My friend Ben Saunders is more than a polar explorer; he a man who is deeply passionate and convicted, one of those people who lives his life with this Star Trek-like raison d’etre in mind: Let’s boldly go where no man has gone before. Only difference is: Ben does it solo. He left for an expedition this week that started in Resolute Bay in northern Canada, roughly 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. From there, he headed south and over the next several weeks, he will be traveling by foot solo and unsupported to the North Pole, with the aim of setting a speed record in the process. As daft challenges go, this is a big one: only two people in history have reached the Pole solo and unsupported (i.e. with no airdrops of food en route) and the most recent was eight years ago.
In 2005, a guided team using dog sleds and several air-drops of food reached the Pole in 36 days, 22 hours, and in 2010 a Canadian team reached the Pole on foot in 41 days, 18 hours with one resupply flight. A tough challenge ahead of him, he is moving on skis and snowshoes, hauling a sled containing food, equipment, and a cutting-edge satellite tracking beacon that will enable real-time position updates as Ben heads north.
Ben’s 487-mile journey crosses the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean, one of the harshest environments on the planet. There are no route maps as the pack ice is in a constant state of flux, melting, refreezing and drifting according to the competing forces of temperature, wind, current and tide. One of the biggest obstacles Ben expects to encounter are areas of open water; cracks in the ice known as leads. The Arctic Ocean is also home to the polar bear, and ambient temperatures can reach -50°C. Not surprising, his Twitter handle is Polar Ben: @polarben.
The below video explains his mission in a bit more detail:
Photo Credit: Andy Ward