The Old Pulteney Row to the Pole expedition led by Jock Wishart has made it to the magnetic North Pole – and only had to drag their boat over an ice field for the last two miles. Now perhaps people will recognise how much ice has gone.
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‘The final leg of our journey started on Wednesday night when a possible route through the disintegrating ice began to open up,’ said Jock. ‘We’d been pinned down for days by ice and heavy winds. But the conditions suddenly changed and we were able to pick our way through. The last three miles proved to be the hardest of all when we had to take the boat out the water and then haul it over the ice.
‘We’re all absolutely exhausted, but elated. No one’s ever even tried to do this. In fact most people did think it was impossible. But we’ve done it!’
For most of the voyage the crew rowed through open water, taking advantage of favourable weather to make good headway, but the biggest challenges lay in the second part of the expedition, which involved rowing across to Ellef Ringnes Island. In the last few weeks of summer, this area was slow to melt and break up, so the crew was confronted with both solid and floating sea ice which they painstakingly picked their way through.
The Row to the Pole team has lived for almost a month on the specially designed ice-boat, sleeping in shifts between rowing stints and living on dry rations containing an amazing 7000 calories per day. They have also had some close encounters with some of the Arctic’s most impressive species, including beluga whales, walrus and polar bears.
A BBC cameraman was with the rowing team, so I’m looking forward to seeing the TV documentary…