|Daily Expedition Data|
|Location:||80°59' N, 91°33' W|
Cairn Revisited –
We now have more information about the cairn near Lands Lokk. We prematurely concluded that the cairn might have been built by Otto Sverdrup.
According to Jerry Kobalenko and Graeme Magor, two Canadians who visited the cairn together in 1997, the cairn was built by American Robert Peary in 1906, four years after Otto Sverdrup first visited Lands Lokk. And in 1930, Hans Krueger, a German, opened the cairn. We thought the cairn could have been built by Otto Sverdrup in May of 1902 because its size and location fit well with the descriptions of the Lands Lokk cairn in Sverdrup’s book New Land and his personal expedition journal. When Krueger opened the cairn in 1930, he found a note from Peary dated 1906. In 1954 Geoffrey Hattersley-Smith and Robert Christie, two geologists, opened the cairn and found a note from Krueger and a copy of Peary’s note that Krueger had made as was the custom in those days.
The fate of the three-man Krueger expedition is unknown. They left Lands Lokk and continued southwest to Axel Heiberg Island and were never seen again. Approaching Krueger Island and Kleybolte Peninsula on our way to Lands Lokk, we had both the Krueger and Peary Expeditions on our minds and we thank Graeme and Jerry for connecting their stories to the cairn we visited. So, the mystery of Otto Sverdrup’s missing Lands Lokk cairn lives on. It is this sort of tangible and living history that makes Ellesmere Island a fascinating place to travel and to read about.
Over the past few days we have crossed Nansen Sound again and are now camped by a big iceberg just off the east coast of Axel Heiberg Island. Two days ago we skied across a huge piece of ice that appeared to be a broken off ice shelf. It took us almost an hour to ski across it. Temperatures are starting to warm up, but the winds are keeping things cool; the dogs are happy about that. Today, May 17th, is Norwegian National Day, so Kyle, myself, and Hugh are doing our very best to help Toby celebrate that very important day. And we’ve taken the day off to help those efforts. OK, thanks for listening everybody. Talk to you soon.
|Daily Expedition Data|
|Location:||81°10' N, 91°49' W|
Old & New Ice –
Hello, this is Toby calling in from the ice. We are now about midway in the big Nansen Sound and we are camping directly tonight on the sea ice. And I thought in this blog that I would talk a little bit about the sea ice as we’ve spent so much time on up here.
The sea ice very roughly can be divided up in two types: there is yearly ice, that is ice from the winter that we’re in, and then there is the multiyear ice, that is ice that can be anywhere from about 2 years old to up to 6, 7, or maybe 8 years old. A lot of the ice that we’ve traveled on so far on this trip has been year ice, that’s ice from this year, and in the fjords and sounds of Ellesmere displayed almost flat like the ice on a lake in the interior in the winter. The multiyear ice, it’s a lot thicker and it’s also a bit wavy. And it has sort of like small valleys that are remnants of meltdowns from the year before.
Now when we’re on the sea ice, obviously we also need to drink and we usually have two options to get water: one is to collect snow that is in drifts on the ice, and the other is to find old sea ice where we can chop up the top layer and melt this ice. And it is beautiful, it’s full of air and it’s a very effective way for us to get water. One of the big changes on the polar ocean and in the Arctic over the last 20 years is that the multiyear ice, this old generational sea ice, has been very, very much reduced. So about from 1980 until today, about two-thirds of this old ice has disappeared, with obvious consequences.
We are now on our way to Axel Heiberg Island, that’s a Norwegian island. And we look very much forward to a national day that we’re going to celebrate on May 17th. I’m sure you’ll hear much more about that. On a smaller note, John’s beard is getting longer even than it was the last time I did a blog. We’re all still very happy about that and impressed about the progress on that front. OK, that’s all from ice today. I look forward to calling again. OK, bye.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Found Otto’s Cairn – 05/13/13
Based on our resources, which include Otto Sverdrup’s book New Land and his personal journal from the second Fram expedition, we believe that we have found the cairn he built in May of 1902 near Lands Lokk.
