It’s over for Ben Saunders

Published on 26.03.2011 - North 3

Ben Saunders and his team have spent more than two weeks in Resolute Bay waiting for a weather window to be able to fly to his starting point, Cape Discovery. But it simply didn’t happen.

Here are some excerpts of the press communiqué published on Saturday 26 March.

" We spent more than two weeks in Resolute Bay waiting for a weather window to start my North Pole speed record attempt, and it simply didn’t happen. What’s more, there hasn’t been a window to land at Cape Discovery -my intended start point- so far this year, and there’s no sign of there being one any time soon.

" Yesterday (Thurs 24th March) was the cut-off date we’d agreed, and to start any later in the spring would not only be pointless and potentially dangerous, as there’s simply not enough time to reach the Pole before the summer melt of the pack ice, but also reckless and irresponsible. Some of the polar cognoscenti may be wondering if I based my decision on the time window afforded by the Russian base near the Pole, Borneo, but they’re closing early this year (25th April) and, after an accident late in the season last year, the latest the charter firm Kenn Borek will now land a Twin Otter at the Pole is 29th April, meaning I’d need to be there by the 28th to find an airstrip. Our difficulties this year stemmed purely from bad weather, and not from budget.

" As far as we can tell, a low pressure system this intense, and such a prolonged period of high winds and blizzard conditions over the Arctic Ocean, has never happened before. The meteorologist stationed in Resolute with Environment Canada has been there for 30 years and has never seen conditions like this. ...

" After a year of training, fund-raising and preparing for this project, I’m struggling to find the words to convey my frustration and disappointment. The only consolation is that this is not a result of poor planning, or poor equipment choice – we did everything right, but found ourselves up against the forces of nature in one of the most remote and hostile places on earth. ...

" My focus is now on Antarctica, and my Scott 2012 expedition that starts in October, on the centenary of Captain Scott’s final expedition. I have a lot left to do in the next 12 months, and I hope that, like any decent Hollywood film, the pitfalls we’ve faced here in the high Arctic are merely setting my audience up for the triumphant finale in Antarctica.

Ben S.

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