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…
Following our previous post about the Row to the Pole expedition to draw attention to the rapid loss of polar ice, boat builder and historian Will Stirling who has been skippering the BBC camera team boat has written in with the following heart-felt message.
Will’s an excellent photographer, and attached the shots above. Thanks Will!
‘I do hope that the rowers are able to highlight the extent of ice melt through their extreme endurance test.
‘Whilst there are geographical and climatic cycles that cause ice advance and retreat, the issue of our time is the speed of the melt. The melt is faster than a natural cycle, much faster. The Inuits have a good deal to say about it. The visual landscape has changed significantly within the last five years. There is no multi-year snow or ice on land. Previously permanent ice caves disappear in the summer. This year they have even noticed a few mosquitos up there.’
PS – See photos of one of a couple of Will’s latest small boat building projects here.
These fascinating landscapes come from members of the Row to the Pole expedition led by veteran Arctic explorer Jock Wishart.
Click on the shots for a much bigger and better view: all but the last image are taken by Antony Woodford by the way – so thanks Antony!
The expedition sponsored by Old Pulteney Whisky aims to row to the Magnetic North Pole to demonstrate how much ice has gone from the area through global warming, and it certainly seems strange to note that until recent years the rocks and land at these high latitudes probably haven’t seen the sky for hundreds of thousands of years. That’s my guess, but no doubt the expeditions scientific advisers can provide the real figure.
The seriously scary information these rowers want to get across is that at its current rate of melting, the polar ice cap could disappear completely in three decades.
Doubtless this would have a profound effect on our weather systems.
Regular readers may recall reading that boatbuilder and historian Will Stirling is skippering a BBC camera boat following the expedition.