The countdown has begun.

Published on 30.03.2010 - Richard Weber North Pole Expedition

The operation to provide fresh supplies for Richard Weber's team has not gone too well. One crate crashed down on to the pack-ice because its parachute didn't open. But that's not all...

Usually in polar expeditions, the arrival of new supplies is a major moment. Not only because it means fresh rations and sometimes surprises such as letters from home, but also because in general it is an exciting time in any adventure -a chance to recharge batteries, as it were, and a welcome glimpse of the warm, gentle and comfortable world the men have left behind.

Not all of that is necessarily untrue in this case, of course. But for Weber's expedition, there's more to it than that. First and foremost, there was the fact of having a crate crash on to the ice because a parachute didn't open, rendering everything in it smashed, damaged and unusable (spare sledges bent and buckled, burst fuel cans, packets of rations ripped open and spoilt). So what will happen to all this equipment? It will be left behind to swell the ranks of wasted 'stuff' that the various expeditions will leave behind them on the ice this season -like the excess baggage that Christina Franco also decided to abandon. "Pollution!", did we hear someone say? Well, they do think about it, of course, but it can't be helped. And then there were the two days lost to reorganising everything on the sledges. Because they also came to realise that one of the resupply crates that had been stored outside in the cold at Yellowknife, had been brought into a heated hangar for loading on to a pallet (which was then attached to the parachute) and was no doubt left in there for too long. Which meant that the pemmican butter that is their primary source of calories, and which was in the crate in question, had completely melted. Big problem...

Finally, they had to count and recount everything. We can see from the map we have produced to visualised each team's position on the pack-ice that Weber and his men are well set to arrive at the North Pole on time. Yet Tessum's mum (and so Richard's wife) tells us that they are obsessed with counting everything: counting the rations that remain each day, counting the distance covered, counting the distance left to do, the number of hours left to sleep, the hours they need to keep on the move each day, the number of degrees the position of the sun changes, the temperature curve, the number of rest breaks, the number of leads they have crossed, the number of times they have been in the water, etc.

And the cherry on the cake of this resupply incident is the fact that they have gone too far to turn back and so now their only way out is to reach the North Pole. In the blog that Richard's wife Josée Auclair published on 27th March, she writes that the countdown has begun. And no doubt she is right...

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