Showing posts with label Arctic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arctic. Show all posts

North Pole 2017: Barneo Closes for the Season, More on Polar Bear Shooting

The 2017 North Pole expedition season has come to a close. The Barneo Ice Camp, which is temporarily built on an ice floe in the arctic each year, shut down once again over this past weekend, with all staff, visitors, gear, and supplies now evacuated from the ice. By all accounts, it was another successful season, with a number of teams using the base as a gateway to and from the Arctic. And while there were no full-distance skiers to the North Pole this year, there were plenty of "last degree" expeditions that covered the final distance to the top of the world.

For the most part, the Arctic season came and went without too much to report. It was generally business as usual this season, with only groups of travelers and some researchers coming and going from Barneo. But, if you read this blog with regularity, you may recall that last week I wrote a story about an incident that left a polar bear wounded (and potentially dangerous) in the Arctic. That story had now blown up into a full-fledged controversy with clients accusing the guide of wrongdoing, contradictory statements from those involved, and a lot of questions as to what actually happened.

When I posted the article last week, the news was that a bear had wandered to close to a last degree ski team and that in an attempt to scare it away, they actually shot the animal, leaving it injured. A wounded bear can be extremely dangerous, and there were conflicting reports as to whether or not the guide for the expedition – polar vet Dixie Dansercoer – actually reported the incident to the team at Barneo, who could then relay that info on to other teams on the ice. At the time, the base manger Irina Orlova claimed that Dansercoer had failed to disclose the info fully, creating a bit of a stir as a result.


Now, the story has become a full-blown controversy. Dixie told his story to ExWeb, relaying the incident has he saw it. But one of his clients, a woman named Evelyn Binsack, shot a video of the entire incident, and it apparently contradicts much of what Dixie claimed. Binsack says that Dixie only fired a single warning shot at the animal and urged another member of the team to shoot the creature directly without giving it much of a chance to leave on its own. She also says at the time the bear was behind an ice block about 30 meters away and was not being aggressive at all.

According to reports the bear was shot in the shoulder, head, or possibly the jaw, and fled at a high rate. Dixie attempted to follow, but couldn't keep up and was unclear at the time whether or not the animal had been wounded. He claims that he reported the entire story to Barneo at his regularly scheduled sat phone call later that evening.

Apparently, Binsack has turned over the video to the police and an investigation into the matter is being conducted. Dansercoer has spoken with officials and has admitted that her video footage contradicts some of the statements he made early on. Where the story goes from here is anyone's guess, as there are no hard and fast rules with how to deal with a polar bear in the Arctic. Still, the situation is a precarious one, as the animal was clearly injured and could have been dangerous to others as well. The International Polar Guides Association is investigating the story and will likely try to suggest new rules and guidelines moving forward.

North Pole 2017: Skiers Shoot and Wound Bear Near the North Pole

It has been a relatively quiet and non-eventful season at the North Pole. With no full distance skiers on the ice, the expeditions to the top of the world have been limited to first and second degree ski journeys to 90ºN. But, just as the season is starting to wind down, comes some disturbing and potentially dangerous news out of the Barneo Ice Camp.

According to an update posted to the Barneo Facebook page, a team of skiers on their way to the North Pole encountered a polar bear while en route. That isn't completely uncommon, as the bears have been known to stalk explorers in the Arctic. One of the skiers was carrying a gun and felt threatened enough to shoot the bear, which is pretty unusual for these kinds of circumstances. Usually just firing into the air is enough to scare off most bears that wander too close. In this case however, the skier in question pointed the gun directly at the animal and shot it. The bear then limped off, wounded but not fatally so.

Nearly everyone knows that a wounded bear is a dangerous one, and there are now reports of others in the area seeing bear prints and blood on the snow. The animal appears to still be following teams as they make their way north, and could cause a potential safety hazard to others. To make matters worse, the guide for the group that shot the bear – Dirk Dansercoer – failed to inform the Barneo team, which could have warned North Pole skiers to be more vigilant while on their way to that destination.

At the moment, the incident is still under investigation, which is made all the more challenging since Dansercoer has already depart the Arctic for the season. Hopefully the teams that are still skiing will stay safe as they wrap up the remainder of their journey.

