Crowded at the North Pole
29 April 2009
Duluth News Tribune
It's getting crowded at the North Pole
Sam Cook - 04/28/2009
Lonnie Dupre of Grand Marais was sleeping on the polar pack ice 1Â½ miles south of the North Pole on Saturday when a couple of his friends stopped by. It was Tyler Fish of Ely and Chicago's John Huston, shuffling on skis toward the pole. The chance encounter among the polar explorers didn't last long with temperatures about 1 below zero. Fish and Huston had another mile and a half to reach the pole on their Victorinox North Pole '09 expedition. Dupre and two companions had reached the North Pole just hours earlier but had drifted a mile and a half south on the moving sea ice. "It was a very proud moment to have those guys come into camp, being fellow Minnesotans," said Dupre, 48. Huston is from Chicago but has lived in Ely as a base camp manager for polar adventurer Will Steger of Ely. Huston and Fish forged on Saturday to become the first Americans to reach the North Pole under their own power without outside resupply. In 2006, Dupre had reached the North Pole on a first-ever summer expedition with teammate Eric Larsen of Grand Marais. Steger and Ely's Paul Schurke co-led a dogsled expedition to the North Pole in 1986 without outside resupply. Minnesotan Ann Bancroft also reached the pole on that trip. It's safe to say that no other state has such a concentration of polar explorers as Minnesota. Dupre served as a guide on this trek, called the Peary-Henson Commemorative Expedition in honor of 1909 polar explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson. Dupre was guiding Stuart Smith, a Texas attorney, and Maxime Chaya, an adventurer from Lebanon, who had sought his services earlier this year. Like Fish and Huston, Dupre's expedition started at Ellesmere Island in early March in Canada's arctic. Straight-line distance to the pole is 480 miles, but the team covered about 650 miles skirting jumbled ice and open-water leads. They endured temperatures of 55 below zero in the beginning to a high of 1 below at the pole, Dupre said. Smith suffered serious frostbite, and Dupre still has two numb toes, he said in an interview from the Radisson Hotel in Spitzbergen, Norway, on Monday. Dupre had to sleep with his campstove to solve a leaky O-ring problem, and he also lost 30 pounds from his 165-pound frame during the 54-day expedition. "It was very, very hard," Dupre said. "We were eating 8,000 calories a day and burning 10,000." The expedition was resupplied once by air en route and rendezvoused with a dogsled team near the end of the trip to pick up food when supplies were low. Near the end of the expedition, strong westerly winds pushed the floating ice eastward into the Transpolar Drift, which sends the ice back south. "It felt like it was never going to end," Dupre said. "We had to be on skis going north for 14 solid hours to try to make 10 or 12 miles to the good." Ice conditions were marginal for parts of the trip, Dupre said. "I've never seen such large areas of recently open water. Not even in summer," he said. "The ice on these leads was very thin. Any thinner and in many places, we would not have been able to cross." "There's only young ice, 1 to 2 years of age. That's a clear result of climate change." Both expeditions had a deadline of April 26 to reach the pole so they could be picked up by a Russian ice-station helicopter. From the ice station, they were flown by plane to Norway. Dupre plans to be back in Minnesota on May 8.