by John Huston
This week has been a week of what I will describe as optimistic patience. We experienced feelings of success and also a little bit of frustration that comes with traveling a little bit slower than we want to be and just with the mental up-and-downs of long distance and long-term expeditions like this one is. Feelings of success happened when we crossed 84°. It took us 18 days to travel from Ward Hunt Island to 84° and that's basically right on schedule with what we thought we would be doing and the same pace as other successful unsupported expeditions. I know that seems like a long time to take 18 days to travel less than 1°, but since our sleds are heavy and the snow has so much friction and also the ice is not smooth at all, it's just full of rubble and snow waves, that makes it very slow progress. Just to reassure everybody, we hope to the last 2° of 88° to 89° and 89° to 90° at the North Pole in about a week. So, once we lighten up and the friction decreases and the ice smoothes out a bit, we can really increase the pace.
We have experienced a bit of frustration because we feel like we're traveling well, but our distances aren't as big as we thought they would be after 84°. We're still on schedule; we're not worried. But it's just a little frustrating to turn on the DeLorme GPS at the end of the day where you think you've done 7 nautical miles maybe or 6, and we only do 5. I think the big factor there is that the mornings have a lot of friction and we're still traveling through a lot of heavy snow waves that we're so used to that we don't realize how slow we're traveling possibly. This week temperatures got to the warmer side. We haven't seen 40 below in a few days or maybe a week. And with that the wind increased a bit. So, as I'll talk about later, negative 50 is a lot of friction to pull a sled over, but it can feel warmer when there's no wind compared to minus 30 and a bit of wind. But we appreciate the warmer temperatures; it makes tent life a whole lot easier and it makes pulling the sleds easier as well.
We came across a relatively fresh set of polar bear tracks yesterday, that would be the 21st of March. At noon, we saw polar bear tracks of two cubs and a mother that were headed the opposite direction of our travel and slightly across it. So we're not too worried that we will encounter them, but it's quite exciting to see signs of wildlife out here. It's only the second sign of polar bear that we have seen. The first was on day 6 or 7 and we have not seen any since then until yesterday.
We have been traveling on mostly old sea ice that's been around for a few years and this is identified by lots of rubble piled high and makes it difficult to navigate through, to go in a straight line. We're always zigzagging our way north, so our actual distance traveled on foot is probably a few miles more then our actual, then our GPS straight line distance from camp to camp. We have come across a few large frozen leads that are well-frozen and jumbled a little bit, but make for very good travel because there's very little snow on them compared to the sometimes deep snow and snow dunes on the old ice.
And the theme, I guess, is optimistic patience because this expedition is front-loaded with a lot of heavy work early on and we just have to be patient that our loads will decrease and that the friction will decrease as well and that we'll be able to travel more miles later on. And we're confident in that; we just have to keep reminding ourselves to be patient. So that's it, optimistic patience that we will be patient with ourselves and continue to improve our mileage and that each day is a new opportunity to get closer to the North Pole. Thanks for listening everybody. That is the week in review.
Daily Expedition Data
Date: March 22, 2009
Location: N84° 26.564' W074° 40.361'
Time Traveled: 9 hours 30 minutes
Distance Traveled: 6.8 nautical miles
AM Temperature: -16°F
PM Temperature: -12°F