The Polar Pumkin has finally taken off

Published on 09.04.2011 - Polar Flight 90

The Polar Pumpkin tied down for approaching bad weather at Inuvik Airport

The Polar Pumpkin tied down for approaching bad weather at Inuvik Airport

© Art Mortvedt

After years of waiting and months of preparation, after many test flights and checking gear aw well as equipment, Art Mortvedt was able to depart the Fairbanks International Airport at aprroximately 9am on Sunday 3 April.

Actually, Art had decided to start his adventure the day before, Saturday 2 April, but he had to deal with a fairly new American Customs and Border Patrol concept called eAPIS. As a private aircraft leaving American airspace, Art had to file all the appropriate details - online. Bur everyone knows tjhat Art is far from being a computer guru, So he wrote that day : "it was quite a laborious and time consuming task. In addition, I had to purchase a User Fee decal - for what purpose I will never understand - also online. The Canadian customs officers - offering a service called CANPASS - were their normal efficient, polite, and flexible selves. As I've said for many years, America is extremely lucky to have such a good neighbor as Canada...."

Quite a jamboree

Since his arrival at Inuvik village at the mouth of the Makenzie River (the flight from Fairbanks was perfect with cristal clear weather and his arrival was also pleasant and uneventful because of the  courteousness of the custom lady who was poilte and efficient), Art had no chance with the weather. First he took advantage to be in Inuvik to attend the last day of the 54th Muskrat Jamboree - dedicated to the "Past and Present Muskrat Jamboree Committee Members" - April 1 to April 4.

Next, it began to snow the next day, Art Wrote  : "Already winds were gusting to 20 knots at Ulukhaktok, with blowing snow. Cape Perry and Paulatuk are other reporting points with marginal to deteriorating weather. The low pressure system to the west is meeting the higher pressure system to the east; and the pressure gradient - equating to high winds - happened to be right on my planned course going northeast. Satellite photos confirmed the situation, with "cloud swirls" quite evident."

On April 7th, marginal weather persisted once again that day. The problem is that where he is, Art stands at what its called up there the 'treeline' limit of the boreal forest. It means : South, he can count, when flying of course, with the contrast of the tress, the mountains, the rivers and the landscapes of the tundra. And in case of emergency, the pilot can allways find his way in marginal conditions, landing on grass for example, or on a lake or even on a forest track. North of Inuvik there are no trees anymore and to a great extent, one loses rapidly contrast or definition of the ground in case of bad weather. So it was an other no fly day...

His Royal Highness Prince Harry on the ice

But Art informed us with an interesting news. He wrote : "Yesterday, however, as the Antonov 74 was approaching Ice Station Barneo, the floe runway cracked and broke; so the Antonov had to return to Svalbard. Barneo personnel presently - using the two MI-8 helicopters - are searching for another location on which to build a runway; such that the Antonov can return to land. One of the more well-known personalities now at Barneo - marooned, so to speak - is His Royal Highness Prince Harry. He is being guided by my friend Inge Solheim from Norway. Inge is a long time excellent Arctic and Antarctic guide. It now may be somewhat more of a challenge for Harry to get home in time for his brother s wedding - particularly since, in addition to the ice floe breaking, they are also experiencing a polar blizzard...

 

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