Historic - First team to row to any pole position
26 Aug 2011
Jock and the ROW TO THE POLE crew are elated. They have reached the 1996 Magnetic North Pole.
The final 50 mile leg of the expedition was a tale of two halves, beginning with a 48 mile forward surge by sea, and followed by an on-ice struggle to traverse a two mile ice field. Conditions were excellent as the crew began and made great progress as they rowed 40 miles through the Arctic night. With 10 miles to go, the ice grew denser and became progressively more difficult to navigate. The crew began celebrating the completion of their journey prematurely when, with two miles to go, a wall of ice blocked their passage and presented the crew with their final extreme polar challenge. The same winds that had cleared much of the route into Deer Bay had, ironically filled much of it with ice that had drifted in after days of battering winds. To finish the journey the crew had to use the one routine they had rehearsed the least – man-hauling the boat on its special runners over the ice.
The crew has made the magnificent achievement of rowing 500 miles through Arctic waters. It is normal for Arctic pack ice to retreat each summer. What has become most striking in recent years is the accelerated rate of summer sea ice loss which has made this adventure possible.
Remarkably, the final two miles was the first and only ice blockage which they had to trek across."
The two mile long ice field had to be surmounted to achieve the expedition’s objective of becoming the first to complete a journey to a pole positioning by row boat. The OLD PULTENEY Ice Boat was perfectly designed to meet this challenge: Her cathedral hull has runners that allow her to be dragged like a sled. Even so, the two mile trek was an epic task for the exhausted crew as they dragged her over huge ice hillocks, through ice rubble and crumbling ice leads. The boat was heaved in-and-out of small ice breaks which provided brief respite until they encountered more ice rubble that once again blocked their path. Billy Gammon, a crew member and veteran ocean rower, referred to this stretch as...
The most arduous difficulty I have ever faced.”
The crossing took almost 10 hours as the crew dragged the 1.3 ton boat, arriving at the 1996 Magnetic North Pole at six thirty in the evening local time (0130 BST).
Having overcome a fortress of ice, the OLD PULTENEY ROW TO THE POLE crew have reached their destination, utterly exhausted and feeling they had given everything to do it. This voyage is the first polar rowing expedition since Antarctica 1916 when Sir Ernest Shackleton ordered the crew of the Endurance to their rowing boats to escape the pack ice that surrounded and crushed their ship. The crew have earned a small piece of adventure history for two significant achievements: (1) they are the first team to row to any pole position and (2) they have set a new gold-standard in ocean and endurance rowing.
Tough last miles to the '96 Magnetic North Pole
25 Aug 2011
JOCK: They do say the last mile of a journey is alway the hardest. So it is here. After hours of battling through dense ice in the boat we have decided to haul the boat out of the water and man-haul it over the ice.
The problem is that the wind and tides have led the ice to drift into our route. Rather than wait, we're heading full on towards the Pole position. As we know too well, weather and ice drift can both block and clear locations remarkably fast. Today the conditions have just made it very hard work indeed. But we'll get there. Harness on and forwards we go.
The OLD PULTENEY Ice Boat rows on, but conditions are making it progressively difficult.
Still rowing after a night on the oars, the crew push for the Pole. Having made the most of the good conditions overnight, things have change with more breaking up pack ice ahead.
Jock managed a quick call to base camp in Resolute, Canada, saying in his very understated way "It's a struggle." The ice is harder to navigate in Deer Bay. Also the coast is inaccessible so the boat must keep moving forward. Only 3 miles to the '96 Magnetic North Pole.
25 Aug 2011
Several hours of silence from the crew. No word as to their progress.
Anxious, excited energy is making the Resolute Operation Team Yellowbrick addicts!
The latest ice images are revealing! The winds which helped maintain a shore lead up the west coast of Noice have brought the ice into the north-east coast of Noice. There is one medium ice blockage, but beyond that it looks pretty ice-free.
Row through the night towards the Pole
25 Aug 2011
Our game of cat and mouse with the sea ice has paid off. The crew waited for several days for the right conditions to make their sprint for the finish. On Aug. 24th, 1600 local time the crew pulled away from Thor Island. They have now crossed to Noice Peninsular and are rowing north through an ice lead. Ice leads are dangerous to navigate as the broken pack ice shifts rapidly with changes in prevailing winds. In these situations vessels can become entrapped by the sea ice.
The midnight sun is hidden below the horizon, but the sky is still light, so they row on.
It is important to pass through the ice lead before the south east tail wind swings around to the north. Changing wind to the north could change things dramatically through the morning:
- Ice blockages
- Slow progress into the head winds
- Create a conveyor belt of ice moving counter to our direction
- Close the ice lead which is a ice free route parallel to the headland’s coast.