Encountering polar bears is one of the challenges that comes with travel in the Arctic. The creatures live and hunt in that environment, and nearly every veteran explorer of that part of the world has at least one or two tales to tell of encountering the massive animals in the wild. Guns are often carried to scare them away, but rarely are they used to actually shoot the creatures. This is a very rare case where the bear was actually shot for one reason or another.

In other news, Barneo is getting close to wapping up for the season. According to ExWeb, the team there has begun breaking camp and disassembling unused tents, packing gear, and so on. That means that the season is nearly at an end. That may be a good thing with a wounded bear in the area.

North Pole 2017: Barneo Opens for Business

The Barneo Ice Camp in the Arctic has officially opened for business. According to ExWeb, two flights have already reached the floating base of operations that is temporarily constructed in the Arctic each year. That base will now serve as a gateway too and from the North Pole and the surrounding area over the next few weeks.

The process for building the Barneo Camp is a fascinating one in and of itself. First, the team behind the base flies to the Arctic to search for an ice floe large enough to support the base and its blue ice runway. Then, a team of skydivers parachute onto the ice with supplies and construction materials to begin setting up the ice station. That includes clearing and smoothing out a large section of the surface to allow large Antonov-74 aircraft to land their. Once that happens, the Barneo begins receiving visitors.

ExWeb reports that the first two flights have arrived at the ice floe, which currently sits at roughly 89º18'N, 038º29'E. Apparently, two groups of North Pole skiers, who will traverse two degrees to the Pole, have already been flown in as well, and are likely already on their way towards 90ºN.  Another team of skiers is expected to arrive as part of the third flight tomorrow.

In order to reach this very remote place, flights are channeled through Svalbard in Norway. Last year this caused some political problems when a team of Chechen special forces passed through the area without permission from the Norwegian government. For a time, it looked like the support flights would need to find an alternate route passing through Franz Josef Land instead. But, the two sides have worked out their differences and are now working together as usual.

If you've ever wondered what it looks like to land a plane on an Arctic ice floe, have a look at the video below. Approaching the white, mostly featureless surface looks like a real challenge, but these pilots manage to pull it off without much difficult each year.

The base will remain in operation until the end of April, at which time everything will be cleaned up and removed once again. It is an impressive piece of engineering, all to grant access to one of the most inhospitable places on earth for a short time each year.


North Pole 2017: Construction of Barneo Ice Camp Nearly Complete

The 2017 Arctic exploration season may have been a bust as far as full-distance expeditions to the North Pole are concerned, but there will still be plenty of activity in that part of the world in the days ahead. As usual, the Russian ice camp at Barneo will play a crucial role in providing logistics to the Arctic from that side of the ice this year, with the station reaching a major milestone today.

For those that don't know, Barneo is a temporary base that is built on a moving ice flow in the Arctic each year. It serves as a launching point for a number of expeditions to the North Pole and the surrounding area. The camp not only serves as a gateway for researchers and explorers, but also for adventure travelers looking to complete a "last degree" journey to the top of the world as well.

Construction of the base began last week with a flyover of the Arctic finding a large enough ice flow to serve as the location for the camp in the days ahead. After that, a team of paratroopers landed on the ice and began construction of a blue ice runway. That same team also cleared the way for the construction of a temporary station there, which will soon begin receiving visitors. The location of this year's Barneo camp is 89º44’N, 065º47’E.

As of today, 1200 meters (3937 ft) of runway has been cleared, which is enough for the first flights to begin delivering supplies. That will help in finishing the last remnants of work prior to the arrival of the first teams, which will likely begin in the next few days.

If you've followed the Arctic expedition season in the past, you probably know that Barneo has faced some challenges in recent years. For instance, last year the ice on the runway cracked several times, first forcing the base to relocate and later to rebuild the landing strip altogether. The team behind the temporary camp also faced political issues with Norway. Their crew and supplies usually funneled through Svalbard on their way to the Arctic, but there was a dust up last season when a team of Chechen special forces soldiers moved through Norway on their way to the North Pole for training. This caused a political incident and it appeared as if the Norwegians would force the Barneo team to relocate to Franz Joseph Land for their logical needs. Fortunately, all of those issues seem to have been resolved, and operations are once again flowing through Svalbard.

We'll continue to keep an eye on the progress of the Barneo camp and some of the more interesting stories that will come out of the base this year. While no one is making a full distance journey through the Arctic this season, there should still be a few expeditions of note to follow.

