Australian ultrarunner to attempt pole-to-pole run

Australian ultramarathon runner Pat Farmer has announced that he plans to run from the North Pole to the South Pole in an attempt to raise money for charity. The endurance athlete, who once served a decade as a member of Australia’s parliament, has already completed long distance runs around and across his home country, as well as across the United States twice.

The expedition will get underway in March of 2011, beginning at the top of the world, 90ºN. From there, it’s a 13,000 mile journey, heading south the entire way, crossing through Canada and on to the West Coast of the U.S. From there, he’ll run down into Mexico, before proceeding through Central and South America, and eventually ending up in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. From there, he’ll hop a flight to Patriot Hills in Antarctica, where he’ll resume the run until he reaches the Pole at 90ºS. The entire journey is expected to take about 11 months to complete.

Farmer’s charitable goals are just as lofty as his physical ones. He hopes to raise $100 million for the Red Cross to help fund their clean water and sanitation efforts around the globe. The inspiration for this endeavor comes after a recent trip to Southeast Asia, during which he witnessed children living in poverty and lacking common resources that most of the developed world takes for granted. Upon his return home, he decided that he wanted to do something to help.

All told, when the run is complete, Farmer will have traveled through 14 different countries on three continents. He also says he expects to shred about 40 pairs of shoes and 300 pairs of socks along the way as well. As an extreme endurance athlete, he is use to running for 50-60 miles per day on a regular basis, but he also admits that this will be the biggest challenge of his life, and that he has been in heavy training to get ready.

Come next March, we’ll see if all of that training can sustain him in the harsh Arctic conditions.

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.

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Explorer claims second of “three poles”

We’ve mentioned Eric Larsen and his Save The Poles Expedition on more than one occasion here at Gadling. He’s the explorer who has set out to become the first person to visit the “three poles” in one calendar year, with the three poles being the North and South Geographic Poles and the summit of Mt. Everest.

Last week Larsen took another major step in his quest by reaching 90ºN, otherwise known as the North Pole. He, along with teammates Antony Jinman and Darcy St. Laurent, spent 51 days out on the ice, battling high winds, sub-zero temperatures, massive rubble fields, and ice flowing away from the Pole that made it seem like they were on a treadmill at times. But in the end, they reached the top of the world, putting Larsen two-thirds of the way toward his goal. Eric, and two different teammates reached the South Pole back on January 2nd.

The main objective of the project is to raise awareness of global warming and its impact on the Earth’s Poles, while promoting the use of new, clean energy sources and carbon offsets. In that light, it seems all the more fitting that the team arrived at the North Pole on Earth Day.

With the North and South Pole under his belt, Larsen will now turn his attention on Everest. It is too late to make the climb during the spring season, so he’ll be planning a fall ascent. If all goes as planned, he’ll be making history later this year.

Explorer attempts solo balloon flight over North Pole

Explorer Jean-Louis Etienne already has two solo expeditions of the North Pole under his belt. First was his 63 day hike by foot back in 1986. Then in 2002, Etienne drifted alone on the Artic Sea for four months in a specially-designed research pod. Now the determined explorer is planning the third part of his solo Artic exploration “trilogy,” with plans to pilot a helium-air balloon back over the Artic for a 15-20 day adventure.

Using a ship based on the Breitling Orbiter, the first balloon successfully piloted around the world in 1999, Etienne plans to spend his trip raising awareness of the shrinking of the world’s polar ice caps. Along the way the voyager will also be taking a number of scientific measurements, including CO2 levels and readings of the earth’s magnetic field. This is not Etienne’s first attempt to balloon his way across the Arctic. His first try in 2008 ended disastrously when his ship was smashed by high winds.

[UPDATE] Etienne’s journey kicked off earlier this morning, launching from a remote island called Spitzbergen off the Northern Coast of Norway. Let’s wish him luck in his journey.

Polar explorer sets out for second pole

We’ve mentioned Eric Larsen a couple of times in the past few months. First, when he set off on his Save the Poles expedition, and again when he reached the South Pole, the first of three extreme destinations he has planned for this year. During the course of 2010, Larsen expects to reach all three “poles”, which includes both the North and South Geographic Poles, as well as the summit of Mt. Everest, as he works to raise awareness for alternative clean energy sources and ways to reduce carbon emissions.

With the start of the 2010 season for arctic expeditions hitting last week, Larsen has now begun the second stage of his endeavor. Eric and his companions, Antony Jinman and Darcy St Laurent, set out from Cape Discovery in Northern Canada last week. Ahead of them is a 450 mile unsupported journey to the top of the world, which means that they are dragging all of their gear and supplies behind them in sleds, while they cover the distance on skis, battling the most extreme weather and terrain on the planet.

In his first updates from the ice, Eric says that so far, the journey north has been colder than the weather he experienced in Antarctica. The miles have been harder so far as well, with large areas of open water and giant ice fields impeding their progress. As a result, the team has not covered a lot of mileage so far, and negative drift has worked to deprive them of some of the miles they have achieved.

If successful in reaching the North Pole, Eric will be two-thirds of the way to his goal. He plans to head to Everest in the fall, and a successful summit there would make him the first person to ever reach the “three poles” in a single calendar year.