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Published: April 19th 2018
The Geographic North Pole…
“Trying to set foot upon it is like trying to step on the shadow of a bird that was circling overhead. The surface across which we were moving was itself moving on a planet that was spinning around an axis.” Sir Wally Herbert, on Reaching the North Pole, 1969.
Imagine an empty expanse of white. A frozen crust of sea-ice floating over the mighty depths of the Arctic Ocean - in a world that had only one day per year.
At the Geographic North Pole, the sun sets on the Autumnal Equinox and does not rise again until the Spring Equinox. This period of dark is followed by six months of circling light. There is only one annual cycle of day and night.
I arrived in early morning - April. It was sunny and minus 25ºC with a sharp breeze (a southerly I would assume).
The helicopter dropped me off 34 metres away from the pole, yet the pole itself was still difficult to find. There were several cracks in the ice and a few small pressure ridges to cross. As I moved so did the ice, causing us to zigzag northward. I was thrilled to mark N89º59.999’, just 1.85 metres from the pole - but there was a problem… I could not climb the ridge to get to the pole, so I waited until the ice drifted then I started again on a quest to find the elusive ninety
All of the lines of longitude converge at the pole making navigation extremely challenging, however, a few more minutes and a few more steps to the east then to the west - I was on it!
N90º00.000’ - The Geographic North Pole - The Top of the World…
I felt on top of the world. Thrilled! Baffled!
As the coordinates drifted away on the ever-moving ice, I took a moment to think of where I was standing. A two metre thick layer of ice, floating on a 4000m deep ocean at the top of the planet!
All events that have ever happened on this planet happened to the south. The dinosaurs, the Aztecs, invention, war, peace, creation, countries. All the 7.2 billion people on this planet are south of where I stood… Every direction was south, yet each ‘south’ would have taken me on a different journey. All of the worlds timezones clash, and I walked in a giant circle and crossed every line of longitude from the Prime Meridian to the International Date Line…
I walked around the world in a few steps…
After an hour or so at the Pole
I headed back to the MI-8 helicopter with a group of 27. We flew south (obviously) for about 30 minutes to Лагерь Бaрнео - Camp Barneo, the Russian floating ice camp at the top of the world, our home for the evening.
What a bizarre facility - a temporary camp set up for a few weeks each year for a mix of science, tourism, and presence at the Pole.
The accommodation was very good considering the location and logistics of setting up the camp. In typical Russian style, the heat was cranked to maximum and everything was toasty warm in side.
The whole experience was intense and overwhelming for all of us!
The extreme location and the utterly inhospitable region that is neither land nor water.
The howling Antonov and the screaming Mil Helicopters were juxtaposed in this otherwise silent place. I love the idea of a floating, drifting runway on the ice.
There are no more words...
“Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has yet been devised.” Apsey Cherry- Garrard.
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