Video: A Profile of Explorer Mike Horn

One of the expeditions we followed closely this past Antarctic season was Mike Horn's attempt to cross traverse the continent solo by kite ski. He was of course successful in that endeavor, and is now pushing forward with the second part of his Pole2Pole journey, in which he is circumnavigating the planet north to south via both Poles. In this video, we get a profile of Horn and his past accomplishment, as well as an inside look at at his Antarctic traverse. If you're not aware of what drives this man, you'll learn a lot more about him here. If you already know Mike and his ambitious journeys, you'll likely come away even more impressed.

North Pole 2017: Still Waiting in Resolute Bay

Just a quick update from Resolute Bay in Canada today. That's where the two teams planning on skiing to the North Pole continue to wait for a good weather window to begin their journey. The three men (and one dog!) who collectively make up these expeditions have been in town for more than week now, and continue to wait patiently for the start of their adventures, each knowing that each passing day could make things just a bit more difficult.

Martin Murray, who will be traveling with a dog named Sky, hasn't updated his status since last week, at which time he had sorted and weighed his gear in preparation for departure. But, The Last Great March team of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George shared news of their status yesterday. With nothing to do but wait, the two men retrieved their sleds from the aircraft and made use of their time by pulling them around for two hours in preparation for what they'll encounter out on the ice. Those training sessions will help them to get prepared for the long grueling days they'll face once they are dropped off at their starting point – either on Cape Discovery or Ward Hunt Island, which hopefully will happen sometime soon. They are poised and ready to get on the plane once they are given the green light.

Unfortunately for both squads, each day that they delay is like a clock ticking away. The Arctic ice now melts at a much faster pace than it did in the past, which means that while it is now at its thickest point, it will also be unsteady and constantly breaking apart. That makes their journey all the harder and will have a significant impact on their eventual success or failure.

At this point, it is unclear when they'l be flown out to their drop off points. As is usual with these kinds of expeditions, Mother Nature sets the schedule. Everyone involved will be watching the weather closely, and as soon as they see an opportunity to depart, they'll go. That could come as early as today, or it could be another week. For now, they'll just have to play the waiting game.

North Pole 2017: Teams in Resolute Bay and Awaiting Start

March is here, which means the 2017 Arctic expedition season is now ready to commence. The two teams preparing to ski to the North Pole have arrived in Resolute Bay, Canada and are now putting the final touches on their preparation while they await word on when they can fly out to their starting points, either on Cape Discovery or Ward Hunt Island. That could come at any time now.

The Last Great March team of Sebastian Copeland and Mark George arrived in Resolute this past weekend, but not without a bit of drama first. While they were en route, their 800 pounds (362 kg) of gear was to be flown to their destination aboard the Twin Otters aircraft that will eventually take them out to the ice. But, as Sebastian and Mark were preparing to take off, they received a text message from their pilot – Dave Mathieson – telling them that the gear weighed too much and that he would have to take some off. Nothing to be done at that point, they simply had to proceed on, while a couple of bags of clothing and all of the team's food was left behind.That gear was later driven to their starting point and arrived just fine, but for a time it caused some concern as to where everything was at.

Over the past few days, Sebastian and Mark have been sorting their gear and loading up their sleds while they wait for word on when they'll fly. At this point, that could come at any moment so they are now prepared to go with the pilot reports that conditions are right. Until that time, they wait and enjoy a few last days with some relative luxuries before they begin the very large challenge ahead.

Meanwhile, Michael Murray and his canine companion Sky are also in Resolute and awaiting their start. He has all of his gear measured and weighed, and is ready to go at this point too. With everything loaded up, his sled now weighs in at 124 kg (272 pounds), including 25 kg (55 pounds) of dog food. That's enough to get him through the first 22 days of the journey, at which time he'll receive a resupply out on the ice. The expedition to the Pole is expected to take somewhere between 50-60 days to complete, so that resupply will have to be enough to get him through the final stages.

As the teams set out, they'll face some rough conditions. It has been an extremely warm year in the Arctic, which means that pack ice will be thin and there will likely be large open leads of water to cross. On top of that, the shifting of the season towards spring often brings poor weather conditions, with massive storms a real possibility. Remember, no one has completed this journey since 2014, so it will be extremely interesting to watch these two expeditions unfold. Hopefully, they'll get underway soon.

