April 2011

Luc Hardy led, until now, extraordinary expeditions over the poles and unexplored regions, which gave us impressions of an unknown world but nevertheless ours and in danger. This year again an expedtion is planned in partnership with Green Cross International - Pax Arctica - North Pole Expedition 2011. Luc Hardy, Guillaume Cuvelier, Christophe and Alexandre Laurent will be the witnesses of the newest changes in that region, from the Arctic Circle to the actual North pole.

In April 2011, at the start of the 6-month long summer day, the Pax Arctica team will join scientists on the Arctic ice. They will testify to the on-going transformations of this part of the world and its consequences on Climate Change and world geopolitics. The Pax Arctica team, including children as representatives of future generations, will convene in a symbolic gesture, at the North Pole, and plant the Green Cross Flag, in honor of the 80th birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev, Honorary chairman of Green Cross International.


Luc's journal from the North Pole - #5 - April 15th, 2011

We arrived back in Barneo last night expecting to set up our tents for one last night in the cold but to our surprise there was room available in one of the big heated airstrip tents. The luxury of heat made us almost delirious but the truth is none of us slept very well. After so many nights sleeping in the cold our bodies just could not get use to the overheated tent. We had been so happy to reach the North Pole that we spent too much time with our gloves off taking photos, video etc. Unfortunately we all suffered from minor frost bite and the sudden exposure to the heat in the tent made our fingers swell up. Just after we updated the bog yesterday the helicopter arrived with a surprise guest; a couple of government officials from a region in Northeastern Siberia called YAMALO-NENETS. They came to the North Pole for a dedication ceremony and asked us to join them for sausage and hot wine. Life is full of the most unexpected surprises. After the celebration they invited us to share their helicopter for the return trip to Barneo.

Another surprise happened when we walked into tent last night. I saw a women in the distance checking her equipment. As we approached she looked up and I realized it was our good friend Wendy Booker who Mary and I climbed Mt. Washington with about 10 years ago. Wendy is leaving tomorrow on the One Degree Dog Sled Expedition. She has an amazing and inspiring story, worth taking the time to read. I will start posting photos in the next couple of days but for now we are just hanging out, talking with scientists and enjoying our last day on the ice.


Time to share what we experienced. April 15, 2011

"At the North Pole, with the GPS in hand I calculated that the ice was moving at the rate of 3 feet every 10 seconds!" Luc Hardy


Luc's journal from the North Pole - April 14th, 2011

We've arrived! Earlier than planned because the currents were favorable and moved us in the right direction. With the ice in constant movement -the North Pole is fleeting- but standing with the GPS in hand we captured 90.000˚. The emotions are strong, we are very happy but it's almost too cold to celebrate.  We are waiting for the helicopter to arrive to take us back to Barneo. Russian logistics insist on picking us up today. So even if we will not be spending the night, for now at least we are standing on top of the world!


North Pole at 3:22 pm (Longyearbyen)


Luc's journal from the North Pole - #3 - April 13th, 2011

We walked 17 km today and the floating ice carried us 2 additional km closer to our goal.The weather conditions are great. The sky is blue, hardly any clouds and very little wind.The elements are so strong that between the sun, the dry air and the wind your skin really takes a beating. In typical hiker fashion, I bartered a quarter of a roll of toilet paper for the use of a second ski face mask. Everything you see for 360˚ is white. Although you hear the ice crack, there is very little other sound. So far we have seen no wildlife, it's just the 6 of us! The terrain is becoming very rugged. The pressures ridges are one after the other which makes the going very slow. The challenge is not climbing over, it's keeping your pulka upright behind you. At this moment we are 17 km from the pole. With a little luck we will float even closer to it while we sleep.


The elements are so strong that between the sun, the dry air and the wind your skin really takes a beating.


Luc's journal from the North Pole - April 12th, 2011

We encountered our first “ice lead” today and it was cutting right across our route to the North Pole. Leads are caused by movements of the ice due to wind, or to currents in the underlying water and, may open and close again within a brief period. They are beautiful because of their deep blue/black color, but they are also very dangerous obstacles because you never know if there is solid ice below. Ben tested it with his poles and decided that crossing at this location was not worth the risk. We walked further along the ice lead until we came to an area of open water. Tying two pulka's together we used them as bridges to cross the water.

