The flight back home

Published on 30.04.2011 - Polar Flight 90

Here are some excerpts of Art Mortvedt's diary about his way back home. Notwithstanding this setback, he announced that he will be back next year...

I am happy that I'm not stuck with the Pumpkin on a drifting ice floe...

" April 28, 2011 / I couldn't help but check the weather at the North Pole first thing this morning : 1 to 5 miles visibility with snow, and ceilings down to 800 feet. Although I would have so liked to have achieved my goal of landing at the North Pole by now, I can be so thankful that I'm not stuck with the Polar Pumpkin on a drifting ice floe - and maybe a breaking ice floe - with the improbability of being able to fly back to land in such weather. I must believe that all things work out for the best in the long term.

"... It's a gorgeous day here in Resolute Bay; and, in checking the weather at Cambridge Bay, it appears that there's a chance that I will be able to fly later today. There are still light snow showers in the Cambridge Bay area - associated with a low pressure system - but these conditions are forecast to improve as the day goes on. One issue may be the possibility of freezing fog - with visibilities down to Ѕ mile - caused, I think, by open water in the sea just to the southeast of here.
I had wanted to next fly to the village of Taloyoak... Unfortunately, no AvGas was available in Taloyoak; so I must instead fly to Cambridge Bay to refuel.

" Later this morning, I'll be heading out to the airport to check the Polar Pumpkin; and - if conditions are good enough for the flight to Cambridge Bay - I'll take off.

Replacing tank filters

" April 27, 2011, Resolute Bay / A relatively calm, sunny, and glorious Spring day.

" One of the first things I had to do today was get the Polar Pumpkin refueled.  It's a fairly time consuming task fueling from drums, compared to refueling from a larger fixed fuel tank. First, I need to get my sweet little Honda fuel pump out of the back of the Pumpkin; and put it inside the terminal for warming, so I can get it started. As it's warming, I get out my series of hoses, nozzle, and bung wrench. On the last refueling at Eureka, it seemed that one of my in line filters was starting to get plugged - limiting the size of the fuel stream - so today I replaced both filters.  Fuel sitting for prolonged periods - in varied weather conditions - sometimes has ice crystals in it.  Definitely not to be introduced into the aircraft fuel system.  In fact, besides filtering the fuel, I also add a bit of a "drying agent" such as isopropyl alcohol.

" After returning to the South Camp Inn, from the airport, I had time to take a short walk around Resolute Bay.  There was little wind; so many of the kids were outside playing on the large snow drifts.  One thing that caught my eye were the hand made "camper sleds" - i.e. plywood and canvas camping shelters built atop the heavy duty "komatiks" - or sleds - that are pulled behind the snowmobiles.  Clearly, in this area, Polaris is the snowmobile of choice.  Such a shelter can provide quick and comfortable protection from the severe cold and high winds when "out on the land".  Some of the land's harvest was evident at one residence, in the form of a fresh polar bear skin drying on a pole.  A dehaired and washed seal skin was drying in front of another residence.  The sun and wind will make these skins pure white.  In the back of another house were whole frozen seals.

" So many folks in our "modern world" - whatever that is - are so disconnected from the land and the natural life and death processes thereon.  Here in Resolute - and other "subsistence communities' - these processes are more evident.  Families need meat; so they shoot animals, and eat their meat. I wonder how many "modern" inner city kids know from where their meat - or milk - or eggs - or? - really comes.

Polar bear skin

Polar bear skin

© Art Mortvedt

Eureka weather station personnel are all so positive, cooperative, and helpful.

" April 26, 2011, Eureka Weather Station to Resolute Bay

" The day "dawned" bright and sunny - only in a manner of speaking - because at this time of year, at this latitude of 80N, there is really no darkness or dawn.

" Checking the weather, I find that the route all the way from Eureka to Resolute is mostly in the clear. Resolute has some drifting snow and ice crystals - and a cross wind of approximately 15 knots - so I began preparing the airplane for the flight.  I had previously rolled two full drums of fuel under the winds - as weighted tie downs; so these had to be removed and rolled back in place.  Eureka weather station personnel are all so positive, cooperative, and helpful.  After I had the wing covers pulled off - and was just getting ready to get in the airplane - Mike brought me some juice and fresh baked muffins.

" It was such a fabulous day for flying, that I stayed low for awhile - at approximately 2,000 feet - to improve my chances of seeing musk ox and/or polar bear, and also to lighten my fuel load before climbing over the mountains of Axel Heiberg Island.  After leaving the south end of the island, the terrain flattens out to low rolling islands, and the bays and straits in between.

" Sure enough, I got the crosswind at Resolute Bay. There is a secondary cross strip; but that one looked too wind blown with hard drifts - so I landed on the main runway of 17/35.  I remember times in Kansas and Texas when the cross winds were so strong that I had to land on the taxi and/or parking areas. This, fortunately, I didn't have to do in Resolute today.
Azziz Kheraj once again picked me up at the airport; and, before long, I was enjoying a nice supper at his fine establishment, prepared by Chef Randy.

Later in the evening, Azziz gave me a ride to the airport and helped me put two full fuel drums under the Polar Pumpkin wings for tie downs in case the wind picked up even stronger.


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