Arctic 2017: The Gear for Skiing to the North Pole

Have you ever wondered what gear is required to ski to the North Pole? How does it vary from what you need when you go to the South Pole instead? That's the subject of an interesting article over at ExWeb, which is examining the equipment needed to ski through the Arctic ahead of the start of the expedition season there. 

To find out just what gear is needed, ExWeb reached out to veteran polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer, who has visited the North and South Pole on more than 30 occasions throughout his illustrious career.  One of those expeditions was – at the time – the longest non-motorized journey across the Antarctic, when he traveled by kite-ski across the frozen continent back in 2012. In other words, if anyone knows a thing or two about traveling in the cold regions of our planet, it's Dixie.

Dansercoer shares his five favorite pieces of gear for going to the North Pole with ExWeb, listing such items as his drysuit (an essential piece of equipment when heading north), safety items, gear for more efficient cooking, and a set of customized trekking poles. Other gear that Arctic explorers take with them include inflatable rafts for crossing the open sections of the ocean and a shotgun to scare away the polar bears, something that isn't necessary in the Antarctic. 

Additionally, Dixie shares some of his experiences with kiting to the South Pole and beyond, offering some insights in that area as well. This year, both Mike Horn and Johanna Davidson made extensive use of kites during their expeditions, with Horn breaking Dansercoer's longest distance record in the process.

As we get ready for the start of the Arctic season, these interviews and stories help us to understand what the teams will be facing when they begin their journey. It will be an incredibly difficult expedition to say the least, and the odds are stacked against them for being successful. Still, we'll be watching and following along closely, hoping for success. The season should get underway next week, weather permitting. Stay tuned for more. 

Arctic 2017: North Pole Teams Heading to Resolute Bay in Canada

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. 

ExWeb Interviews North Pole Skiers Ahead of the Start of the Season

Traditionally, the end of February brings the start of the Arctic Expedition season, although over the past couple of years conditions at the top of the world have prevented anyone from covering the full distance to the North Pole. Not since Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters completed that journey back in 2014 no one else been able to repeat it. As climate change impacts that part of the world, the Arctic ice gets thinner, more challenging, or completely nonexistent. This year, there are two teams who will be attempting that very difficult journey, and over the course of the past week or so, ExWeb has interviewed members of both squads. 

Last week, the site posted an interview with Sebastian Copeland, who along with Mark George, will be one of the teams heading to the North Pole this year. During their chat, Copeland discussed the logistics of skiing to the top of the world, how long they expect to be out on the ice (50+ days), how he and George trained for the upcoming expedition, and his thoughts on the record breaking warmth that has hit the Arctic recently and how it will impact their journey. 

Similarly, the ExWeb interview with Martin Murray discusses his partner as well, who in this case happens to be a dog named Sky. The canine explorer will help Murray pull a sled and will provide companionship on the long days out on the ice. He also talks about logistics, when he'll start (after February 27) and potentially end (first week of May), how long he's been planning this expedition, and how a major expedition works when you have a dog along with you. 

Both interviews are very interesting for anyone who is interested not only in North Pole expeditions, but the logistics of exploration in general. The two teams will set off at the end of February and will begin at either Ward Hunt Island or Cape Discovery in Canada. We'll of course be following these journeys closely once they get underway. 

North Pole 2017: Two Teams Prepare for the Challenge

The sun has still to set on the 2016-2017 Antarctic expedition season, and it is already time to begin looking north toward the Arctic. According to ExWeb, this year there are two teams preparing to make a full-distance attempt on the North Pole, despite the fact that such a journey is now more challenging than ever before. So much so, that while numerous people ski to the South Pole each year, no on has reached the North Pole in almost three seasons.

In an effort to change that this year, Sebastian Copeland and Mark George have joined forces to ski 480 miles (772 km) from Ellesmere Island on the Canadian side of the ice to the top of the world at 90ºN. The duo are looking to set out at the end of February or very early in March, with the exit start dictated by the weather of course. Copeland and George will be traveling unassisted and unsupported once they get underway. 

The other team that will be attempting the journey is Martin Murry, while will be joined by his dog Sky. They intend to travel in a supported fashion, receiving occasional resupplies along the way. They'll also set out from the Canadian side of the ice, although their exact departure point isn't know just yet, although ExWeb says that the two teams will share a pilot and departure window.