Unfortunately Ben's boot and ski got wet, so the boot froze to the ski and Ben's foot froze in the boot - he is fine now but suffered for the last couple of hours of the trek. Alexandre pitched right-in, taking over many of the duties of setting up camp. We covered 18 km and our location tonight is 89˚ 40. The temperature is about -25/27˚C. I am sharing the mess tent with Ben and those of you that know me well can understand why I feel right at home.


We encountered our first “ice lead” today and it was cutting right across our route to the North Pole.


Luc's journal from the North Pole - April 11th, 2011

It's about 2:30pm NY time and we just finished eating and are now heading for the warmth of the sleeping bag. Ben has a talent for making even dried food taste great --tonight's dinner was fish soup and beef stew-- although I sure the fact that we're famished as a lot to do with it. We are now 59 km from the North Pole location 89˚ 28. The ice is in good condition, with just a low level wind blowing at our backs. In spite of the relatively good travel conditions, I have never been so cold -- even in Antarctica. There is no where to go to get away from the cold. It is freezing everywhere... - 25˚C (-13˚F) We are starting to encounter pressure ridges but so far they have been manageable, only about 3m high. Jeff's thermos broke in his pulka today so although he stayed dry, a lot of his things got wet. We are drying laundry by the cook stove!


After a 2h15 flight from Longyearbyen we finally arrived at the Barneo Air Field. The setting is magical; ice, ridges, wind and sun - 24 hours a day. We stayed in Barneo for about 1 1/2 hours but were anxious to start our journey after sitting around for 3 day in Longyearbyen. We set off around 11am and walked for about 3 hours. Our tents are pitched at N 89˚ 15.956 E 138˚54.258. Temperature is - 22˚

Matthew Henson – First Man on the North Pole? - April 7, 2011

On this day in 1906, explorer Robert Peary became the first European-American to visit the geographic North Pole. But few at the time knew it was his manservant Matthew Henson who likely put the first footprints on top of our planet. Born in Nanjemoy, Maryland in 1866, Henson was only 12 years old and had no formal schooling when he left home to venture on the high seas, first serving as a cabin boy on a merchant vessel. He spent a decade at sea before meeting Admiral Peary, who hired him to join an expedition to Nicaragua. Over the next 22 years, the two men would work side by side, facing freezing temperatures and starvation, making their falling out after achieving their most celebrated goal a sad tale, if perhaps one indicative of the time’s prevailing social mores.

"We are arriving to Spitsbergen where will wait for flight to Barneo Ice Station" - April 6, 2011

Where is Barneo?

This is where we should land on April 8: Ice Base Barneo - here is an excerpt of April 3 Barneo Chronicle from staff there:

April 3, 2011 Coordinates: 89° 06' 499'' N, 115°12'027'' E.

According to the morning report from Barneo, 400 meters of the airstrip are ready. The team needs another 24 hours to prepare the runway for airplanes to land. The ice is described as “difficult” – much of the work has to be done with ice shovels. Just like last year, there are three tractor drivers working in shifts. Yesterday, helicopters ferried all of the fuel over to the base camp and the Zhalyuzi-2 point ceased to exist.The weather at Barneo is good, with a temperature of -30 °C and a wind of 3-4 m/sec. Skies are clear. The Il-76 needs to make one more drop of fuel at Barneo, but conditions in Murmansk have deteriorated again – wind, rain mixed with snow, and very low clouds. Winds are also raging in Longyearbyen, literally knocking people off their feet. The temperature is -12 °C. Yesterday we had some guests at our office. Norwegian guide Inge Solheim came with a team of four British veterans led by Prince Harry, who is a patron of the Walking With The Wounded charity organization. We had some tea and talked.

We told them about the Barneo base camp, which will be their starting point, and they told us about their planned expedition to the North Pole. Inge explained that the four Afghanistan veterans were selected for the team through a qualifying round. There were many contenders, but the four winners were Jaco Albert Van Gass, Robert Stephen Young, Guy Fraser Disney, and Martin Joseph Hewitt. The expedition will be a very difficult one. The disabled veterans will ski two degrees (approximately 220 kilometers) to the North Pole – and they will have to do it faster than planned due to delays caused by weather conditions.

