On August 25, a team of British explorers became the first people to row to the magnetic North Pole. The group set out on their 450-mile journey from Resolute Bay in Canada on July 29 in their boat, the Old Pulteney, a specially designed vessel with runners on its underside so that it can be hauled over the ice.
They slept in shifts between rowing stints and were fueled by 7,000-calorie dry rations a day.
The group saw around eight polar bears on their journey, one of which came within five feet of them while Mr Wishart even had a seal attack him on his bottom as a reminder he was “still human”.
A Voyage Made Possible By Global Warming
Of course, the voyage was only possible because of global warming, which has led to more seasonal ice-melt in the Arctic.
In fact, the men embarked on this expedition specifically to examine the effects of global warming. Throughout the journey, the rowing crew worked with scientific research partners to provide environmental data on the impact of arctic deterioration on the polar landscape.
Six-Man Team Took Just Under Four Weeks To Row 450 Miles
Jock Wishart and his five-man team took just under four weeks to complete the 450-mile route. Here’s what he said, as reported in The Guardian:
“I think this is one of my greatest achievements. It was a dream four years ago but now it’s reality. Up until last night we still could not say with certainty that we would reach our destination, so we are all exhilarated and relieved that weather conditions were in our favour and we have completed our row to the magnetic north pole while it was still possible.
“It is an enormous achievement, and a privilege for our team to have been part of what is one of the world’s last great firsts.”
Wishart, who is in his late 50s, said: “We’ve been very lucky with the weather but there’s been times when we’ve been trying to find our way through moving ice floes in fog and we’re a long, long way from help. But everyone in the team has been in good humour and fettle. They are the best of the bunch.”
“Now I’m looking forward to a nice pint and a glass of malt whiskey when I get home,” he added.
What an amazing story, one which makes me think of the legendary feats of Ernest Shackleton in Antarctica. In 1915, when his ship The Endurance got stuck in the ice, Shackleton rowed an incredible 800 miles to South Georgia Island to get help. He managed to get his entire crew back safely to England.
Could The Arctic Be Ice-Free In 30 Years?
But there is another, more depressing angle to this impressive 2011 Arctic venture. As the Guardian reported here, sea ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years.
A somber thought, indeed.
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Creative Commons