Friday, April 22, 2011

Arctic Boots

This photo gives an idea of the sole thickness of arctic boots... We never got cold feet at the pole!

Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says

Skeptical Science:

A must-visit site for anybody interested in climate change and its consequences:

"Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to expand their knowledge and improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens in global warming skepticism. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet uncritically embrace any argument, op-ed piece, blog or study that refutes global warming.

So this website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mikhail Gorbachev makes it to the North Pole!

Alexandre Laurent (right), our Youth Ambassador (16) and I – at the North Pole – holding a flag in celebration of Mikhail Gorbachev 80th Birthday (March 2)! Mikhail Gorbachev is founder and honorary chairman of Green Cross International, partner of our Pax Arctica North Pole 2011 expedition.

Russian kids (15-18) on their way to the North Pole

report from

Today an An-72 airplane from the fleet of the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrived at Barneo. It brought the members and leaders of the 4th "Ski to the North Pole!" Youth Expedition. In December 2010 the Adventure Club held a contest to select participants. The seven lucky winners, aged 15 to 18, came to the Arctic to receive their prize: an opportunity to make a 100-km ski trek to the North Pole, accompanied by famous adventurers Matvei Shparo and Boris Smolin.

The youth expedition members are:

Arina Legkaya (Moscow)
Veronika Tsesko (Moscow)
Alexei Maltsev (Kungur, Perm Krai)
Alexei Podvolotsky (Veliky Ustyug)
Alexander Buzov (Livny, Orlov Oblast)
Sergei Kuznetsov (Novocheboksarsk, Chuvashia)
Yevgeny Velichko (Omsk)

Their guides are Roman Ponomarev and Ivan Dubov.

After a training session near the camp, the expedition participants boarded a helicopter to travel to the starting point of their ski trek

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This is what the North Pole looks like!

Here we are meters from the geographic North Pole, on ever shifting ice. We detach our pulkas to ease the final search.

April 14, 2011 - 15h22 - the ephemeral North Pole

Right at the North Pole. Actually it is not much different than what we have seen during much of our progress these past few days. More leads, smaller chunks of ice floating, so it's a challenge to be on the right ice floe at the right time to 'capture' the North Pole, however briefly. We move from one floe to the other and here it is! 90º, were it only for an ephemeral moment. So thrilling that we forget that we have taken our gloves off while we take pictures...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Michel Rocard, Ambassadeur des pôles

April 16 – On our way back from Barneo, meeting a few friends at Longyearbyen airport, waiting for their turn to go to the North Pole (they will take the same Antonov plane we landed with): Michel Rocard, ex-Prime Minister of France and now Ambassador for the Poles (he was signatory of the Antarctic Treaty and is a key player in the protection of the Arctic), Laurent Mayet (his advisor), both invited to the North Pole by the Russians. Also got a chance to chat with Jean-Bernard Schmidt (fellow venture capitalist and adventurer - at right on photo), who could not be part of our earlier expedition but will now join Ben, our guide extraordinaire, in Barneo for his own turn at reaching the pole (with friend Patrick de Giovanni).

Friday, April 15, 2011


We arrived back in Barneo last night expecting to set up our tents for one last night in the cold but to our surprise there was room available in one of the big heated airstrip tents. The luxury of heat made us almost delirious but the truth is none of us slept very well. After so many nights sleeping in the intense and humid cold our bodies just could not get used to the overheated tent. We had been so happy to reach the North Pole that we spent too much time with our gloves off taking photos, video, etc. Unfortunately we all suffered from minor frost bite and the sudden exposure to the heat in the tent made our fingers swell up.

Just after we updated the blog yesterday a helicopter arrived with a surprise guest; a couple of government officials from a region in Northeastern Siberia called YAMALO-NENETS. They came to the North Pole for a dedication ceremony and asked us to join them for salted dry fish, hot wine and vodka. Life is full of the most unexpected surprises. After the celebration they invited us to share their helicopter for the return trip to Barneo.

Another surprise happened when we walked into tent last night. I saw a women in the distance checking her equipment. As we approached she looked up and I realized it was our good friend Wendy Booker who Mary and I climbed Mt. Washington with about 10 years ago. Wendy is leaving tomorrow on the One Degree Dog Sled Expedition. She has an amazing and inspiring story, worth taking the time to read.