Toby first sighted the cairn last night around midnight as he and Kyle went for one last look around the area before we headed back south. We think the exact location of this cairn has been unknown for a long time. It appears the cairn is very old and well built and that it has been previously opened. When we opened it today, we found nothing inside.
Cairns were built for purposes of surveying and as a means of communication. Explorers sometimes left notes indicating their travel plans or even mail to be sent home. This cairn marks the northern end point of the second Fram expedition, the expedition responsible for the largest mapping and the largest geological survey of polar territory before the use of airplanes and satellites. The cairn is located at N 81 degrees, 39.16 minutes, W 91 degrees. 52.58 minutes.
We are super excited about the find. We thought it was a very slim chance that we would locate it when we started the expedition and planning for the expedition two years ago. We’re camped just a bit south of it on the sea ice. The wind is blowing a bit from the southeast. And we are celebrating in the tent with a little scotch. Thanks for listening everybody. More to come soon.
|Daily Expedition Data|
|Location:||81°36' N, 91°57' W|
Lands Lokk Reached – 05/12/13
It is Day 41 of the expedition and we have arrived at our northern most destination Lands Lokk, which is Otto Sverdrup’s furthest north which he obtained on May 6, 1902, so just a few days before we arrived.
And we arrived in very similar conditions to him with a bunch of humidity blowing in off the Arctic Ocean from the north and poor visibility and kind of mystic, mysterious cloud and light formations. So that was a bit windy in the face, but kind of fun as well.
We’re camped close to where we think that he and his travel companion Per Schei camped. And we’ll take tomorrow off; we’re going to give the dogs a day of rest and a bunch of food. We’re going to spend time searching for a cairn that Sverdrup erected that has never been found.
Now this cairn, just for the people that don’t know, is more or less a pile of rocks, typically but not always, with a bottle inside that contains a note stating information about the people who made the cairn, route information, and other information. So if someone else found the cairn, they could kind of have a trail to locate in case the original party went missing, or there was some information to convey. Sverdrup also used cairns to help him make maps and for navigational purposes as well. So two other capable expedition parties have spent some time up here looking for this cairn, so we think our chances are fairly low. But it’s going to be pretty fun to hunt for it and to walk around the beautiful mountains and hills right outside our campsite here.
So everyone’s doing very well right now. Kyle’s appetite has gone up. Toby’s beard is still a very big beard; it’s got a lot of white sunscreen pressed into it that doesn’t ever seem to go away. Next to him is a picture of his hero in the tent, Otto Sverdrup, that was just hung on the wall. And Hugh, I think he has a bigger beard than Toby and he’s still taller than Toby. So everybody’s doing well; we’re happy for a day of rest.
We’d also like to thank our two main sponsors of the expedition, Bergans of Norway, makers of technical outdoor equipment and clothing since 1908, and Devold, maker of wool underwear and sweaters, a Norwegian company founded in 1853. So thank you for the support. And we’d also like to thank our dogs for their wonderful support, Elle, Axel, Larry, and Napu. We’re happy to be here, we’re thrilled the expedition is going so well, and we hope you have a very nice weekend.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Towards Land’s Lokk – 05/10/13
Hello, this is Toby calling in. It’s the 7th of May today; it’s the 38th day of our expedition. And we are now less than 30 nautical miles from our big goal, our big mission, which is Land’s Lokk.
Land’s Lokk was the northern most position that the second Fram expedition reached in 1902. And on the 8th of May 1902, Otto Sverdrup and the young geologist of the expedition, Per Schei, reached this destination. Land’s Lokk is on the north coast of Ellesmere Island, and is therefore facing the polar ocean. We have noticed over the last couple of days that we’re in a new or different climate; there’s a lot more moisture in the air and today was a really cold day. We had temperatures minus 20 degrees Celsius, but the moisture in the air and the wind made it one of the coldest days of our expedition so far.
