They’ve crossed the 85th Degree five times!

Published on 30.03.2010 - Save the Poles

This could become the fashionable question asked by journalists at post-adventure press conferences: And how many times in the end did you cross the 85th Degree?

Eric Larsen will certainly be answering this question with: "5 times". But his answer will stick in his throat, so horrible were the memories of that drift that took them backwards every night ... It was on 23 March that Larsen had written that during the previous night, the camp had crossed the 85th Degree once again, but in the wrong direction. For the fourth time! With the result that that same morning, when setting out again, they obviously crossed the 85th Degree for the fifth time!

It was on the same day -23 March- that Larsen for the first time raised the question of whether or not they were going to get to the Pole on time. This updated question obviously caused considerable stress within the little group - each having his own interpretation of how the adventure would unfold and each his own idea about their chances of success. But after many exchanges and discussions, it seems that the men reached a consensus: that it was not only of paramount importance but necessary to continue their adventure. "This process, these exchanges", Larsen wrote, "meant that, more than ever, we're working as a closely knit team. We all voted in favour of continuing the trek. We're now stronger, and we understand each other better than before..." It should perhaps be recalled here that, at the beginning, Antony Jinamn had certainly not planned to set out with Eric Larsen, as the two men were pursuing different goals.

And then there is this fleeting image of two hours or more spent crossing a channel with ice of uncertain thickness. Primus inter pares: Eric jumped into the water in his wetsuit, while the two others waited on the edge with the sledges. While swimming towards the opposed side, Larsen managed to break, by making large movements with his arms, the freshly-formed ice as much he could so that "he could then without any problem pull the sledges assembled as a catamaran with his mates on top of them."  Fast forward to Larsen getting out of the water: but once they had reached the other side, they realised that the open passage was virtually blocked again, not by re-frozen ice, but by sheets of ice that were moving quickly on the surface and had finally managed to get stuck together. Larsen could be seen pulling the rope while the two others were trying, with varying degrees of success, to release the blocks of ice that were obstructing their passage. It apparently needed almost three hours of effort in all to get the expedition out of this trap. Once safely on other side, the men had to get dry because their movements had been so jerky, so disordered and so uncoordinated that everyone was well and truly wet... But that's life in a polar expedition.

Five days later, Larsen realised that they were finally going forward on old ice. The day before, they had been able to ski effortlessly for three hours at the bottom of a lead that providentially was heading in the right direction. There was also less wind. And suddenly, the expedition's rhythm, which should never have been lost, returned to the progress that the trio was making, and to its body movements.

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