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Crossing The Arctic Ocean

In August 2019, Mike has finally undertaken the second and last chapter of his Pole2Pole expedition! After the successful traverse of Antarctica via the South Pole completed in February 2017, Mike has embarked on his next big adventure to close the circle of his circumnavigation of the globe via both poles!

On the 20thof August, Mike left from Nome Alaska after having sailed his exploration vessel Pangaea from Hokkaido in Japan, where it had been on standby during Mike’s K2 expedition in Pakistan.

The small town of Nome located in Alaska, has been the starting point for Mike’s big challenge: The crossing of the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. This traverse has been the last leg before Mike makes his way back to Monaco in December of this year to celebrate the end of his Pole2Pole expedition which began in May 2016 in Monaco.

For this upcoming polar crossing, Mike has been accompanied by his good friend and famous Norwegian polar explorer: Borge Ousland, with whom he has already partnered to rally the North Pole during the winter and by night in early 2006.

The Route

In comparison to their previous Arctic adventure, this expedition has been be different in many ways. This time, Mike and Borge had venture during the end of the northern hemisphere’s 2019 summer season. They leaved Alaska onboard Pangaea with the hopes of reaching as far as the 85°N latitude before being dropped off on the sea ice to start their traverse on foot and skis. By leaving at this period of the year, the pair of explorers was strategically relying on the fact that the ice will have melted sufficiently after the warm summer, in order to be dropped off at a close enough distance to the Pole. In these conditions, every degree counts. Time has thus be at the essence for the duo of explorers. They had given themselves a period of maximum 2 months to undertake the traverse of the frozen Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. The initial plan was that once the crossover would be completed, Pangaea and its crew will pick them up at the point where the open water meets the sea ice in the region of northern Norway, which should be approximately at the 80°N latitude at that time of the year.

 

But not all went according to the plan. The two explorers halfway through their expedition had to face serious difficulties. Alone and plunged into total darkness, Mike Horn and Børge Ousland were exposed to unpredictable natural conditions induced by climate change. Indeed, temperatures that were too unstable for the season had many consequences on their journey:

 

– The stretches of water the adventurers skied across were dangerous, as they were covered in snow and therefore hardly noticeable.

– The adventurers struggled with their 165kg sledges to get around the abnormally large piles of ice.

– The ice, pushed by strong winds and extreme drifting, lengthened the expedition from day to day.

– Mike and Børge passed through the weakened ice and fell into the icy water.

 

The situation became all the more worrying as a few days before the end of the expedition, the two explorers were in danger of running out of food to reach their arrival point in Svalbarg, Norway.  A disaster scenario that required the implementation of a pick-up plan.

Sunday, December 7, 2019 around 1:00 am. Mike Horn and Børge Ousland joined the LANCE, which had left a week earlier to pick them up on the ice. A repatriation plan that began on November 29th with the departure of the Longyearbyen ship accompanied by the explorers Bengt Rotmo and Aleksander Gamme.

Mike Horn and Børge Ousland were recovered in good health despite some frostbite on their feet, hands and nose. They covered a total distance of 1400km. Initially planned for a duration of 2 months, the journey was much longer than expected and finally lasted 87 days.

 

Chronology of the crossing 

August 28th 2019 :

– Departure of the Pangaea sailboat from Nome, Alaska towards the North Pole.

September 11th :

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland are drop off on the ice at latitude 85°34’N longitude 136°53’E

October 17th :

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland reach the North Pole.

November 20th :

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland face difficulties on the ice, due to open water, significant ice drift, and a fall of the explorers through the ice. The explorers soon run out of food.

November 25th :

– Repatriation plan put in place by the teams of explorers. Theboat LANCE is mandated to retrieve them.

November 29th:

– Departure of the icebreaker LANCE from Longyearbyen with the two explorers Aleksander Gamme and Bengt Rotmo on board.

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland is located at latitude Latitude 83°41’N longitude 18°14’E After two hours of skiing, the explorers have to stop because of a meteorological decompression with temperatures as low as -40°C.

December 2nd  :

– The Lance is stuck in the ice and has to turn back at latitude 81°42’N and longitude 20°22’E.

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland are located at Latitude 83°10’N Longitude 18°25’E and hope to reach Latitude 82°N as soon as possible.

December 4th  :

– The LANCE drops the two Norwegians on the ice after being blocked at latitude 81°42’N longitude 20°22’E about 70km from Mike Horn and Børge Ousland.

December 6th  :

– At 7pm, the four explorers meet. In parallel, the icebreaker LANCE has found a path in a vein of water and was able to advance to be at a distance of 25km from the adventurers. In view of the new proximity of the boat, Mike Horn and Børge Ousland decided not to use the food brought by the Norwegians in order to complete the expedition without assistance.

December 7th :

– Mike Horn and Børge Ousland finally join Lance after 87 days of expedition

December 7 -27th :

– The ship Lance is stuck in ice 

December 27th :

– The Lance finally clears the ice and heads for Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

December 30th :

– Arrival in Trømso, Norway

 

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North Pole 2006

This expedition can be remembered and compared to as one of the greatest moments in Arctic history. In 1909, Robert Edwin Peary was the first man to travel from Ellesmere Island to the North Pole in the spring with the aid of dogs and Eskimos. Now in 2006, Mike Horn and Borge Ousland have created new history in polar exploring. On the 23rdof March ‘06, they successfully completed an expedition traveling 60days and 5 hours on skis in the dark Arctic winter from Russia to the North Pole. Never before has an expedition like this been attempted nor has it ever entered into the minds of Arctic explorers because of the many dangers and obstacles it represents. Virtually everyday during their trek, Mike and Borge were faced with challenges such as open water or leads, extremely poor visibility in 24hr darkness, harsh arctic  temperatures of –30°C to – 50°C, southerly ice drift and many encounters with polar bears. The experience and knowledge of these two great Arctic explorers and the combination of complicity and will-power, made Mike and Borge an excellent team which lead to the success of this expedition.