In 1895, Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen abandoned his plan to reach the North Pole by ship and headed for the pole by dog sled. Nansen didn’t make it to the pole, but his journey and safe return became one of the poles most epic tales.
Nansen’s plan had he reached the North Pole was to head for Spitsbergen, the only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Arctic adventures Audun Tholfsen and Timo Palo just embarked on attempting this return route using Kokatat GORE-TEX Expedition dry suits while navigating sections of open water and treacherous ice flows.
After being air dropped at the geographical North Pole, Tholfsen and Palo will use skis and kayaks to cross the drifting ice floes and open water on their way to Spitsbergen. They will then continue across the fjords and mountains towards the south of the island until they reach Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in Spitsbergen. The expedition team hopes to complete the expedition, unsupported and without resupplies, in 50 to 60 days.
Throughout the way the team will take in-situ measurements and will carry out scientific observations. With a light set of instruments they will regularly measure the snow and ice thickness and surface layer air temperature data and drift speed of local ice floes.
In 1893, Nansen embarked on a daring plan of sailing his ship, the Fram, into the Arctic icepack and using the natural drift of the polar ice to reach the North Pole. After several months in the icepack, Nansen calculated that it might take over five years for the Fram to reach the Pole and Nansen devised a new plan.
On the 14th of March 1895, Nansen and dog sled expert and ship stoker Hjalmar Johansen left the icebound Fram and set out on skis and sleds with kayaks and 28 dogs for the North Pole. After reaching a record mark of latitude 86°14 ′ North on April 7th, they abandoned the attempt and retreated southwards, eventually reaching the island Franz Josef Land later that year.
With some good fortune in June of 1896 they met up with an English expedition team and were reunited with the Fram that had emerged from the ice pack north-west of Spitsbergen, as Nansen had predicted. However, the ship never made it beyond 85° 57′ North.
Norwegian Tholfsen and Estonian Palo have skied across Greenland and completed several mountain ski expeditions in Svalbard and Norway. The team spent ten months as crewmembers on Tara, a French sailing vessel that, similar to the Fram, froze into the Arctic pack ice and drifted across the entire Arctic Ocean. Currently, Tholfsen works to provide logistic solutions and field support in Arctic regions. Palo has been working in Spitsbergen providing logistics and field support, and currently works as a PhD student and field technician at the University of Tartu, studying polar meteorology.
To learn more about Tholfsen and Palo and their expedition visit www.arcticreturntour.com.
For details on this and additional expeditions Kokatat supports visit http://www.kokatat.com/expeditions.