We're on the brink of the start of the 2017 Arctic expedition season, with the planned departure of the two teams heading to the North Pole scheduled for next week. Those teams are now en route to their starting point in Canada, although as usual, their start dates will depend entirely on the weather. 

One of those teams is made up of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George, who have collectively called their expedition The Last Great March. According to the latest update from Copeland, the two men are setting out today for Resolute Bay in Canada, where they will first spend a few days sorting their gear and preparing for their departure, ahead of the a scheduled flight out to their starting point sometime next week. With any luck, they'll be in Resolute by tomorrow and have a bit of time to rest up and get their sleds packed ahead of the launch of the expedition. 

The other team that plans to travel the full distance to the North Pole this year is Martin Murray and this canine companion Sky. In an audio dispatch released last week, Murray says his sled is packed and his gear is ready to go and he'll leave for Resolute Bay on Friday of this week. His gear load tips the scales at 104 kg (229 pounds) and he expects to be out on the ice in the first week of March. 

Both teams will share the same pilot and plane, as it is now very difficult to find anyone who will fly support in the Arctic. A few years back, Kenn Borek Air pulled out of that duty, leaving North Pole teams scrambling to find anyone else who will take them. This year, that pilot is Dave Mathieson, who is an extremely experienced pilot who has flown all over the world. Mathieson will stay on standby in Resolute for 60 days in case either squad needs an emergency pick-up, which is highly likely considering the conditions they'll face as they head north. 

The current departure plan is to fly out to their starting point sometime after February 27. If the weather is good, they could head out as early as Tuesday of next week, but they'll watch the forecast very closely before deciding when to go. Their exact starting point isn't set yet either, as conditions will dictate that as well. But the plan is to either start at Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery, with Mathieson having the final say as to where he can safely land to drop them off. 

Of course, we'll be following the two expeditions closely as they head to the North Pole. As usual, it should be very interesting to follow their progress. Remember, no one has completed the full distance journey to the North Pole since 2014, and the Arctic has only gotten more unstable ever since. Good luck to Sebastian, Mark, Martin, and Sky as they set off on this perilous journey. 

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