I will start posting photos in the next couple of days but for now we are just hanging out, exchanging with scientists and enjoying our last day on the ice.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


NORTH POLE at 3:22 pm (Longyearbyen time)

We've arrived! Earlier than planned because the drifting of the ice was favorable and generally moved us in the right direction. With the ice in constant movement - the North Pole is fleeting - but standing with the GPS in hand I see 90˚00.000' showing up on the display, but briefly, as the ice is shifting 1meter every 10 seconds. The only picture of the GPS I can take is 89º59.979'. I'll settle for that. close enough! The emotions are strong, we are very happy but it's almost too cold to celebrate. We are waiting for the helicopter to arrive to take us back to Barneo. Russian logistics insist on picking us up today. So even if we will not be spending the night at the pole (in fact meaning 'around the pole'), for now at least we are standing on top of the world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We walked 17 km today and the floating ice carried us 2 additional km closer to our goal. The weather conditions are great. The sky is blue, hardly any clouds and very little wind. The elements are so strong that between the sun, the dry air and the wind your skin really takes a beating. In typical hiker fashion, I bartered a quarter of a roll of toilet paper for the use of a second mat to put under my sleeping bag (to a team member who will remain anonymous).

Everything you see for 360˚ is white (although nuances and shapes exist). Although you hear the ice crack, there is very little other sound. So far we have seen no wildlife, it's just the 6 of us! The terrain is becoming very rugged. The compressions ridges are one after the other which makes the going very slow. The challenge is not climbing over, it's keeping your pulka upright behind you.

At this moment we are 17 km from the pole. With a little luck we will float even closer to it while we sleep.

Photo credit: International Polar Foundation

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


We encountered our first “ice lead” today and it was cutting right across our route to the North Pole. Leads are caused by movements of the ice due to wind, or to currents in the underlying water and, may open and close again within a brief period. They are beautiful because of their deep blue/black color, but they are also very dangerous obstacles because you never know if there is solid ice below. Ben tested it with his poles and decided that crossing at this location was not worth the risk. We walked further along the ice lead until we came to an area of open water. Tying two pulka's together we used them as bridges to cross the water. Unfortunately Ben's boot and ski got wet, so the boot froze to the ski and Ben's foot froze in the boot - he is fine now but suffered for the last couple of hours of the trek. Alexandre pitched right-in, taking over many of the duties of setting up camp.

We covered 18 km and our location tonight is 89˚40'. The temperature is about -25/27˚C. I am sharing the mess tent with Ben and those of you that know me well can understand why I feel right at home.

It's a Helsport TIPI Tent!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 2 - 59km from the North Pole

It's about 2:30pm NY time and we just finished eating and are now heading for the warmth of the sleeping bag. Ben has a talent for making even dried food taste great --tonight's dinner was fish soup and beef stew-- although I sure the fact that we're famished as a lot to do with it. We are now 59 km from the North Pole location 89˚ 28. The ice is in good condition, with just a low level wind blowing at our backs. In spite of the relatively good travel conditions, I have never been so cold -- even in Antarctica. There is no where to go to get away from the cold. It is freezing everywhere... - 25˚C (-13˚F) We are starting to encounter compression ridges but so far they have been manageable, only about 3m high. Jeff's thermos broke in his pulka today so although he stayed dry, a lot of his things got wet. We are drying laundry by the cook stove!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


After a 2h15 flight from Longyearbyen we finally arrived at the Barneo Air Field. The setting is magical; ice, ridges, wind and sun - 24 hours a day. We stayed in Borneo for about 1 1/2 hours but were anxious to start our journey after sitting around for 3 day in Longyearbyen. We set off around 11am and walked for about 3 hours. Our tents are pitched at N 89˚ 15.956 E 138˚54.258. Temperature is - 22˚

Saturday, April 9, 2011

North Pole Marathon!

Having tea at BLU hotel in Longyearbyen with John Braun, geologist from Luxemburg, just back from Barneo where he ran the NorthPole Marathon with a 100 runners. He finished second in 5h05! Amazing given the fact that a marathon up there takes about 2 more hours to complete vs. a 'normal' one. The marathon is run on a 3km track (so approx. 14 laps...). more info at:

NSF in Svalbard

Met Andreas (Andy) Heiberg of Polar Science Center / Applied Physics Laboratory - University of Washington (and National Science Foundation). With partner Tom and others, on his way to Barneo in the next couple of days, to install scientific equipment for a number of experiments. Also these two webcams (left) will be installed near Barneo to check local equipment and to monitor weather and sea ice changes (one photo every hour).

Barneo staff

Margarita (Russian), Longyearbyen coordinator for Barneo Ice Station. A tough job in this very busy season.

Misc news from Longyearbyen

Not much to do today as we are waiting for the Antonov plane to take us to Barneo tomorrow morning. Departure planned at 9am. we'll see... As always the Arctic is unpredictable. I went back with Ben to the hangar at the airport to check ou rpulkas, tents, and Ben made sure the checklist is... checked!