We’re all very excited that we’re getting close to our big final goal. And when we get there, we will spend a couple of days looking for, among other things, a cairn that Sverdrup built up there that has not been found as of yet. So, we’ll spend a few times. I’ve done a lot of research in Sverdrup’s personal diaries, and all available other resources that we have access to, and it will be very exciting to see whether we will find something up there or not.
After we’ve been to Land’s Lokk, our expedition will again face southward and we are hoping to walk into the Arctic spring and different weather. We will then most likely travel down the east coast of Axel Heiberg Island, which is known for its incredible wildlife and natural beauty.
Everyone is doing very well. The dogs are working really hard in the conditions that we have right now. And John is growing a really nice beard at the moment, which we’re all very excited about. So we’re going to be really excited to call you from Land’s Lokk in a couple of days or maybe as many as four depending on the ice conditions. And I’ll be sure to call in, to be blogging in very soon, to let you know how our search for the lost cairn has gone. Until next time, hope you guys are enjoying the spring in the south.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Little Larry – 05/06/13
Larry is a dog. He is not little. Larry is 90 plus pounds of muscle and fur. These days he is skijoring with Hugh, but I spent two weeks with him earlier in the trip.
He is a pulling machine who loves to pull so much that he barks and hammers his harness when he’s stopped. He and his brother Axel are our workhorses and pull the heaviest loads in the back of our caravan. Larry has so much fur around his neck that sometimes it’s hard to find his collar. He also has a huge head, a huge mouth, one of the biggest mouths ever seen on a dog, and an equally large tongue. So he takes that fur, he takes his big old head, and it all combines to kind of give him a lion-esque regal presence. So he is often sitting there lying in ways that make him look like a very comfortable and contented lion who is never ever cold.
Every day these days, he seems to reveal more of his playful personality. Sometimes he paws at the legs of his skijor companion or other times he’ll roll over on his back and scratch his back on our ski tips. It’s these sort of hardworking and endearing qualities that have caused a lot of people to fall in love with sled dogs as we have done so with ours. They’re a huge part of trip and we really, really love working with them. So, good job, Larry; you’re a good boy.
We’re on Nansen Sound right now. We just finished another dinner, which never ever has trouble going down. Kyle’s appetite is increasing; he’s now munching on one of our 630 calorie fudge bars as a dessert. Toby’s brushing his teeth and Hugh is cleaning his glasses with his underwear. Good job, Hugh. We don’t have a lot of things to clean glasses with around here.
OK, thanks for listening. Things are going really smoothly. No wind right now, and we’re headed to Land’s Lokk and we’re going to tell you more about that pretty soon.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Halfway Facts – 05/05/13
We’re about halfway through the expedition now, so it’s time for another installment of fun expedition stats and facts. But first a quick wrap up of what’s taken place over the last 2 days.
We’ve kind of been on the border of spring really popping on this expedition and it’s been very warm. Sometimes we’re skiing only in our long underwear tops and with our pants fully unzipped and ventilated on the side zips. But yesterday afternoon we got hammered by a good storm; we haven’t had a big blow like that on the trip. Visibility dropped to basically zero; we had a lot of trouble seeing in front of us. And winds picked up to 15 to 20 knots from the northwest, so we called it a day right after the first march, and took our time carefully putting up the tents and staking out the dogs, making sure nothing blew away. So, it was a loud night in the tent because it was getting battered by winds, but it all was safe. It gets your adrenaline up a little bit when you’re working in conditions like that.
Today we entered Nansen Sound for the first time, this huge body of water that leads out to the Arctic Ocean and our furthest north point that we’re heading towards called Land’s Lokk, which is also Otto Sverdrup’s furthest north point and a special destination for us. We’ll tell you more about that later. Ski conditions were totally awesome and we are out in the middle of the sound and looking at mountainous cliffs on two horizons to the northeast and to the south.
