, to be precise. So ideally they would have to have themselves picked up by a DC3. However for a DC3 to be able to land on the ice, a flat surface at least a thousand metres long is needed, with not too much snow on it, with a thickness of at least 90cm and with good signposting on the spot. As for the Twin Otter, it is of course definitely smaller and lighter than the DC3 (which weighs 2 tons) but it has a smaller range: a Twin can only contain a maximum of four people and four sledges and cannot get to 88°N without refuelling. The ideal for Bardout's team would therefore be the two planes working in tandem. But such an operation would involve a fair amount of risk. On Wednesday, 28 April, Bardout wrote: "This afternoon, Kenn Borek Air has assembled its best pilots as well as the company managers in order to assess the risks relating to our flight, in the light of the changing state of the icecap over the last two days. Indeed, nobody there could envisage that at this speed, but the facts are there: it's happening very quickly (Editor's note: Bardout is talking about the thaw), definitely more so than envisaged and more than the last few years. They concluded that it was now increasingly risky to send a DC3 on to the icecap, even despite the runway that the team had found. It would perhaps be possible to land but it's a heavy plane and there was a risk that it would break the runway. It would then be impossible to take off again, which would entail a heap of problems (emergency chartering of other planes for the recovery, etc)."

While waiting for the big decisions to be made, the divers are continuing to do their work under the icecap and are still discovering breathtaking landscapes, it seems... And the expedition is staying put. At more than 500 kilometres from the shore!

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