While there, met again Antonio (left) and Frederic from CNRS/LOCEAN in Paris as they were just finishing up preparing their scientific equipment which will be deployed near Barneo in the next few days. It is basically a float,named "Ice-T" for Ice-Thickness (nothing to do with the rapper from New Jersey). This is part of a larger project from ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) and IPEV (polar institute in France), named OPTIMISM (Observing
dynamical and Thermodynamical processes impacting The sea Ice Mass balance
from In Situ Measurements). More info at:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Prince Harry leaving Longyearbyen today 5:30pm, that's about how close we got ;)

Prince Harry stranded in Arctic after runway cracks

Prince Harry who was trekking across the Arctic with four disabled servicemen, was stranded after the cracks had formed in an ice runway.

All flights out of Borneo Ice Airfield were cancelled while the runway was being rebuilt.

The prince had been due to fly home on Thursday, but Clarence House stated that it can be 48 hours before he could leave.

The team, who were walking to the North Pole, were aiming to raise £2m for charity.

The four servicemen, who had all been injured in combat in Afghanistan, had hope to enter the record books as the first disabled team who had walked unassisted to the North Pole and raise money for Walking With The Wounded which had helped injured troops.

Clarence House stated that Harry will spend another day trekking with the team before he returns to the airfield on Thursday night to await the first available flight.

"We guide that the delay will be less than 48 hours as it stands, but given the unpredictable nature of conditions in the Arctic, the situation may change."

Expedition spokesman Alex Rayner stated that the airfield crews had been working round the clock in order to rebuild the runway.

The four-week mission got off to a late start after the gales had delayed the team's flight to the starting point, meaning the expedition was to be slightly shortened.

However, four days into the trek the team stated that they had been ahead of schedule after pulling their sledges 12 miles across the Arctic.

Harry would return home ahead of his big brother's wedding which is at the end of the month.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Destination North Pole: Cos Cob resident part of expedition to the top of the world

Explorer, author and venture capitalist Luc Hardy, of Cos Cob, is off on another expedition -- one of his toughest physical challenges yet -- the Pax Arctica North Pole Expedition 2011. Hardy, 55, and his party of six will travel 150 miles by foot to the Pole from Barneo, the nearest Russian-operated base camp in the polar region.

"We are the dogs," Hardy said. "I will be pulling an 80-kilo, or 180-pound, sled attached with a rope to my waist for 8-10 miles a day for 15 days." All that on skis in temperatures that can range from zero to minus 40 or 50 degrees.

"The North Pole is mystical," added Hardy. "It's a romantic thing -- if you like adventure. There are few graphic markers at the Pole. There's nothing there. Everything appears almost meaningless, even though it is an important part of the world."

One member of Hardy's expedition is a 16-year-old teenager from France, Alexander Laurent. "He'll be serving as a youth ambassador," said Hardy, "alerting the public about critical environmentl issues endangering the Arctic, Laurent will also likely be the youngest ever to reach the North Pole, said Hardy. "He'll be walking and pulling his sled like us -- if we make it."

The group includes Laurent's father, Christophe, a couple of gung-ho New Yorkers, and is being led by a renown Polar guide, François "Ben" Bernard from Chamonix -- one of three mountaineers to have reached the summit of Mount Everest as well both the North and South Poles. "Ben has led groups for 20 seasons to the North Pole," said Hardy.

They can expect some tough going.

April is the month when the melting starts at the North Pole, presenting an added challenge to the expedition. "The ice is getting thinner and thinner and you have to be careful where you walk," said Hardy. "Sometimes the ice cracks and each side pushes upward making big hips of ice we have to cross. We will go up and over with our sleds. When the ice starts to break, we will go on a raft to cross the melted ice. The ice will be floating in different directions. It could be that you find yourself where you started."

During its expedition, the group will be observing and recording changes in the region, and interacting with scientists at work in the polar region. They may be called upon to help with installing equipment, assisting in collecting water/atmospheric samples, GPS measurements, and with photography and video, said Hardy.

Once the group reaches the unmarked Pole, they'll pitch their tent for one night -- it's currently daylight 24/7 -- to sleep on top of the world. Their return journey will be a bit easier. "The next day we call a Russian helicopter to pick us up," said Hardy.

Hardy is no stranger to cold climates. His passport reads Antarctica in 2003, Greenland in 2007, and the Arctic in 2008, with two books resulting: "Arctic Transitions" and "Greenland Impressions." He began his wanderlust, he said, in the mid 1980s with treks to Nepal and the Himalayas. In the early 2000s he became involved in environmental causes with Jean-Michael Cousteau, the son of Jacques Cousteau, and the Green Cross International organization. Green Cross is a partner in Hardy's current expedition, along with sponsor UFG-LFP, a Parisian asset management firm, and other "corporate and consumer brands." The balance of the trip's cost he said is coming out of the travelers' pockets.

