Troubled when the Yamal stopped a few yards short of the North Pole, Lonnie decided to take the matter into his own hands. (OK, we know it's a bit of a set up. But hey - even polar explorers enjoy a good laugh every now and again.)Lonnie's journey to the Pole began on a definite low note. "Twenty-three foot waves meant that 70% of the passengers were seasick," Lonnie reported. "including me."The shipwide nausea eased considerably when the Yamal encountered the southern extent of the Arctic sea ice halfway past 82 degrees North. From his small cabin window, Lonnie watched as the ship's hull sliced cleanly through a relatively fresh set of polar bear tracks. It was ironic to see the tracks disturbed in such a manner. Lonnie reflected, "It was obvious that there is a new master in the Arctic."
The trip proved full of valuable insight. Lonnie spent considerable time scouting the ice conditions, talking with the Yamal's captain and planning with Victor Boyarski (the team's Russian logistics coordinator). With the Russian logistics and search and rescue plan in place, the team can safely make their way to the Pole next summer. Departure date confirmed: May 11, 2005.
While in Coral Harbor, Lonnie and Eric also made two new Inuit friends Sam Emiktowt and Eepah Netser. They were very generous with their time and resources and kindly allowed us into their lives. We were sad to leave, but spring was rapidly approaching and so were the snow geese. Eepah and Sam were anxious to go hunting.
Because white out conditions prohibited the arrival of a needed helicopter, the team flew back south to Rankin Inlet. There, Lonnie and Eric were shuttled out to the floe edge to paddle and pull kayaks along (and in) the ocean. Local legend John Hickes snowmachined out with two kayaks while the helicopter relayed the film crew. Along the ice edge, the team skied across very fresh polar bear tracks!
How do you make an 8 1/2 foot kayak hold nearly 300 pounds of expedition gear? Easy - find a jigsaw and cut off the deck! In order to complete the first summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean, the One World Expedition team will need to be amphibious. That means the kayaks they use will have to be pulled like sleds and be paddled like kayaks. Recently, Lonnie and Eric spent an afternoon cutting off the deck of a creek boat and attaching a homemade spray skirt. The skirt adds extra storage capacity to the boat while still shedding water as it is being paddled. Welding plastic runners to the hull further modified the boat to reduce drag. The end result: an Arctic summer crossing secret weapon. Look out ice pans! Here comes the One World Expedition team.
Winter training for a summer expedition? Of course, Lonnie and Eric will be traveling in the summer, but remember that summer across the Arctic Ocean and at the North Pole resembles a Minnesota winter. Lonnie and Eric have progressed from fall training of pulling tires and backpacks full of bricks up the Sawtooth Mountains to pulling kayaks across the frozen lakes of the Boundary Waters.