OK, here come some expedition stats from the first half of the expedition:
• Total distance traveled so far – 284.4 nautical miles
• Number of bears seen – only 2
• Number of wolves – 35, including 12 around Eureka repeatedly
• Number of Arctic foxes we’ve seen – 5
• Number of seals – that would be 8
• Number of musk ox is 31.
• Number of 32-gigabyte memory cards full of video and photo so far – 17. Good job, Kyle.
• Most common water source early on in the trip – snow, preferably very dense snow blocks from wind-packed snow berms
• Most common water source lately is chipped pieces of ice from old sea ice blocks and/or icebergs.
• OK, and what we do with that water, number of liters of water drank per person per day -
-John, myself, I drink about 4 ½ liters. I need a lot of water or I turn into a useless grump.
-Toby, he drinks 2.5 liters per day, but sometimes he drinks only half a liter. I don’t know how he does that.
-Kyle, he drinks 3 liters and Hugh does as well, 3 liters for him, too.
• The biggest eaters lately would be myself and also Hugh. Again the North American stomachs are far outperforming these small European stomachs across the tent here.
• OK, typical dog/skijor arrangement from front to back is Elle, and then Napu, followed by Larry and last in line is Axel. The people kind of shift around, but those dogs more or less stay in the same position.
• The dog who is best at lying on its back with paws up for long periods of time at random points during the day would be Elle.
• The dog with the biggest head is Larry, no contest, and he has a mouth that’s almost as big as his head. We’ll have more about little Larry coming up; he’s a fun, special dog.
• OK, typical hours traveled per day is 7. We take time to film and walk on the land sometimes, and things like that, so that’s why the hours traveled are relatively small compared to other like North Pole or South Pole expeditions.
• Number of liters of fuel used per day for the whole team is about 1.2 liters.
• Hours we run our MSR stoves every day is about 4, plus or minus.
• The current champion of the team quiz is Kyle, and Hugh is a very close second up to this time. We make quizzes for each other that are humorous and entertaining about once every two weeks.
• Most distance covered in a day is 16 nautical miles, on the day we arrived into Eureka with very light sleds, awesome ski conditions.
• Our shortest distance covered in a day is 3.8 nautical miles and that happened yesterday in about 4 hours of travel and the storm hit and we called it a day.
• OK, favorite hand wear, what we were on our hands during the travel day –
-Toby, is the Steger Expedition Mitts.
-Kyle, also the Steger Expedition Mitts.
-Hugh, he likes the Devold Wristlets, which are like sweater wrists that go around the thumb, back of the hand, front of the hand and part of the wrist.
-And myself, John, I like my old cross-country ski gloves that I grabbed as I left town just on a whim, so I’m glad about those.
• Most common outer shell layer worn lately is the Bergan’s Microlight Jacket. It’s very lightweight, it’s got a hood, it breathes super well, and it also blocks some of the wind.
• We like to take hikes on land, whenever we can, to get up high, see the views, see what Sverdrup and his men would have seen and look for animals and that sort of thing. So we’ve done that 13 different times; it’s quite enjoyable.
• As you may know we had a pack of 12 wolves raid camp while we were in Eureka talking to the staff away from camp with our dogs. The casualties of that wolf raid were -
-My lunch bag full of chocolate truffles and nuts and butter and bacon.
-My spoon which was in that lunch bag; I have two, thank goodness.
-Hugh’s Thermarest was stepped on by a wolf and got a puncture, so it had to be replaced by a backup one out of our resupply.
-And here, my lunch bag where it was stored in the tent vestibule, there is now what we call it, a bite mark. So our Bergans Wiglo Tent has been bitten by a wolf, but it’s all right.
• OK, wrapping it up here, number of minutes per march and per ski session is about 90.
• We have about 15 minutes for every break.
