Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A very special visit to the North Pole!

Congratulations to the Expeditionary Flight team on reaching the North Pole! Arctic weather and timing can be fickle, but everything was perfect today, and the team had a very special (and very long!) visit at the top of the world. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the winds were calm, and our seven team members made the most of their experience.

The charter flight from Longyearbyen takes about 2.5 hours

The helicopter that delivered the team to the North Pole.

Incredibly there were two separate engagements! Yes, engagements, to be married! We extend out most heart felt congratulations to Xin and Yichen, who celebrated their very special commitment with a traditional Chinese ceremony involving copper rings and a red string symbolizing unity and the convergence of their two hearts.  And we extend our congratulations to Talmon, on his very clever proposal, and his beautiful bride-to-be Chinka, who was surprised to find a ring at the bottom of her glass of champagne at the North Pole.

Standing at the North Pole. Love was in the air!

A temperature of -25 C was "pleasantly cold".

In addition to love being "in the air" there was also the sense of inspiration and awe at standing at the point where all lines of longitude converge and all time zones meet. What time is it at the North Pole? The answer is, "what time do you want it to be?!!"  Team members celebrated with phone calls home, photos, and toasts from their glasses. The drink of choice? The "Aurora Borealis" (the official cocktail of the North Pole) which is 2/3 champagne, 1/3 vodka and a scoop of ice from the North Pole swirled in. It's delicious!

The team spent an exciting 2.5 hours at the North Pole before returning to the Borneo Basecamp where they settled in for a night of continued festivities. When they phoned in they were well into their 4th bottle of wine, with additional reserves on the table "breathing." They had a hearty dinner, and though sleep can be elusive under the 24 hour sunlight of the Arctic spring we hope that they will catch a few Z's so that they can fully enjoy their day tomorrow.

The Borneo Basecamp and runway from the air.
The team will spend the night here, in one of the blue tents.

Make sure to check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Expeditionary North Pole Flight begins!

This evening was the official start of the North Pole Expeditionary Flight with One Night at the Borneo Basecamp. The team of seven intrepid travelers from around the world met tonight for the first time in the beautiful Arctic village of Longyearbyen, Norway. Some of them have spent a couple days in this Arctic paradise, including team members Barry and Fiona, who traveled by snowmobile to a remote fjord where they spent the night on sailing schooner that is frozen into the ice. Other team members arrived today and are ready for the adventure to begin!

A typical street sign in Longyearbyen. Many people get around by snowmobile.

The team gathered for a welcome reception followed by a festive dinner where whale and seal were among the dishes served (both local favorites). It was clear that within the group there were many kindred spirits and the conversation came easily and was filled with laughter and interest in each other's lives outside the Arctic.

Tomorrow the team plans to fly to the Borneo Basecamp, located approximately 60 nautical miles from the North Pole. From there they will fly the remaining distance by helicopter before returning to the basecamp for a night under the 24 hour sunlight of the Arctic spring.

Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The North Pole!

The team finally reached the north Pole today! The departed early in the morning and were at the North Pole by mid day. The charter flight is approximately 2.5 hours to an ice runway and basecamp called Borneo. Once at Borneo the team had a meal before heading on to the North Pole by helicopter.

The Borneo runway and basecamp from the air.

The MI-8 helicopter that flew the team to the North Pole.

Where is the North Pole? It can actually be hard to find!
Standing at the North Pole is an incredible experience. One is surrounded by snow and ice, and nothing else, for as far as they eye can see. There is nothing at the North Pole, no markers and signs, and one truly has the feeling that they are at the end of the Earth. It can be hard to describe so we will let the team members do the honors in the audio blogs below:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Icecaves, polar bear, and hopes for a flight tomorrow...

Today was a beautiful day in Longyearbyen with sunshine and clear skies, so no better place to be than in a cave! Most of the team visited a local ice cave that was formed inside a non-active glacier just outside of town. Once inside everyone must wear headlamps to see and helmets to protect their heads from bumping into one of the many ice formations that are carved by dripping water.

Some places in the caves are much tighter!
Atul went on a snowmobile trip to the east coast of Spitsbergen where he had another polar bear encounter. This time he say a mother bear with two cubs. The cubs were laying on the mother bear enjoying the sunny day. Atul has had very good luck seeing polar bears!

Spitsbergen has one of the highest polar bear populations in the world!

The team is awaiting information regarding their flight-time for the North Pole. Their next update will be at 10 AM tomorrow. We are hopeful that the flight will be soon!

Check back again tomorrow for the latest update from the team!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dogsledding adventure and a runway dilemma...

Today was the day our team was planning to fly to the North Pole however an early season weather delay postponed their flight until April 7. With today as an unexpected "free" day the team opted to give dogsledding a try. Sounds easy, but as you'll hear in Antonio's audio update below sometimes it's not as easy as it sounds! They had a great time trying out a new sport, and experiencing the traditional mode of travel in the Arctic.
The traditional mode of travel in the Arctic and the team's new favorite sport!

Against the mountains the dogsledders look like small dots.
Later in the day they learned that the runway on which the plane lands near the North Pole developed a crack. The charter air providers are hard at work trying to resolve the issue and we hope to have further information regarding the timing of the next flight to the North Pole soon.

Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Return to Longyearbyen...

Today the team returned to Longyearbyen from the Isfjord Radio Station. The weather had warmed to around -5 degrees C and winds were calm. On the way back the team visited Barentsburg, a Russian mining community, where they had coffee and shopped for souvenirs. Barentsburg is like a small slice of Russia on the coast of Spitsbergen. A very unusual and interesting community.
The Isfjord Radio Station
By late afternoon the team had returned to Longyearbyen where they learned that their flight to the North Pole might be delayed by a day for which they are making tentative arrangements. They met and joined up with Atul Patki, another PolarExplorers team member who will be joining them on the flight to the Pole.

Atul had his own adventure today... His snowmobile trip to the east coast of Spitsbergen had to be changed due to the increasing poor visibility. The east coast has the highest concentration of polar bear in Spitsbergen, and Atul might have thought that his chances of seeing a polar bear were dashed. But on the return from his alternate snow mobile trip he was privileged to encounter a polar bear who had just hunted two seals, right in front of the group! An amazing scene, and one he will never forget.

The King of the Arctic - Atul got to see one up close!

Check back tomorrow for another update from the team!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another day, another adventure...

After a delightful night on board the Noorderlicht, the team woke to a calmer, sunnier day that showed off the spectacular beauty of Spitsbergen. They said good bye to their hosts and headed out for another day of snowmobiling. Their destination today, the historic radio station at Isfjord.
En route to Isfjord Radio Station
Isfjord Radio Station is located in a very pristine location, very close to the coast. Frequent visitors to the station include polar bear, reindeer and most recently a walrus, who is said to be relaxing about 500 meters from the station. It seems that the team has contracted a case of Arctic Fever, as you'll hear in the daily audio report below. The team is now settled at Isfjord Radio Station, and they have enjoyed a great dinner and conversation. Tomorrow they depart for Longyearbyen.

Last night on the Noorderlicht

Make sure to listen to today's audio file, and check back in again tomorrow for another update from the team!