Explorers prepare to sail around the North Pole

In a few weeks time, Norwegian explorers Borge Ousland and Thorleif Thorleifsson will set out on a daring expedition in an attempt to become the first people to sail around the North Pole, a feat that has only become possible in recent years thanks to global climate change. The two men will have to successfully navigate both the Northeast and Northwest Passages if they want to accomplish their goal.

Ousland is a well known polar explorer, who has visited both the North and South Pole by skis in his numerous cold weather adventures. Thorleifsson is more at home on the water, being a very experienced sailor, and will be the captain of the small sailing ship they will use on their voyage.

The plan is to set off on June 21st, and sail for the Northeast Passage, which fully opens up for navigation in August. That route runs through the ice filled waters of the Arctic Ocean north of Russia. Once they have completed that part of the journey, they’ll then take on the Northwest Passage, which runs across the northern region of Canada. At one time, both of these routes we considered unnavigable, but thanks to global warming, the ice now breaks up more fully, allowing ships to pass through.

There are a number of obstacles that Ousland and Thorleifsson will have to face on their journey. For instance, the ice flows will be very unpredictable, and they’ll need to rely on satellite imaging to help find their way. On top of that, they’re using a small ship that is quick and light, but won’t allow them to carry too many supplies with them, and although it has been retrofitted with Kevlar to help protect it against the ice, its hull is none too thick. The two men have also had to deal with Russian bureaucracy, which is never an enjoyable prospect, but a similar expedition was halted last year when the ship didn’t have the proper paperwork to pass through Russian waters.

The journey is expected to take four months to complete, and they’ll be covering roughly 10,000 miles in the process. Once they get underway, you’ll be able to follow along with their progress and adventures on Ousland’s blog, which can be found by clicking here.

[Photo Credit: http://www.ousland.no/]