And of course, we're expecting Mike Horn to attempt a traverse of the Arctic ice cap too, once he wraps up in the Antarctic and sails north. His current plan is to meet his ship after finishing his crossing of the frozen continent, and then sail to Australia and New Zealand to complete a few side adventures. But, it is a long way to sail to the Arctic, and I'm not sure he'll have the time to do that if he intends to make another traverse this year. We'll be watching him closely, as he should rejoin his sailing ship the Pangaea in the next few days, provided the weather cooperates. 

As ExWeb points out, these expeditions face some serious challenges if they hope to be successful. For instance, Kenn Borek Air no long supports North Pole skiers, so the teams had to find an experienced pilot that they could pay to not only deliver them to the start of the expedition, be on standby for 60 days, and pick them up at the North Pole if they reach that point. They found such a man in Dave Mathieson, who will be stationed in Resolute Bay for the duration of the journey. 

These explores will also face a shifting landscape of snow and ice that has most certainly been impacted by climate change. The ice on the way to the North Pole is as unstable as ever, especially considering that 2016 is the warmest year on record. That makes challenge in the Arctic extremely difficult, because unlike in the Antarctic, there is no landmass under all of that ice. The skiers will have to cross open leads of water, traverse massive ice fields with rubble the size of a house, and even potentially face hungry polar bears along the way. Skiing to the South Pole is a relative walk in the woods compared to what it is like to head north. 

We'll be watching the progress of these teams closely once they get underway. As always, it will be interesting to see how they proceed. 

Video: Under an Arctic Sky - Surfing Iceland in Winter

When you think of great surf spots, Iceland is not a place that typically comes to mind. But, when a team of adventurers – led by photographer Chris Burkard and filmmaker Ben Weiland – traveled to that beautiful and wild country, they discovered that there was indeed some terrific waves to ride along the north coast. This was especially true when one of the most brutal storms of the past 25 years made landfall there, creating a surreal environment for an arctic adventure. As you'll see in this video, they got everything they were looking for, and more.

Under An Arctic Sky - Official Trailer #1 from Chris Burkard on Vimeo.

Temperature at the North Pole Climbs 50º Higher Than Normal

It has been a record breaking year for temperatures all across the globe, as climate change seems to be wreaking havoc with our atmosphere. We got a reminder of this yesterday, when temperatures at the North Pole soared by as much as 50º above normal, reaching 0ºC/32ºF on the surface. That's the same temperature as the Arctic usually encounters during the summer months, but it is highly unusual for it get so warm at this time of year.

To put things into perspective, that means that temperatures were warm enough to melt snow and ice, even as winter is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere. That should set off alarm bells about the state of the polar ice caps, which seem to be already retreating at an alarming rate. We've had a lot of somber news from the Antarctic recently as well, but this is just another indicator that our planet is definitely in a state of flux right now, and we're running out of time to do anything about it.

It also doesn't bode well for any explorers hoping to make an expedition to the North Pole. If it is this warm in December, what will the conditions be like in March and April, or even into the summer. I know that there are a couple of expeditions planned for the Arctic next spring, but they could be dealing with unprecedented ice break up, and the largest leads of open water that have ever been seen at the top of the world.

Of course, we do have a long winter to go, and temperatures are sure to return to normal at some point. But so far, November and December have been unseasonably warm, and have climbed up close to the 0ºC mark once before as well. Worse yet, the long-range predictions are saying that 2017 could be another very warm year, with further melting of the ice caps.

I'm not sure how much longer climate deniers are going to keep their head buried in the sand. The signs are there, and we're mostly ignoring them at this point. Still, it isn't too late to try to make a change. Hopefully that will be the New Year's Resolution for some important people who are in a position to have an impact on policy and reform. Time will tell.

Quiz: How Much Do You Know Bout Polar Exploration?

If you're a fan of polar exploration like I am, and enjoy the history that surrounds the famous expeditions that ventured into those remote places, we have a real treat for you today. National Geographic has posted a fun quiz designed to test your knowledge, and perhaps teach you a thing or two at the same time. As someone who writes about the history of polar exploration from time to time, I still picked up a couple of nuggets of information along the way. There are ten questions in total, and I managed to score an 8. Not bad, but still room for improvement. Take the quiz below and see how you fare.


Russians Uncover Secret Nazi Base in the Arctic

File this story under "News of the Weird."

