Ultrarunner To Attempt Round-Trip North Pole Expedition On Foot

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]

Explorers rowing to the Magnetic North Pole

A few days back, a crew of six adventurers set out in a specially designed rowboat on a 450-mile journey to the Magnetic North Pole. The six-week long journey began in Resolute Bay, Canada and will end when the team becomes the first to row to the Pole, which is located in a remote area of the Arctic Ocean.

Not to be confused with the Geographic North Pole, the Magnetic North Pole is actually the location on the surface of the Earth that a compass points to in the Northern Hemisphere. Over the years, that point has been known to change and move, but it is currently located at the coordinates of 78°35.7N 104°11.9W. The Geographic NP is, of course, found at the top of the world, at exactly 90°N.

This expedition is led by Jock Wishart, a veteran polar explorer and ocean rower. He is joined by a crew of experienced sailors and adventurers that includes Mark Delstanche, Billy Gammon, Rob Sleep, David Mans, and Mark Beaumont. The plan is for the team to row in three hour shifts, as they make slow, but steady, progress toward their goal.

According to the expedition’s website, the crew launched amidst good weather on Saturday, with low winds and temperatures hovering around 55°F. That is quite warm for the Arctic, and those conditions aren’t expected to last, as even in the summer, the temperatures can fall well below freezing and high winds can make travel extremely challenging.

If all goes as planned, the team should reach their goal sometime around the middle of September. You’ll be able to follow their progress at RowToThePole.com, which includes blog updates from the water, live GPS tracking, and plenty of information about the boat and her crew.

[Photo credit: RowToThePole.com]