Escape from Thor Island
23 Apr 2012
Here are two video clips. First, Billy Gammon, then Jock Wishart - talking about the effort it took to get the boat across the sea ice for the last two miles to the Pole. What they are describing is the climax of the documentary - but no less dramatic even if you know the outcome. Remember, ROWING THE ARCTIC is on BBC ONE at 10:45pm on Wednesday 25th April - and if you miss it, available for 7 days on BBC iPlayer.
Furthest North on sale NOW!
09 Jan 2012
FURTHEST NORTH recounts the remarkable story following the Old Pulteney Row To The Pole expedition from its very beginnings through to its exhausting, dramatic, climax.
Beautifully illustrated with the photographs taken by the crew during the expedition, this is a fascinating, factual book about a unique polar and maritime adventure.
Experts told Jock Wishart that his idea of rowing a boat the 1996 certified position of the Magnetic North Pole was impossible, even foolhardy. In August 2011 he and his five crew proved them wrong.
He was clearly taking a risk in making the attempt, and history does not record any similar attempt to row the Arctic. However, as Rod Macrae's account of the expedition tells, climate change is altering this once ice-locked world and its millions of square miles of sea ice are melting.
The Old Pulteney boat ventured into the unknown. To reach the Pole position demonstrated how much is changing in this remote, deserted wilderness.
Furthest North...on sale now for just £12.50 and available through both Amazon and Frozen World Publishing
Polar Blade At Pink Palace
20 Dec 2011
Affectionately known as the "Pink Palace", Leander Rowing Club is the most prestigious of its kind in the world. You can only become a Member if you are an international oarsperson, have competed in the Boat Race, won at Henley Royal Regatta or through special invitation. Jock has been a proud Member for over 30 years, as well as having held his wedding reception there all those years ago – back in the day when he had some say in the relationship.
To honour his close ties with Leander Jock insisted on taking one ‘pink’ oar (see pic) with him during the expedition. It not only survived multiple sabotage attempts from his fellow crew but also made it to the ’96 Magnetic North Pole in one piece. Having managed to smuggle it back to the UK Jock has recently been awarded one of the greatest honours any oarsperson could hope to receive when the Club asked if the "pink" (or cerise) spoon could be hung in the Club alongside such greats as Sir Steve Redgrave.
Last week Jock met the Leander Club President, Sir George Cox, to formally hand over and sign the spoon.
Our day at the Pole
28 Aug 2011
You would expect an expedition blog to wind down once you've reached the finish line. Well, there is very little of this adventure that has followed a rule book...including our ending.
The last 36 hours have been a roller-coaster for us and once again a story of two halves. Part One saw us flying along unopposed towards our goal until BOOM, just as we were preparing to crack open the bottles of Old Pulteney, we were hit by this fiercesome blockade of ice. So Part Two began.
My fears in Thor Island about a final Arctic assault had really come true big time: she had summoned her troops and set out one last challenge. 10 hours later we had won the battle and celebrate success. But the war was by no means over.
The weather gods clearly didn't share our joy in finishing. We awoke to skies thick with freezing fog."
Jock set up his very own media centre in the forward cabin, occasionally summoning one of us to bring him more coffee or breakfast - on demand . Well, he’s the skipper. Anyway, while lord muck was lounging in his suite, the rest of us got to work with planning the day's movements.
Dave and Mark D went off to do a ‘recce’ of the area to see if there were any leads or obvious routes that would help get us to land . At this stage land, no matter where, was our priority. They returned with news that the leads had increased, but still ice locked. They sketched out a proposed route, but as per yesterday, much of it would be decided as we traveled. Little by little, metre by metre, we would try and edge our way forwards, hopefully towards our planned extraction point some 19nm away.
It was amazing how upbeat and game the crew was for the challenge that lay ahead. Not one person had dropped their head at the propsect of another day (may be two) dragging and pulling the boat over the ice and rowing. True team spirit.
... finesse wasn't on the cards as pick axes, pulleys and a good old dose of brute force were applied liberally to get the OLD PULTENEY moving."
Within the space of 2 hours we could see a prominent lead in the distance. If we could reach that then this could provide a waterway towards dry land. So, we packed the boat, got in to our cold water gear and set off. Whilst the horizon looked more promising what was noticeable was the rate at which the water was freezing. The leads from yesterday hadn't closed up with 'bergs but had, in fact, started to freeze. In some places what was free flowing water was now 25-30mm of ice. It’s more proof of how lucky we’d been to get here so quickly. Days clearly counted. Anyway Mark D, Rob S, Dave M and myself took to the waters and the 'bergs to make a start in clearing a route for the OP, whilst Jock and Mark B took care of operations on board. Mark D led the operation masterfully.
Hats off to Mark D and Dave M for a masterclass in Arctic swimming. Suffice to say, they are no seals when it comes to grace in the water, but very effective ice breakers nonetheless."
Check out this video of taken yesterday of the crew crossing an ice field for the first time, on the final day of the expedition...
After approx 2 hours of wading, whacking and winding our way through and over the ice, we finally made it to the bigger lead. It had actually opened up even more giving us hope we could get back to rowing and get all the way to our planned extraction point. So we all clambered aboard. Mark D, Dave M and myself took to the oars in the hope of warming up. Poor Rob got the short straw as, despite being wet and cold, he was tasked (as reigning 'hero helmsman') with guiding us to land. It was a posioned challice if ever there was one.
After a few lusty blows to the ice from the oars we were free...at last - something that was greeted with a massive cheer from the crew as we finally broke from the clutches of the suffocating ice field.
With strong N.Easterlies (20+ knots) rowing head on into the wind was tough going, but given the past couple of days it was all relative, and a great way to get the blood flowing and our senses back! Whilst we only had to travel about approx 5 miles, it took us 3 hours. I must make a special mention to Rob's claim that we were 100 metres from land. It took us an hour to cover!
Our desired route to the extraction point at Isachsen was blocked with ice so we had to make do with beaching further down the coast. For us all another euphoric moment just to have made land. Fittingly, Jock powered us home for the final few strokes bellowing out at the top of his lungs one final rousing speech: another spine tingling moment akin to that on our departure day in Resolute (A Braveheart moment?).
Tomorrow on to Isachsen's airfield.