Explorer Mark Wood reaches South Pole, completes first half of journey

Mark Wood travels to the South Pole, next up the North!Back in November, we told you about British adventurer Mark Wood, who was preparing to set out on an epic adventure. Mark was hoping to become the first person to make back-to-back journeys to the North and South Pole on foot, and at the time he was getting ready to travel to Antarctica to start his expedition. Fast forward a few months, and Wood has now reached the South Pole, successfully completing the first phase of his journey.

Last Monday, after 50 days on the ice, Wood officially reached the bottom of the world – 90º South. That was pretty much exactly on schedule for what he had predicted, which is remarkable considering he had to deal with challenging surface conditions, unpredictable weather, equipment failures, and whiteout conditions for much of the way. All told, Wood covered about 680 miles on skis, all the while towing a sled laden with his gear and supplies.

Despite the fact that it has now been more than a week since he completed his journey, Mark remains stranded at a research station located near the Pole. Bad weather has prevented a plane from coming to pick him up, although conditions are expected to improve this week. When they do, he’ll get airlifted back to Chile, where he’ll take some time to reorganize his gear, and recuperate, before immediately flying off to Canada to start the next phase of the expedition.

While skiing to the South Pole is an impressive accomplishment, traveling to the North Pole is considerably more challenging. The journey will be similar in that Wood will go on skis, once again pulling his sled behind him, but while the Antarctic is ice formed over solid ground, the Arctic consists of giant slabs of ice floating on top of an ocean. As a result, Wood will face much more unstable ground and will have to navigate around or across large areas of open water. That open water has become much more prevalent in open years thanks to global climate change.
Because the ice floats on top of the Arctic Ocean, he’ll also have to deal with the frustrating natural phenomenon known as negative drift as well. This is a condition that actually causes polar explorers to loose ground – even as they travel north – due to the shifting of the ice. It is not uncommon for someone traveling through the arctic to spend all day skiing northward, only to stop for the night, and wake the next day to find that they’re actually further away from the Pole than they were when they went to sleep. It can be very disheartening for the explorers, who sometimes describe the feeling as much like being on treadmill.

The presence of polar bears is another hazard that Arctic explorers must be aware of as well. While those traveling to the South Pole seldom, if ever, encounter any other forms of life, those going to the North must be ever vigilant for bears. Because of this, most skiers add a shotgun to their gear list before setting out, hoping that they won’t have to use it along the way. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores on the planet, and they have been known to stalk humans traveling through the Arctic, bringing yet another element of danger to an already challenging journey.

Mark’s accomplishment of reaching the South Pole on on skis is indeed an impressive one, and while he has now technically completed the first half of his expedition, it’ll only get tougher from here. The North Pole trek is expected to take roughly 65 days to complete, and will be another test of endurance and determination.

Explorer to make back-to-back journey to North and South Pole

Mark Wood will visit both the North and South PoleBritish adventurer Mark Wood is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile where he is preparing to start an epic journey. If all goes as planned, later this week, Mark will fly to the Antarctic, where he’ll begin a four-month odyssey that will take him to both the North and South Poles back-toback. While he certainly won’t be the first person to visit those two remote places, he does hope to become the first to make consecutive journeys to the opposite ends of the Earth.

Weather permitting, the first stage of the expedition will begin on Wednesday, when Wood will start his solo and unassisted trek to the South Pole. That leg of the journey is expected to take roughly 50 days to complete and will cover approximately 680 miles of ice and snow. Upon arriving at his destination, Wood will be picked up by plane and shuttled back to Chile, where he’ll immediately set off for Canada to start the second stage of the expedition. That will entail crossing another 700 miles of ice, over an estimated 65 day period, culminating with his arrival at the North Pole. If he is successful, he’ll then be plucked from the ice once again, and flown directly to an environmental conference that will focus on the effects of climate change.

In order to reach the two Poles, Wood will travel on skis, dragging a sled behind him. That sled will be weighted down with his gear, food, and other supplies, enabling him to survive for weeks on end, by himself, without any outside assistance. While on the trail, he’ll burn in excess of 8000 calories per day, enduring bitterly cold temperatures, whiteout conditions, and treacherous terrain.
Wood is making this journey to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on our planet and he is asking for support from others to help him achieve his goal. But rather than looking for monetary donations, Mark is instead asking for others to pledge to do some simple environmental actions that will cumulatively amount to a savings 100,000 kilograms of CO2. You can find out more about this program, and pledge your support, on the expedition’s DoNation page.

It will be a tremendous display of strength and endurance if Wood is able to pull this off. Spending 115 nearly-consecutive days in polar environments, alone no less, will take its toll on anyone. Additionally, the changes to our planet have made it increasingly more difficult to travel by foot to the North Pole, so he’ll have to have a bit of luck on his side for that to happen as well. Still, you have to applaud his ambitions and wish him the best along the way.

