Greenland Is Still A Long Way Away

Published on 08.05.2007 - The Arctic Arc

Crossing a lead by tying the sledges together

Crossing a lead by tying the sledges together

© International Polar Foundation

Although the expedition's morale is high and its progress is regular, the men are beginning to wonder...

Their list of questions initially includes the mysterious weather that has surrounded the expedition since it left the pole. On the one hand, at no time since the departure has the atmospheric pressure been so high - it has indeed varied between 1030 and 1032 hectopascals (hPa), which means that they are beneath an anticyclone, and, on the other, the sky has never been so covered, with large clouds that block out the sky and virtually prevent the two Belgians from seeing beyond the ends of their noses... As lately as yesterday, the lead man could see virtually nothing just a few yards ahead. Why therefore is this high pressure allowing the presence of large, impressive clouds, and for several days at a time? A mystery...

Then there is the cold analysis of the situation: the season is advancing and Greenland is still a long way away. The entry of the fjord by which Hubert has decided to pass is exactly 584 km from yesterday's camp. By calculating the two men's average rate of progress since they left the pole, one gets to the figure of 13 km per day, taking no account of the drift, and to the figure of 15 km otherwise. By averaging out these two figures, it can be seen that they will have approximately a good forty days ahead of them before reaching the entry of the fjord. For that, one must not only add the crossing on the Greenland ice-cap, taking a week or more, according to the final drop-off point that they will have to choose, but more especially the fact that they must walk askew in order to compensate for the effect of the drift, which means an even longer crossing.

It's clear: that takes us really late into the season, around the beginning of July, if everything goes according to plan. Admittedly, the men are not yet talking about it outside of the expedition but of course, they have this timetable in their minds. And, in their voices via the satellite telephone, one can hear a touch of anxiety. Moreover, Hubert admits: "It's obvious, we're at a pivotal point of the expedition, because on the one hand time is short and; on the other, which is a little worrying, we know absolutely nothing about the conditions that we can expect during a few days. It should be known that nobody has ever been here and who knows whether or not we will encounter areas of almost uncrossable ice? How will the drift behave? Since we left the pole, we've been walking in such a way as to compensate for the effect of the Arctic drift. Will we have to keep on walking in that way?"

Yesterday, Monday May 7, Didier Goetghebuer and Arnaud Tortel left Brussels to go to Greenland and to deal with the pick-up of victuals and equipment depot that Arctic Arc will have to recover once the men have gone up on to the Greenland ice-cap.

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