Speeding Up

Published on 23.05.2007 - The Arctic Arc

Easier Terrain

Easier Terrain

© International Polar Foundation

As it was announced several days ago, the two men have stepped on the accelerator. They progressed 25 km yesterday, and 20 the day before.

On April 4th, Alain and Dixie had covered 29 km; but that day, they had also benefited from the drift, moving them favourably across ten kilometres. Considering that yesterday's drift was very weak (3 km during the night) but that they managed to total 24,8 km anyway, it is obvious this was their best day's travel, being somewhat of a "corporate" record.

To these numbers, one must also add the fact that over three days, they have progressed 34 minutes (= 62.9 km, a degree in latitude amounting to 111 km). Furthermore, Alain and Dixie have not taken the least day of rest – as it is usually the case in these type of expeditions. A good performance.

What is this sudden acceleration due to? Various factors can explain this. First of all, there is the terrain: on this side of the pack ice, it seems that the ice is older than on the other side. The sheets are stronger, flatter and less chaotic, especially after degree 87 which had marked a very important ice compression zone. The terrain being of better quality, progression is now more easily practicable and thus also more rapid.

The Greenland Coast is Approaching

Other element: the two men are getting closer to the end of the ocean crossing. They have already progressed 1302 km and they have 354 left before they reach their new goal along the Greenland coast (83°30'N/38°00'W). Almost 80% of the trip is already done now. The men keep thinking about the land to come. But the latest satellite images have been showing that the coastal ice is breaking up very quickly. To avoid being trapped between impassable leads, the expedition must hurry.

The logistics are very complicated and if the expedition is far on the ice a combination of planes and helicopters might be required. All logistics operations in Northern Greenland (Danish, Greenlandic, Icelandic) as well as operating out of Canada (Resolute Bay) are under review, and the best option will be identified on the basis of their capacity (and willingness) to fly into this zone. The Danish Polar Centre informs us that there are several suitable landing sites in the Cape Morris Jessup area, and one will be selected when the team approaches the coast of Greenland.

There is no time to spare. The two men are now walking (skiing) ten hours a day, and they announced yesterday they would do more if deemed necessary.

A Fascinating End of Journey

Last element: their food supply and the weight of their sledges. They now have 27 days left of food. This could be, if they continue at this pace, enough to last until the coast. But in this world of disrupted ice, one must stay extremely cautious and make sure the trip does not last longer than thirty days (they can still put themselves on rations) to cross the remaining 350 km.

On another hand, their sledges are getting lighter every day and, as Alain said, within a couple of days they will really start feeling the difference. One can thus imagine that the second half of the expedition will be less stressful than when they were only progressing 5 km a day. What is sure anyway is that the end of this Arctic crossing will be absolutely fascinating.

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