Everyone home safe and sound

Published on 17.05.2010 - Under the Pole.com

The operation to pick up Ghislain Bardout's team all went according to plan. It was with no particular hitches and a great deal of nostalgia that the 8 participants of Deep Sea Under The Pole.com finally took their leave of the environment and surroundings that have held them in thrall for so long.

To recap: The aerial ballet with the Twin Otters took place on Sunday 9th May. One Twin Otter had been parked at Eureka since the day before and was waiting for a favourable break in the weather. Meanwhile, the DC3 was already on its way to Ward Hunt. The first contact (weather update) between Troy, the pilot of the Twin Otter, and Bardout's men was at 9 o'clock in the morning. With the weather still closed in, they called each other back two hours later. At 11 am, there was fresh contact between Ghislain and Troy.

Extract from the blog: "Visibility good, very moderate contrast, wind 16 km/h WNW, pressure slightly down, cloud cover from Siberia to Ellesmere Island: the weather was a worry. But it was forecast to get worse in the days ahead with the arrival of a new depression from Tuesday. Troy, the pilot, warned me about the risk of a flight without landing while at the same time asking me to make the decision: take off or postpone the pick-up until later. In other words, either take the risk of setting out on a costly and uncertain logistical exercise, or wait and hope that the weather would improve. Troy is one of the best pilots around and was very reassuring and calm on the telephone. We agreed to attempt the flight and I would keep him informed on an hourly basis about developments in the weather on site: if it got any worse, he would land where he could and wait for the right time to join us..."

At around 4 pm, the Twin Otter arrived in the area, touching down safely after flying over the landing strip a number of times. The strip had been marked out as clearly as possible using the waterproof bags that contained the expedition's rations. Despite the landing strip being very bumpy ("the plane was shaken about like a 2CV at 50 km/h on a beaten earth track in the forest normally driven on in a 4WD after a week of rain!..."), Troy managed to get his Twin Otter safely off the ground. There were four men on board, with the four others left behind with enough supplies for eight days, a tent, 2 GPS devices, 2 satellite phones and the dog.

The Twin Otter was back by 10.15 pm to pick up the remainder of the expedition. Ghislain (who as the group leader had stayed behind) was reunited with his companions and boarded the DC3 at Ward Hunt, where the two planes refuelled. It made one more refuelling stop on the return trip to Eureka. By 7.30 on Monday 10th May, they were all back in Resolute Bay.

Extracts from their blog: "And so ended the Deepsea Under The Pole.com by Rolex expedition, 3 years after I came up with the idea. We spent 45 days out on the sea-ice, during which time we explored the underwater world there, making 51 dives. We brought back the pictures we set out to get and all we have to do now is share them around. The 52-minute film of the expedition will be ready in November and be broadcast initially on Thalassa. Between now and then, our producer Thierry will show us a teaser to keep us patient once the long 'derushing' phase is complete. We will also be working with Manue on a book of text and photos that will tell the story of the Arctic and the sea-ice from a new angle, as well as on a travelling exhibition. So watch this space in the months ahead."

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