"Unfortunate," Hardy said. "But the North Pole is priceless!"

However, according to Hardy, walking expeditions to the North Pole like this one will one day no longer be an option. "By 2050 it is predicted the Arctic will be ice-free in summer," said Hardy. "It will be just water on the top of the world."

Hardy will be blogging during his adventure. The website is: Start checking online April 8, he said.

Svalbard Gobal Seedvault

This is a photo I took yesterday from Longyearbyen's aiport runway. no big deal but the little square dot in the shady side of the mountain is the entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (the weednabk which preserves a wide variety of plant seeds in an underground cavern):

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just arrived in Longyearbyen!

Uneventful arrival. smooth landing in sunny/cold weather.
All is well as this photo demonstrates!
fr left to right: Alexandre (16), Louis-Christophe, Luc, Guillaume, Jeff.
Waking up early tomorrow, meeting the representatives of the Bareno Ice Station: packing pulkas, etc.

Departure from Longyearbyen planned for 8am Friday morning.
Good meal tonight at the 'Base Camp' restaurant.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where is Barneo?

This is where we should land on April 8:
Ice Base Barneo - here is an excerpt of April 3 Barneo Chronicle from staff there:

April 3, 2011
Coordinates: 89° 06' 499'' N, 115°12'027'' E.

According to the morning report from Barneo, 400 meters of the airstrip are ready. The team needs another 24 hours to prepare the runway for airplanes to land. The ice is described as “difficult” – much of the work has to be done with ice shovels. Just like last year, there are three tractor drivers working in shifts.

Yesterday, helicopters ferried all of the fuel over to the base camp and the Zhalyuzi-2 point ceased to exist. The weather at Barneo is good, with a temperature of -30 °C and a wind of 3-4 m/sec. Skies are clear.

The Il-76 needs to make one more drop of fuel at Barneo, but conditions in Murmansk have deteriorated again – wind, rain mixed with snow, and very low clouds.

Winds are also raging in Longyearbyen, literally knocking people off their feet. The temperature is -12 °C. Yesterday we had some guests at our office. Norwegian guide Inge Solheim came with a team of four British veterans led by Prince Harry, who is a patron of the Walking With The Wounded charity organization. We had some tea and talked. We told them about the Barneo base camp, which will be their starting point, and they told us about their planned expedition to the North Pole.

Inge explained that the four Afghanistan veterans were selected for the team through a qualifying round. There were many contenders, but the four winners were Jaco Albert Van Gass, Robert Stephen Young, Guy Fraser Disney, and Martin Joseph Hewitt. The expedition will be a very difficult one. The disabled veterans will ski two degrees (approximately 220 kilometers) to the North Pole – and they will have to do it faster than planned due to delays caused by weather conditions.

more info at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Youngest child to the North Pole?

Not sure yet, but Alexandre Laurent, 16, is sure getting ready... in Paris. He flew from London (where he is at Sidcot School) yesterday and is planning to join his adults team mates in Oslo on April 5. Alexandre is excited to be a full member of the Pax Arctica team and told me today: “my teachers at Sidcot School in England are very supportive, my friends are either envious or thinking they would not be capable, and my little brother Julien has already asked me a hundred questions about what’s up there.” Although not a competition (the Pax Arctica experience is about observing climate changes affecting the polar regions and reporting about them), as Alexandre says "it would be cool to be the youngest kid to ever reach the North Pole by ski". But first we all have to work hard to get there...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

“It’s quite tight on the balls!”

Looks like the Pax Arctica expedition will not be the only one on the ice in the coming weeks: our team is not invited to the Royal wedding, but may be we can share hot tea in a tent if we bump into Prince Harry up there... the Pax Arctica team will leave for the Barneo arctic base camp on April 8.
Prince Harry has joined wounded servicemen in the Arctic where he will take part in a trek to the North Pole. The third in line to the throne will be fully integrated into the team’s final preparations and first five days of the gruelling expedition. As patron of the Walking With The Wounded charity, he will sleep out on the ice and drag a 220lb sled in temperatures set to plummet to -25C.

Lately he jumped into ice-cold water to try out his immersion suit. After he took the plunge, Harry said: “It’s quite tight on the balls!”

Asked if he was ready for the challenge, Harry said: “Not as ready as these guys are, but I’m just here to give them as much support as possible. I haven’t had as much time to train.”