The hard side of the Pole
Published on 01.05.2007 - The Arctic Arc
Things are not going to be easy for the two men. Not only is the expedition far from being over, also, on this side of the Pole, the ice is a whole lot less suitable for gliding...
Those who are following the expedition may rest assured that neither storms, nor the delayed start, nor the frost-bite of the ferocious cold first days, nor any of the other minor setbacks have been able to dent their morale. Even when they cannot advance more than ten or twelve kilometres a day, or when the day's efforts have been more than human flesh should have to support, in the evening at camp they are able to mentally surmount the day's difficulties and clear their spirits for the task ahead, no matter where their route will take them. Morale is solid.
The story on this side of the Pole is different. This is truly the road to have been travelled the least. Few have ever attempted this approach to Greenland over the Arctic Ocean. On this 'Greenland side' the skiing conditions are far more difficult.
"Before the Pole, there was more chance of encountering hard and relatively flat ice" explained Alain. "But now there is more than a knee-deep layer of snow on the ice, which forces us to remove our skis and to proceed on foot, as the surface of this snow is frozen into a hard crust so irregular that it is impossible to use skis".
"In addition, our sledges weigh almost 65 kilos more each, as we have just been re-supplied. And as we are walking rather than skiing, and the sledges are continuously having to be drawn over obstacles and through deep snow, there is no moment of respite as before when the terrain was flatter, and at times the sledge would advance under its own momentum as we skied fast. Now the effort is continuous during the whole day, and like beasts of burden we are pulling endlessly, straining all our waking hours."
Come the evening, the two men are exhausted. It's a marvel that they manage to remain so cheerful. Yesterday evening, after a day which would have crushed a lesser mortal ("only" 13 kilometres to show for eight and a half hours of grinding effort), they carried out their thirteenth series of snow depth measurements for the ESA or European Space Agency. Soon we will be able to provide our readership with more detailed explanations on the scientific aspects of the Expedition.