North Pole Expedition to Observe Climate Change Effects - April 5, 2011

The “Pax Arctica —North Pole Expedition 2011”, in partnership with Green Cross International, will depart from Longyearbyen, Norway, on 6 April 2011 to the North Pole region, where they will observe and record changes in the region. Once on the ice, the team will interact with several teams of scientists to learn about observations done in the region.

“In this expedition, our objectives include raising awareness about the impact of climate change in the North Pole region in particular and in the world in general,” said Luc Hardy, founder of Pax Arctica and a member of the Green Cross France Board. “We also want to put a particular emphasis on the natural beauty of the Arctic region, and the need to preserve it free of industrial activity and mineral exploration for future generations.” Hardy will lead the expedition with Francois ‘Ben’ Bernard serving as the guide. Ben is one of the world’s most experienced polar guides and experts. He is one of only three in the world to have reached the three poles in complete autonomy (North Pole, South Pole and Mount Everest). As with previous expeditions, the team will include a young person, who serves as a youth ambassador alerting the public about critical environmental issues endangering the Arctic .

Alexandre Laurent, a dynamic 16 year old from France is excited to be a full member of the Pax Arctica team and added: “My teachers at Sidcot School in England are very supportive, my friends are either envious or thinking they would not be capable, and my little brother Julien has already asked me a hundred questions about what’s up there.” “Pax Arctica is an important and valuable initiative to raise awaireness about the impact of climate change on the Arctic and on the current state of our Arcitic regions,” said Adam Koniustewski, GCI Chief Operating Officer. “This areas are experiencing rapid changes so we need to act quickly to save these precious ecosystems.”

“We have sponsored Luc’s environmental endeavors since 2002 and are grateful for his persistent efforts in raising awareness about these great causes. As investors with a strong emphasis in sustainable investment, we are thrilled to continue our support for this year’s polar expedition” said Xavier Lépine, president of UFG-LFP, a multi-specialist and independent asset management firm and one of the corporate partners. Other corporate partners include Young & Rubicam (Y&R).

First North Pole Ozone Hole Forming? - March 22, 2011

Spawned by strangely cold temperatures, "beautiful" clouds helped strip the Arctic atmosphere of most of its protective ozone this winter, new research shows.  The resulting zone of low-ozone air could drift as far south as New York, according to experts who warn of increased skin-cancer risk.  The stratosphere's global blanket of ozone—about 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Earth—blocks most of the sun's high-frequency ultraviolet (UV) rays from hitting Earth's surface, largely preventing sunburn and skin cancer. But a continuing high-altitude freeze over the Arctic may have already reduced ozone to half its normal concentrations—and "an end is not in sight," said research leader Markus Rex, a physicist for the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Preliminary data from 30 ozone-monitoring stations throughout the Arctic show the degree of ozone loss was larger this winter than ever before, Rex said. Before spring is out, "we may even get the first Arctic ozone hole ... which would be a dramatic development—one which would make it into coming history books," he said. It's too early to call, but stay tuned." Atmospheric chemist Simone Tilmes, who wasn't part of the study, agreed. "We do not know at the moment how large the ozone hole in the Arctic will grow, because the thinning of the ozone layer is happening right now," said Tilmes, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Full confirmation may require computer simulations and satellite measurements, which study leader Rex said would "be very useful to provide an independent view of the ozone loss this year."An ozone hole is an area of the ozone layer that is seasonally depleted of the protective gas—such as the well-known hole over Antarctica.

Shifting Magnetic North Pole Prompts Aviation Update - March 11, 2011

While the position of the Magnetic North Pole was first determined in 1833, scientists have been able to estimate its position back to about 1600. Earth’s Magnetic North Pole is shifting from its current location in northern Canada at a faster rate than has ever before been observed. The movement could have significant impact for both aircraft navigation and some types of migratory wildlife in the decades ahead, experts warn.

Hundreds of miles south of the geographic North Pole, the location of the Magnetic North Pole was first determined in 1833. It seemed to barely move until about 1904, when its position began to track northeastward about nine miles per year. The speed began to increase significantly in a northwesterly direction about 1998, and now averages about 37 miles each year. This means the pole will be located in northern Russia later this century if the movement and speed don’t change. Air transportation uses magnetic compass directions for navigation, meaning airports are having to rename their runways as the shift continues. Wildlife that can sense Earth’s magnetic field to migrate may also become affected by the change.