Russian researchers have discovered a hidden Nazi base in the Arctic. Yep, you read that right, and no this isn't one of those weird conspiracy stories that you'll find elsewhere on the Internet. Apparently the base, which is named “Schatzgraber” or “Treasure Hunter,”  was built back in 1942 under order from Adolf Hitler himself. It is believed to have been in operation until June of 1944, when it was abandoned following a series of mishaps.

Located on the remote island of Alexander Land, the base was believed to have been a weather station. After it was constructed, teams of Nazi soldiers lived there throughout 1943, a year after the Germans invaded Russia during World War II. But, running low on supplies the men that lived there were later forced to eat raw polar bear meat, which caused some of the soldier to become ill and even die. The remaining staff members departed the station just as the tide was beginning to turn against Hitler back home. 

After that, the base became a forgotten structure from a bygone era. There were rumors of its existence, but no one was able to confirm that the Nazi's had indeed constructed the weather station above the Arctic Circle, although others had previously searched for it in vain. But the Russian team that discovered Schatgraber say they found more than 500 relics from the WWII era that were left behind by the previous tenants. They found a number of German bunkers, fuel barrels, and even old paperwork that was left behind when the soldiers left. Most of it is well preserved in the harsh, cold conditions, which should make for some interesting historical discoveries amongst the remains of the base. 

Up until now, the base had only been mentioned in old Nazi reference material and German supply records, but since it had never been found, Schatgraber was believed to be a myth. There are many such stories of hidden Nazi bases – including some in the Antarctic too. Most of those probably are just legends, but this discovery will certainly add fuel to the fire. 

The researchers the discovered the station say they'll take all of the artifacts that they've found back to Russia with them for examination. Perhaps they'll find even more interesting things about what the Nazi's were doing there in the Arctic from the paperwork they discovered. 

Check out some images from the base in the news video below. The dialog is in Russian, but you'll at least get a sense of what the site looks like now. 


Video: Scenes from the Arctic

The Arctic is one of those places on our planet that few of us ever get the opportunity to see in person. But, thanks to this video, we can all travel to this frozen region of the Earth and experience for ourselves. The scenes shown here are beautiful, tranquil, and amazing to see. It is quite an experience and one that I think you'll enjoy greatly. Sit back and soak this one in, as it is indeed a wonderful short film set in remote place.

Roald Amundsen's Ship Recovered From the Arctic Ocean

After resting at the bottom of the ocean for more then 85 years, Roald Amundsen's ship the Maud has been brought back to the surface, and is preparing to return to Norway. The ship, which was discovered off the coast of Cambridge Bay in Canada, helped to chart the Northeast Passage from 1918-1920, sunk in those waters back in 1930 after a short, but distinguished career in exploration.

A recovery team has spent the past six years working to bring the ship up from its watery grave. This past July, their efforts finally paid off, as the ship returned to the surface for the first time in more than eight decades. The crew first had to place a series of inflatable ballasts around the hull of the vessel, then slowly add air to them. Eventually this allowed them to place it on a barge and float it into harbor. Over the past two months, they have been been cleaning up the interior of the vessel in preparation for weathering the winter in the Arctic.

The recovery team says that the winter weather will actually help the ship, allowing its wooden hull to dry. This will help to reduce the ship's current weight, and will take some of the pressure off of the hull. That will help to stabilize it for the long journey back home to Norway, which is likely to take place next summer.

According to reports, the ship is in surprisingly good shape. The hull remains solid and strong, despite being at the bottom of the ocean for so long. The vessel was originally built back in 1917, and commissioned by Amundsen to accompany him on his exploration of the icy waters north of Russia. Amundsen is well know for is exploits in the cold places of our planet. He was the first person to reach the South Pole back in 1911, and was instrumental in exploring the Arctic as well, becoming the first person to full pass through the Northwest Passage.

The Maud was sold off in 1925, five years before she sank. But, she is considered an important piece of exploration history, and back home in Norway she'll be preserved for posterity. In that country, Amundsen is incredibly famous, and any relic left over from his expeditions is a valuable commodity.

This is quite a cool story. I'm glad this team was able to locate and recover the ship. Hopefully it makes it through the winter in one piece, and returns home next year as planned.