• Normal ski conditions lately have been totally awesome, light snow cover, a few softer berms here and there, a few sastrugi to ski over, but very, very good ski conditions. We love it.
• And the number of days until this expedition reaches its completion is only 33. And it seems like it’s going to go very fast for us out here on the ice.
Ok, thanks for listening everybody.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Interview with Kyle – 05/03/13
Today we interview Kyle O’Donoghue, our esteemed team video, what do you call yourself , film maker whose a super nice guy, very easy to get along with. He’s an eager learner and this is his first polar trip, so he’s the new guy on the scene. We’ve got a bunch of questions for him.
John (J): Are you ready, Kyle?
Kyle (K): Ready.
J: How ready are you?
K: Pretty ready.
J: OK, you better be.
J: Question #1 – how’s it been going since we left Eureka yesterday morning?
K: Since Eureka, it’s been going really well. Our sleds were really heavy coming out of Eureka, so we were worried we were going be doing low mileage, but dogs have been awesome, ski conditions have been great, and we’ve been making good miles.
J: I concur.
J: Question #2 – What happened when you were 18 years old?
K: I believe that is what they call a leading question, but the answer you’re looking for John is when I was 18 that was the first time I was really in snow. There wasn’t a lot of snow growing up in South Africa.
J: Kyle grew up in South Africa. Apparently they judge interviewer’s questions there as well.
J: Number 3 – When did you first learn how to ski?
K: I first learned how to ski starting in December 2011, so about 18 to 20 months ago.
J: That’s not too long ago. Where did you learn how to ski?
K: I learned how to ski in Norway.
J: Is that where you live?
K: That is where I currently live, yeah.
J: OK, Toby lives in Norway, too.
J: Describe your progression with the skiing and kind of all this polar stuff since I met you in Finse during our training expedition last April.
K: Yes, Finse was a pretty steep learning curve, first time pulling sleds and I’d only been on skis for a couple of months at that stage. Since then I’ve had the team’s crazy training regime which has involved pulling tires and spending lots of time on skis. So yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty good progression. I’ve only fallen about 7 or 8 times this trip so far.
J: So Kyle’s been doing a really good job skiing out here, very impressive.
J: What is your typical routine upon arriving in camp each evening?
K: So when we arrive in camp, Hugh and John stake out the dogs. Toby is our water boy, he gets the water, and John and I put up tents.
J: And we do a very good job at each one of those routines.
J: Kyle, what do you miss most about home?
K: I miss my friends and family and I miss my girlfriend Marthe.
J: That’s so sweet.
J: OK, Kyle, you had a bit of a shocking start to this trip. What happened and what has changed since then?
K: I think the Arctic kicked me in the rump when we got off the plane. I got frostbite on my nose and on my cheek within about a minute and a half of getting off the plane. Since then I’ve learned how important systems are and looking after yourself before anything else, and it’s getting much easier now that it’s getting warmer. And yeah, it’s been a steep learning curve.
J: But he’s done a really good job at it, and just so you know, Kyle’s face looks very good. We see it all the time and the frostbite is very, very minor.
J: OK, next question – Who has the biggest beard on the team?
K: That would undoubtedly be the Dale-Harris/Sverdrup attempt, which is looking very good at this stage.
J: Who has the smallest beard on the team?
K: That would be me. It’s called the weasel.
J: But you’re trying.
J: You have been skijoring with Axel in the back of the team for the last several days. Tell me a little bit about Axel.
K: Axel’s amazing. I think he’s the strongest dog on the team. He pulls like a maniac all day. I’m at the back and he wants to be at the front and sometimes I can barely even stop him with 3 sleds behind me, so he’s awesome.
J: Who is the biggest eater on the trip?
K: That would be Hugh.
J: Who has the cleanest coffee mug on the trip and who has the dirtiest and why?
K: John has the cleanest and I’m pretty sure I have the dirtiest because I still haven’t washed it and it’s Day 30, 31, 32.
