The expedition had a surreal beginning: We landed on Ward Hunt Island together with Rosie Stancer, who wanted to make her way to the North Pole solo and supported. In order to avoid the risk of following too closely behind, we gave Rosie a day’s headstart. We stayed overnight on Ward Hunt Island, and started the next day. We spent the night in one of the huts, which was a cold pleasure. Summer huts without heating at -60 degrees C are not recommended.
The following day we set off, as a Twin Otter from Borek Air arrived with Richard Weber and two of his clients, Ian and Adrian, who headed to the North Pole with provisions. View Adrian Hayes’ website here.
The Twin Otter missed the runway, which had been marked out on the previous day, and collided with a large mound of ice and stone, then ploughed into a large snowdrift of blue ice, lost control and came straight towards us. Fortunately, we had yet to transfer the sleds. After a few seconds, we realised that the plane was out of control. We ran as fast as we could, and the last thing I saw out of the corner of my eye before I threw myself to the ground was the wing of the plane…
Richard Weber, in his 20 years in the industry, had never experienced such a wild and hard landing. Luckily, he had a few skis and bindings in one of the huts, and helped me to make a binding to a snow tyre which had been damaged by the plane.
The plane, by the way, was sent to be repaired after this landing.
Richard’s group headed off. They were to receive new provisions in three weeks, and left with a small sled and rucksack. We had two sleds, and were pulling 130kg each. With much snow, and sluggish snow at that, on the glacier as far as the ocean, we had to walk a stretch with just one sled, and then go back to get the other one. Roald Amundsen said that skiing in Antarctica is like walking on “fish glue”. At -60 C, it is not easy to glide, and in Canada they say that to pull a sled in such circumstances is like pulling a dead horse. We felt as if someone was standing behind the sled, holding it back. In short: It was a Sluggish surface.
On account of this, we decided to go with snow tyres in the beginning, in order to achieve a better grip. The broken binding that I had replaced with an old-fashioned child’s binding (see picture) was too big, and I had to lash it over the screw thread with a strap. For a few days, it worked quite well.
On the morning of Friday, March 9, however, I woke with three blue toes on my left foot! The evening before, I had lay down with ten warm, dry toes, and it was a shock to now see these blue ones – I didn’t even notice that I had frozen over the course of the night.
At -60 C, the difference is marginal. The strap probably led to some of the blood vessels being cut off. Now, we used the stove to warm up the toes. It worked well with two, but it was difficult to bring the big toe back to life (picture below).
We called up our expedition doctor to reassure us that we were doing the right thing: slowly defrost, keep the foot warm and take aspirin, to thin the blood. He confirmed this, and said, moreover, that if we had any alcohol available, we should drink it to thin the blood. Ann took out our bottle of Scotch, with which we wanted to celebrate every parallel: The bottle was completely frozen!
Although I knew, deep inside, that the damage would only get worse if I continued on, and that I would never be able to make the entire distance, Ann and I denied this. We decided to proceed; a day’s progress would perhaps repair the damage…
However, this didn’t occur. It got worse, and now I also had blisters on my big toe. We found ourselves in pack ice, and knew that it would not be possible to be pulled out at a later time.
Health and quality of life are important to me. If I had gone on, my phalanx would definitely have been destroyed, and I would have lost balance in my left leg. If I were to turn around, I would have a chance to save my toes.
It is, of course, unnecessary to say that Ann and I had a difficult time. Ann was a great help as I came to the decision, and also in the time that followed.
You can read the press reports that Ann and I sent out here.
We went back to Ward Hunt Island, where we were to be picked up on Monday, March 12. At around midnight, on March 13, we landed in St. Paul/Minneapolis.
The day after, we visited “our expedition doctor”, Jeff Ho from HCMH (Hennepin County Medical Centre). He confirmed that we had been right to abort. The frostbite was serious, even if it was difficult to tell at this stage just how serious.
On March 17 I flew home to Norway, and went to monitor the frostbite damage in the Aker Hospital. I will lose part of the toe. The body is best left to repair the damage itself. That can take two to three months…
OUR PLAN WAS AS DESCRIBED UNDER:
Arctic Ocean 2007
Join Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen as they embark on their Epic Journey to cross the Arctic Ocean on foot. In 2005, following 2 years of preparation, Bancroft and Arnesen embarked on an attempt to make history as the first women to ski across the Arctic Ocean. Due to beurocracy, all Arctic expeditions of 2005 were forced to evacuate the Arctic Ocean and forgo their dreams. Ann and Liv head back, again, bypassing the turbulent Russian beurocratic figureheads, head out this time from Canada reaching for the North Pole. From there, they will ski toward the TARA, a ship boarded with scientists. The ship is planning to do what the Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen did with his ship FRAM in 1893-96. His goal was the let the ship freeze into the Arctic Ocean North of Siberia and let the ship drift with the currents. Different scientific projects will take place during TARA’s two years drift across the Arctic Ocean. In addition to this Ann and Liv co-operates with projects linked to the International Polar Year 2007-08).
Start from Ward Hunt Island, Canada
Ann and Liv will begin their journey from Ward Hunt Island in Canada in March 2007. From there they will ski unsupported to the Geographical North Pole. The projected skiing route is approximately 850 kilometers long (about 530 miles). The expedition will be unsupported. I.e. no materials or supplies will be delivered to Ann and Liv; everything needed during the 2-months trek will be in Ann and Liv’s sleds from the starting point. The women will get resupplies at the North Pole and the exciting challenge for the team is that they will not know how long the total expedition will be, before they get closer to the North Pole and learn how and where TARA has drifted. The plan is to reach TARA in May and have transportation off of the ice the time TARA will change crew and scientists for the following year. Ann and Liv plan to have millions of kids follow their journey and learn about dreams, preserverance and courage. Join Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft by logging on to www.BancroftArnesenExplore.com for updates from the ice, Journey’s Toward Peace K-12 curriculum and classroom activities to participate in during the expedition.
This post is also available in: Norwegian Bokmål