[Photo courtesy of Mark Wood]


Swedish explorer hopes to go Pole2Pole in one year

The Pole2Pole expedition will have Johan Ernst Nilson traveling from the North to the South PoleEarlier this week, Swedish explorer Johan Ernst Nilson set out on an ambitious, 12-month long journey that will see him travel from the North Pole to the South Pole in a completely carbon neutral manner. The so called Pole2Pole will use skis, dogsleds, sailboats, and a bike to accomplish its goals.

This past Tuesday, Nilson was shuttled by helicopter to the North Pole, where he embarked on his epic journey that will see him traveling south for the next year. He’ll start by skiing across the frozen Arctic Ocean to Greenland, where he’ll use a dogsled that to carry him to Thule Airbase on the northwest side of the country. Once there, he’ll climb aboard a sailboat and cross the North Atlantic to Ottawa, Canada, where he’ll get on a bike and ride to Tierra del Fuego, Chile at the far end of South America. Once he has completed the cycling leg of the journey, he’ll get back in his sailboat and sail across the Southern Ocean for Antarctica, where he hopes to kite-ski to the South Pole, arriving before April 5th, 2012.

When he’s done, Nilson will have traveled nearly 23,000 miles, averaging roughly 63 miles per day, without using a single bit of fossil fuel himself. The same can’t be said about his support team and the documentary crew that will be following him around. They’ll be outfitted with cars from Audi, the major sponsor of the expedition. The auto manufacturer aided Nilson by helping to design and build a new lightweight sled that he’ll be using to pull his gear behind him while in the polar regions of the journey.

This is going to be one difficult journey to make in a single year, and traveling in the Antarctic after January is always a dicey proposition. Nilson has his work cut out for him for sure, but it will certainly be an amazing accomplishment if he can pull it off.

Prince Harry begins arctic trek

Prince Harry is on an Arctic trek for charityWay back in January we posted a story about the possibility of Britain’s Prince Harry going to the North Pole as part of a fund raising effort for charity. While the prince won’t actually be heading to 90ºN as predicted, he did embark on an Arctic trek this week with a team of disabled veterans from the U.K.

After a number of weather delays, Harry and the rest of his group, were finally able to get underway on Monday. The journey began with a flight from Spitsbergen to the Barneo Ice Camp, a temporary base built on the Arctic Ocean that is annually constructed by a team of Russian paratroopers. After a very brief stay at the station, the group was shuttled off 87ºN, where most of the team began their 200 mile journey to the North Pole.

I say most of the team, because Harry won’t be making that journey with the vets. Instead, he’ll be picked up from the ice in a couple of days. The 25-year old prince was given special leave from his military duties to accompany the squad, but he is due back on base, where he’ll continue his training to become an Apache helicopter pilot. There is also the small matter of a wedding in the family soon as well.

The expedition is being undertaken to raise funds for the Walking with the Wounded foundation. The team hopes to raise as much as $3.2 million for the organization, which is dedicated to helping soldiers injured in military service to recover from their wounds and get on with their lives. Four of the men on the expedition were injured during the war in Afghanistan, with two of those being amputees. Prince Harry serves as a patron for Walking with the Wounded, which made it of utmost importance to him that he get to take part in the trek, even if it was only for a few days.

If all goes as scheduled, the team should arrive at the North Pole around the 25th of the month. Harry will be back in warmer climes by the weekend however.

[Photo credit: The Mirror]

16-year old looks to become youngest to North Pole

16-year old Parker Liautaud hopes to become the youngest person to the North Pole16-year old Parker Liautaud has set some rather large goals for himself. While many young men and women his age are concerned with getting good grades and who they’ll be taking to the dance on Saturday night, Parker is busy planning and training for an expedition to the North Pole. His second such expedition in fact.

Liautaud is hoping to become the youngest person to travel to the Pole on foot, and in two weeks time he’ll set out for the arctic to do just that. He and his guide, polar veteran Doug Stoup, will make a “Last Degree” journey from 89º North to the top of the world on skis. In the process, he hopes to raise awareness about the growing impact of global climate change on our environment, while also inspiring other young people to go out and do great things as well.

Parker attempted this same journey last year, but came up just short of his goal thanks to a combination of extremely bad weather, negative drift of the ice, and large sections of open water. Despite their best efforts, Parker and Stoup came up 15 miles shy of the finish line, and had to be airlifted to the North Pole via helicopter to catch their plane ride home. This year they hope to finish what they started in 2010.

While on the journey north, Parker and Stoup will be taking measurements of the amount of snow on the arctic ice. That data will be shared with the University of Alberta upon their return with hopes that it will offer insights into the short and long term impact of climate change on the region.

When he sets out in two weeks you’ll be able to follow Parker’s progress via his website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. It should be quite an expedition for the young man.