While one famous British explorer prepares to take on the Antarctic in the dead of winter, another is gearing up to challenge himself in the Arctic instead. Last week, endurance runner Tim Williamson announced that in 2013 he will attempt to travel solo and unsupported to the North Pole and then return to his starting point – completely on foot. If successful, he’ll become the first person to complete such a journey.
Williamson intends to launch his expedition in mid-January, setting out for the North Pole from Resolute Bay in Canada. That tiny Inuit village is one of the most northerly communities on Earth and a common starting point for explorers heading to the top of the world. Most of those other explorers depart from that point by first taking a chartered flight out to the remote Ellesmere Island, saving themselves hundreds of miles on what is an already long journey. But Williamson intends to begin and end in Resolute Bay, which means that if he is successful in this venture, he’ll cover more than 2200 miles on his round-trip journey.
As if covering all of those miles in the Arctic weren’t challenging enough, Tim believes that he can complete the expedition in just 100-120 days. Considering the extreme challenges he’ll face out on the ice, that would be a blazingly fast time. Those challenges include high winds, sub-zero temperatures, whiteout conditions, dangerous blizzards and wandering polar bears. Additionally, the Arctic pack-ice isn’t as thick as it once was and there are now large sections of open water that he’ll need to either navigate around or swim across. Traveling during the winter will help alleviate those obstacles to a degree, but the longer he is out on the ice, the more of an issue it will become.
Williamson says this is the kind of expedition that he is built for and his aptitude at long distance running will serve him well in the Arctic. That may be true, but this will be a challenge unlike any he has ever undertaken. Over the past two Arctic seasons, not a single person has managed to travel the full distance to the North Pole, let alone back again.
[Photo courtesy Tim Williamson]