J: What does that look like?
K: It looks like a brown ring of coffee around the top of my mug, but it’s pretty good. It filters all the little bits out of my coffee in the morning that I don’t want.
J: Oh, very clever. That brown ring, just so you know at home, is accentuated by the whiteness of the rest of the coffee cup.
J: OK, last question, hard question – What is one thing that you found harder than you thought it would be about being on this expedition? And what is one thing that is easier than you thought it would be?
K: I think I found the filming a lot harder even though I thought I prepared really well and I had some experience filming in the cold; it’s been much harder than I anticipated. And something I found easier, I think is physically because our dogs are so awesome. I think the actual walking and pulling has been easier.
J: Well, thank you very much, Kyle.
Soon we’ll have an interview with Toby coming up in the next few weeks. Thanks everybody.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Stealin’ Wolf – 05/01/13
On Saturday evening a pack of 12 wolves raided our campsite and, thankfully, the only casualty was my beloved blue stuff sack which held my lunch food.
It was sitting in the vestibule of our tent where I had left it and a wolf picked it up and ran off toward the horizon with it. We weren’t in camp at the time. We were up visiting the very friendly staff at the Eureka Weather Station and we had brought our dogs with us, so the staff could meet the dogs as well. As soon as we saw the wolves in camp, we started running toward camp. I knew Toby was a pretty fast runner, but he astounded all of us and chased after that young male wolf with my lunch bag pretty darn quick. He got close to him and started talking to him like a dog, but the wolf would not give up the booty. So, my lunch bag is now part of that wolf pack.
So that was kind of the highlight of our stay here in Eureka or one of them. We saw a whole bunch of wolves. They came back Saturday evening or middle of the night twice. So we were out of the tent and making sure the dogs were safe and the wolves didn’t get too close. We were never in any danger and neither were our dogs. We got some awesome photos and video.
We spent the rest of our time here relaxing, catching up on sleep. Kyle ran through all the video equipment and reorganized everything and looked at some of the video footage. And Hugh and I and Kyle spent the better part of today going through all of our food and, believe it or not, removing some of the butter because we’re not consuming nearly as many calories as we thought we would be. We had a really nice stay here; the staff has been very welcoming and social. There are 8 people who work here right now. We launched a few weather balloons and got tours of the facility and learned what life was like at the Eureka Weather Station (check out the video to see for yourself).
Tomorrow morning we head out north, up Nansen Sound and we’ll be gone without resupply for the next 36 days, the longest such stretch on the expedition. We’re really looking forward to it. Our destination is Otto Sverdrup’s furthest north, a little place called Land’s Lokk so stay tuned. We’re happy to be returning to expedition mode. And we’ll be back soon. Thanks, bye.
|Daily Expedition Data|
Into Eureka – 04/27/13
Today on a nice warm evening, we arrived in Eureka. Eureka is a small weather station and research base staffed by just a few people year round.
It basically looks like a very small town with various buildings, garages, a small boat dock. We are camped on the sea ice just a few hundred yards from there. So this is where we will be resupplying before we head on our big long journey north. And it’s a nice time to rest, give the dogs a break, and to make some plans about how much food and fuel and all the little details for our longest part of the journey which is coming soon. So it feels as we’re kind of half way, even though time wise we’re not half way yet, but it does feel kind of like a halfway point. So, we’re enjoying some relaxation; it’s going to be a real long sleep tonight.
Yesterday we encountered this massive kind of Alpinesque iceberg. We played around there for a little bit; that was pretty fun. Today featured a bunch of wind in the morning in our faces and then we rounded a point and the wind went away and the skiing just turned out to be totally awesome. So we netted 16 nautical miles in only 6 hours and 45 minutes of travel, by far our best ratio yet. Everyone’s happy and healthy. We’re excited for some rest, we’re excited to give our dogs 2 days off here, and we hope you have a good weekend. Thank you.