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All 2011 North Pole Expeditions cancelled


Version française de ce texte.

You might remember that at this time last year we were following the 7 expeditions that were on their way to the North Pole (4 teams & 3 individuals). This year, 3 teams made their way to Resolute in the hope of facing the challenge:

Irish North Pole Expedition 2011
, the Irish team made up of Pat Falvey & Clare O’Leary.

Northern Exposure 2011, The British Royal Air Force Team made up of Matthew Stowers & Jules Weekes.

Expedition Nord Pole Solo 2011 the Italian Michele Pontrandolfo, who is back for a second consecutive year. In 2010, Michele’s expedition had to be aborted as it became obvious he would not make it to the Pole in time to be picked up by the Russians.

Since mid-February the three teams have been preparing and waiting for D-Day which was originally set for February 25. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided otherwise forcing the date to be moved to February 28. In their February 25 daily post, Pat et Clare explain the reason of the delay :

The Arctic is exiting from it’s winter sleep of darkness and as of yet the sun has not risen and our pilots need at least an hour of sunrise light to create a contrast to define the ice runway from the sky and now we won’t get that until the 28th February. The sun rising will increase our safety margin to let us into the inner sanctum of the ice for our start. Let’s pray the weather then holds.

Then, on February 28, the bad weather conditions on the northern part of Ellesmere Island, where the teams were to be dropped off, forced a new delay. The teams went back to the waiting room for one day… then two… then five more days… This morning, the three teams issued the following press release :

It’s been pretty frustrating this ends with delays..- we were originally scheduled to fly Feb 25 and this date has been postponed and postponed for various reasons- mainly due to daylight hours and weather conditions that have been unsuitable for landing. We have had all our equipment out at the airport since last Sunday and are just waiting here in Resolute Bay, paying a small fortune and waiting.

The bigger problem is that we had allowed ourselves 60 days for the North Pole Expedition and did not think we’d have a whole lot if time to spare for bad weather/ conditions on the ice. We are now 7 days later than we had anticipated with no definate flight date- and the chances of a successful trip are becoming very slim. If we don’t make the NP by April 26th (the final day for pick up by the Russians who operate a temporary ice base on the Arctic ocean), then we will have to pay for a pick up from this side by the Canadians which will cost an extra 105k!! Their final date for pick up is April 30th and our expedition would be forced to finish, regardless of our proximity to the pole or otherwise.

We have been on standby for the past 2 mornings, with all the anticipation and apprehension that that brings, but again got a stand down call at 7am. Although the pilot is ready to fly, the conditions are impossible.

We have also managed to get an independent forecast from a meterologist – as opposed to a pilot’s interpretation of the weather chart which is all short term – and she is expecting blizzard or near blizzard conditions at our start point on today, (Saturday) followed by another low front on Sunday, concluding that there is a possibility we may fly on Monday, but the best conditions are on Wednesday/ Thursday of next week – ie March 9, 10 – which is 12-13 days later than we had planned for.

So the issue now is becoming whether or not we will get going at all. If we start out with a very low probability of making it, it’s throwing alot of money away. There are 3 teams up here, the Irish (Pat Falvey and Clare O’Leary), the RAF (Matthew Stowers and Jules Weekes)and the Italian, Michele Pontrandolfo. There have been lots of discussions as we are all due to share the same flight onto the ice.

With the above information and having reviewed several expedition logs from previous years, we have been forced to make a decision on whether or not it makes sense financially, from an adventure point of view and whether it is fair to sponsors to start on an expedition that is almost certainly doomed to be unsucessful.

Very reluctantly we have decided no. These 3 expeditions to the Geographic North Pole are off for 2011.

What a huge deception after so much efforts, training and preparation. We wish them all a safe trip back home with the hope of seeing them return in 2012 for a successful expedition!

I had the opportunity to make it all the way to Resolute at two occasions during the summer months. Independantly of the time of year, weather is regularly a cause for flight delays. In 2005, there were at least 20 of us (tourists, prospectors, governemnt employees, NASA scientists, …) patiently waiting at the South Camp Inn for the green light to get on the plane. Here is a photo of the hamlet taken in August 2007.

Resolute Bay, Août/August 2007

Bye for now!
France Rivet

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