Day 4

Today was a day of organization! Keith and Dirk arrived at 9 am and went through all of our gear again – to make sure that we were taking what we need, no more, no less. So there were adjustments to be made, sacrifices, food (goodies) left behind……..but we managed to make it fit.
We loaded our sledges – Dale – 36kg, Michel 37 kg, and me Yipee only 33.5 kg (prior to adding all my electronics – OMG).
We sorted food out rather frightening how many kilos we have – diet is very high in fat and carbohydrates…..not what I would recommend as heart healthy.
We went out to the airport and had orientation and weigh in….rules from the Russians….
Barneo was set up via parachute drop on March 20th, 9th year they have done it this way – the runway was ploughed in 24 hours – 1500m long (plane only needs 800). They have erected the tent city with common areas and sleeping areas, as well as private areas for research (its primary mission)
Tomorrow we fly out, dare I say, weather permitting, at 930 am – 2 hour 15 minute flight.

Day 3

What a day we had today – Easy start with wonderful breakfast at the Hostel where we are staying. Then we went down to the large uninsulated shed to look at the gear. We sorted the skiis and bindings and made sure we had what we needed.

The sleds have a smooth contoured bottom with heavy material screwed in for the top, kind of expandable, so we can take what we need and shrink down as we eat! – 109 lbs of food (that is before it is rehydrated – OMG). More on this later….
This afternoon we went up and met Tom – he has 17 husky sled dogs. We put two sleds together 11 dogs on one, and 5 on the other. The sled with 5 dogs was smaller and each of us had a chance to mush! It was exhilirating – no words can adequately describe it. The landscape all snow, rock and mountains, no trees. We took a circuitous path up and around the mountain working the sleds up the hills helping the dogs. Our destination was the ice cave.
we put on our helmets, and our headlamps and in we went. Wow. We were in the bowels of the glacier. Apparently we took the expert route, ladders, ropes, and 10 foot icewalls that we went down, ice slides. We went a long way down into the caves, beautiful untouched ice sculptures naturally made. The trip came to a halt when Tom went down a slide and coaxing me down I got wedged in the ice – a Norwegian WEDGIE! Well a bit unusual and quite stuck! Eventually we extricated me and figured that was far enough for us to go. We then had to haul ourselves out by rope, grunting and sliding along. Magic
We mushed back to Tom’s place and had wonderful coffee and cookies. Back to the Hostel and a hot shower.

Day 2

We left Oslo this morning and arrived in Longyearbyen to about -15, though windchill makes it feel a lot colder. Dirk and Keith were at the airport to meet and greet! Short drive into the hotel, converted from miners lodging. Longyearbyen is known for coal mining and some commercial fishing. It also holds the world’s seed repository. The seeds from the world’s plant life are stored here underground, safe from permafrost up on one of the mountains. Noah’s seed ark.

After we checked in we wandered around town. The houses are built up on wood stilts so that the frost doesnt’ cause them to break. The road’s are sheet of ice so all the cars have studded tires. We wandered past the church and into town. Stopping for dinner at Svarbar. The highlight of today was the sighting of real reindeer, followed by NO sighting of polar bears!Team is in great spirits though a bit tired from all of the travel. It will be great to have a day to recoup.

Travelling: Frankfurt to Olso

Long day of travelling is done. We are in Oslo. – 5 degrees and rainy, lots of snow on the ground. We met up with Michel at the airport hotel. Dumped the bags and went into town.

We went to visit the Fram Museum – home of the Fram – a famous ship for a few reaons – it was the ship that Amundsen took to the Antarctic when he bested Scott in the quest to be the first to reach the south pole, but that was a different trip! The other reason it is a famous boat is that Fridtjof Nansen purposefully put it into the ice in 1893. He was hoping that the ice current would carry the boat locked in ice towards the North Pole.

However in 1895 he and Hjalmar Johansen left the ship in a desperate attempt to get to the north pole, as the ship wasn’t close enough. They took 27 dogs, 3 sledges and 2 kayaks. What followed is one of the greatest stories in Polar history. Nansen and Johansen didn’t achieve the pole, but they did spend 3 years trying to get home and finally in May 1896 they met Frederick Jackson a British explorer who returned them to Tromso.

In the meantime the Fram drifted in the ice current and reached Tromso just one day before Nansen did! Remember this is prior to any form of communication that we are used to- meaning that neither the Fram and her shipmates nor Nansen/Johansen knew the other party was safe. Ultimately all landed back in Norway 3 years after they left, via different routes, 1 day apart – safe and sound!.

Tomorrow off to Longyearbyen

We’re Off!!

The day has finally arrived. We’re feeling 80% excited and 20% terrified!

Trudy came to the airport to see us off. She’s in good spirits, and will be hugely missed. We will definitely be taking her support with us.

The first travel leg begins – Toronto to Frankfurt. Then tomorrow to Oslo, and then Thursday to Longyearbyen. Although you can track the weather in Longyearbyen, we will be a couple thousand kilometers north, so likely a lot colder. We have a couple of training days in Longyearbyen then, weather permitting, we will be off to Borneo- the Russian Arctic station.

Thanks to everyone for all the warm wishes and thoughts, we need them to get ourselves through the cold nights!