The Pole at Last!
25 April 2009
Peary-Henson Commemorative Expedition Team Achieves the North Pole
Lonnie Dupre, Maxime Chaya, and Stuart Smith Celebrate at 90 Degrees North. They endured -50 degree temperatures, howling winds, blizzards, the "Polar Treadmill" and dunks in icy water 650+ Miles from Start to Finish Over the Ice.
Lonnie Dupre is no stranger to the rigors of travel in the Arctic, but after 53 days on the ice, he is relieved and happy to reach the North Pole at 9:22am on Saturday, April 25th. As leader of the PolarExplorers Peary-Henson 100th Anniversary Commemorative Expedition, he had another burden to carry in addition to the 175 pounds of food and supplies on the sled he was dragging behind him. "I didn't want to let the memory of Robert Peary down," he says. "I believe Peary did make the Pole in 1909, and I didn't want to do anything less on this special expedition to honor their achievement."
While Dupre and team are happy to see the North Pole, some of what they saw on the way is deeply disturbing. Lonnie, along with Eric Larsen who were the first men to reach the North Pole in summer on his "One World" expedition in 2006, said "I've never seen such large areas of recently open water. Not even in summer. The ice on these leads was very thin. Any thinner and in many places, we would not have been able to cross." Also, multi-year ice floes are almost non-existent. "There's only young ice, one to two years of age. That's a clear result of climate change."
At the North Pole, Lonnie, Max, and Stuart unfurled the official flag of Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, one of the expedition supporters which also supported one of Peary's first expeditions in the late 1800s.
Lonnie Dupre and his team started out from Ellesmere Island in icy temperatures of -50 degrees. While the journey covers 480 miles, they encountered frequent leads of open water between them and the Pole, which they had to cross, often travelling many miles out of their way to find a snow bridge or area of ice strong enough to bear their weight. Just before reaching the North Pole, they lashed together their sleds to use as catamarans to get across a final broad area of open frigid water.
It was a race against both time and what is called "The Polar Treadmill" - southward-heading ice drift that snatches away miles as explorers approach the North Pole. In the final days, for every mile they skiied, they lost about a third of a mile to the "treadmill" pushing them back.
Time was of the essence - if they failed to attain the Pole by the 26th, they risked missing the Russian evacuation flight back to Ice Station Barneo and, ultimately, home.
By the time they arrived, the explorers had skiied over 650 miles, averaging 12 - 14 miles a day by the end of the journey. A few days before they reached the pole, they were pinned down in their tent by howling winds and white-out conditions.
Food supplies ran short, but they navigated to a rendezvous on the ice with Rick Sweitzer, and his dogsled team provided them with a few precious days worth of food. Sweitzer, a veteran of many polar expeditions whose PolarExplorers group produced and organized the Peary Henson 100th Anniversary Commemorative Expedition, said "We had every confidence that Lonnie and his team would make the Pole. With his extensive experience and knowledge of the ice from his many previous expeditions, we knew he would attain the goal."
Team member Maxime Chaya unfurled a flag of his own - the flag of Lebanon. Chaya is the first man from Lebanon to reach the North Pole, adding to his South Pole and Everest accomplishments. Expedition member Stuart Smith, one of the few to make the "Three Poles" of the North Pole, South Pole, and Mt. Everest, said "This expedition was every bit as big a challenge as I expected." Like the rest of the team, despite eating over 8000 calories a day, he lost about a pound and a half of weight every two days on the grueling journey.
The expedition was provided with insulated clothing, sleeping bags, vests, insulated parka and pants and other gear by Primaloft. Midwest Mountaineering provided additional expedition gear and equipment.
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Named one of the "Best Outfitters on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine and recommended in the "Rough Guide to Ultimate Adventure", PolarExplorers is the premier polar outfitting and logistics company successfully guiding many amateur and experienced adventurers to the North and South Poles, across the Greenland ice cap, and on other Arctic adventures. After April 27th, Lonnie Dupre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule interviews and receive hi-res photos, call Annie Aggens at +001 847 256 4409 or by email at email@example.com. After April 27th, Lonnie Dupre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. PolarExplorers publicist: contact DT Regula at email@example.com or call +001 619 312 7456.