Arctic Explorers Bring Bad News After Sailing Northwest and Northeast Passages

One of the most ambitious and interesting adventures of the summer has been the Polar Ocean Challenge. Led by famed explorer David Hempleman-Adams, the objective of the expedition was to sail both the Northeast and Northwest passages in a single year, circumnavigating the North Pole and taking stock of the arctic sea ice along the way. A few days back the crew of adventurers, sailors, and researchers completed a major milestone of their journey, and they brought back some sobering news about the state of ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The sailing ship Northabout set sail from Bristol, in the U.K. back June, making way for Norway before proceeding on to Russia to the start of the Northeast Passage. The ship ran into a delay at that point due to pack ice still blocking the route. That isn't too uncommon in the early part of summer, as it generally takes a few weeks before the passage clears. From there, they navigated on through the icy waters of the Arctic before exiting into the Northern Pacific and crossing over to Alaska. The next stage of the journey was through the Northwest Passage above Canada, which is the section that was just completed. Now, the plan is to sail on to Greenland, and then back home to Bristol.

By successfully navigating through the both the Northwest and Northeast passages, the crew proved that those once mythical routes are now fully open, and accessible. They also became the first ship to make such a journey in a single season, although they certainly won't be the last. Climatologists now predict that both passages will see increasing numbers of commercial traffic before the middle of the century, even by ships that are not hardened against ice.


On the Polar Ocean Challenge website the team posted a press release a few days back sharing the news of their successful completion of the Northwest Passage, which took just 14 days to finish. That's an incredibly fast time through that part of the world, but the team revealed that they had encountered almost no ice along the entire route. In fact, in the two weeks that they spent there, they came across ice only twice in 1800 nautical miles (3333 km/2071 miles).

This news is both astonishing and troubling at the same time. It now seems pretty clear that both the Northwest and Northeast Passages will soon be open for longer periods of time each year, and that they will be safer than ever to pass through. The Arctic sea ice is a bit like the canary in the coal mine, giving us an indicator of just how much impact climate change is having on our planet.

The crew of the Northabout is on the home stretch now, having completed the most difficult sections of their voyage. The team's website shares some important information about their expedition, which has now been at sea for more than 20 weeks and covered over 13,500 nautical miles (24,076 km /14,960 miles). Perhaps the most startling statistic of all however, is that researchers about the ship have recorded a 13.4% drop in the sea ice levels, which is a faster and higher rate than was expected.

I suspect these kinds of reports will become the norm moving forward. It is still troubling to read however.

Polar Bears Trap Russian Research Team Inside Arctic Base

Think your job is rough? Consider the challenges that a team of five Russian scientists have been facing as they conduct weather research on the remote island of Troynoy in the Arctic Ocean. According to a report from TASS the group had become trapped inside its meteorological observation center by a group of ten polar bears who have taken up residence just outside the base.

Normally, in order to keep the bears at bay, the scientists use flares and have dogs at the base to scare off the animals. But, the team had run out of flares, and according to Mashable the bears even killed one of the dogs. Because of this aggressive nature, the researchers have had to abandon some of their projects, and had been instructed to only leave the base when absolutely necessary.

It was originally reported that it would take weeks to deliver new flares and dogs to the station, but apparently relief came earlier today when a passing research vessel made a detour to lend a hand. The ship resupplied the team with flares, which were used immediately to scare off the bears. The next resupply ship wasn't scheduled to arrive for another month, but this should help buy the team some time.

Apparently, the bears gather near the base to wait for the Arctic Ocean to freeze. That typically occurs in late October or early November, at which time they'll depart the area and head north. Considering the current state of the arctic sea ice, it may take longer than usual before the bears begin their migration, and it is possible that they'll return to that location again in the days ahead.

In the past only about 4-6 bears have spent their summers on Troynoy, but apparently this year there are at least 10, including some large female with small cubs as well. One of the females has even been spending her nights just below one of the windows of the weather station, making it even more difficult for the team to sneak outside to record readings for their research.

Hopefully there will be some relief for these scientists soon. While watching polar bears up close sounds like an amazing experience, being locked inside and unable to go out doesn't seem like a lot of fun.

Video: Nat Geo Shares Earliest Archival Footage

Want to see the earliest archival video footage from National Geographic's extensive vault of films? The video below provides a glimpse of just that as it gives viewers a look at the 1903 Ziegler North Pole Expedition. The explorers that made up that team set out from Norway with plans to reach the North Pole. But, their ship got trapped in the ice and the group ended up stranded for a year. This video gives us a look at a bygone era in exploration and a sense of what it was like for that team as they set off into the unknown. Interesting stuff to be sure.