My Last Adventure – North Pole
My last adventure was to ski from the 89th degree North to the North Pole after succeeding in skiing to the South Pole in December 2014.
On the 21st of April, 2015 at 5am, I became the first Egyptian ever to ski to the North Pole making me the first Egyptian to ski to both poles.
The North Pole lies in the middle of the frozen Arctic Ocean. It’s arguably harder to reach than its Southern counterpart. It presents a few objective challenges which I have explored below. You can check out the photo album of my expedition on my Facebook page here or go through the blog here.
You can check out my North Pole expedition on facebook, twitter and Instagram via the hashtags #OmarGoesNorth #FirstEgyptian #LoveConquersAll
Weather: Although the weather is warmer than Antarctica on the scale, the high humidity and wind speeds of the Arctic make the cold much harsher. Antarctica enjoys a sun relatively high up in the sky 24 hours a day so while brutally cold and dry outside, the temperature inside my tent was relatively warm. In the vicinity of the North Pole, the sun is always very low on the horizon. Hence, if the weather is -30C outside then its probably around -27C inside. Basically, there is little chance to warm up throughout the duration of the expedition.
Polar Bears: The threat of attacks in the Arctic are very real. The team has to carry a shot gun to use if we’re attacked. The shot gun is used to scare off the bear only. Attacks may also occur during the night when the team is tucked away in their tent. Polar Bears are amazing and beautiful creatures that are non-aggressive. When we ski to the North Pole we enter its environment and due to the harsh environment we naturally become an ideal food source. During the expedition we are trying to achieve our objective while leaving the least possible impact on the environment and eco-system.
Leads: The word is used to refer to open spaces between the ice that occur due to the continuous rise in temperature on Earth. Some polar explorers use double dry suits to cross the water with sleds that are modified to be used as rafts. This is a time consuming and dangerous option should the equipment fail and the suit is compromised. We will decide between that and skiing around the leads which could add hours to our journey if they are quite long.
Shifting Ice: Remember we are skiing over a frozen ocean which means that the ice is constantly shifting. The ice could shift a couple of kilometres each day. If we’re unlucky, we could ski forward during the day and be somewhat pushed in the opposite direction of the pole during the night.
Pressure Ridges: The last degree to the South Pole ski is largely featureless like a flat ice desert and Sastrugi’s are hardly ever higher than 30cm. Sastrugi’s are small ice features along the way that look like frozen ripples in an ocean. In the Arctic North Pole expedition, due to the constant movement of the ice, pressure ridges can rise as high as 3m off the ground, making the journey to the North Pole far slower and more difficult as you can never truly get into a rhythm.
Navigation: Since we’re navigating to the Geographic North Pole and not the Magnetic North Pole, we cannot just rely on a traditional compass. We constantly have to correct for a deviation degree to move in the right trajectory. This slows the expedition pace down considerably. Moving in the direction of a North bearing pressure ridge can save navigation time but when visibility is low, we have to rely solely on our navigation tools.