Greenland Crossing & Olympic Torch
As the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay is underway, like a raging fire around the world, I am going to return to the area of the North Pole to challenge a new record--- a trek across Greenland. This time my partner is a new hand for such expeditions. He is a 59-year-old geologist from Kunming named Fei Xuan and we will be joining an international team of adventurers.
May 11, 2008: We left Beijing in the afternoon and arrived in Copenhagen at 16:40 local tiime as scheduled. We had no problem in getting through the Copenhagen customs although we had worried and had prepared to stay at the ariport for 5 hours since the starting date on our visas is 12th May. As soon as settling down at our hotel rooms we immediately went downtown for a quick sightsee.
May 13: We left Copenhagen at 09:15 local time as scheduled and arrived at Kangerlusuuaq around half an hour later. Fei Xuan and I were the only Asians in the airplane, but to my great surprise, I met my old friends---Norbert from Germany and Alexander from Moscow. Norbert and I were team members during our North and South Pole expeditions while Alexander was with us in South Pole. This time we will be team members during this expedition.
Kangerlusuuaq is a rather small town with just about 60 population and the facilities in the Kangerlusuuaq airport is very low. We were typical foreigners to the local people who were indeed interested in us while we were walking along the street. After settling down at the Kangerlusuuaq Hotel, Fei Xuan took out his tools and was ready to explore the hills around Kangerlusuuaq, I accompnied him even though I was feeling a little tired due to the time difference. We did pick some stones which he said were precious and he was trying to teach me how to tell the difference between common stones and the precious stones.
May 14: Since my friends Norbert and Alexander went to Illulisat and Sisimiut for their pre-expedition, so we were left alone in Kangerlusuuaq. We traveled around the small place, visited the small museum and went to the hills to pick more stones.
We heard about the earthquake in Sichuan and we felt very very sad. Being so far away from China, we could do nothing but to prey for those who were suffering. I called my office to donate for me.
May 15: The team has all gathered in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. We spent the day reviewing our gear, sorting food and equipment, making sure our personal kits were all in order. We enjoyed a special barbecue dinner in a yurt. We plan to get a good night's rest before our charter flight out to the start of the expedition tomorrow afternoon. Team members are Alexander Drozdkov (Russia), Norbert Kern (Germany), Katerina Marinaki (Greece), Lawrence Lahay (USA) and Fei Xuan and I from China with expedition guides Mykkel Lybaech and Peter Ignatiussen from Greenland and Annie Aggens and Keith Heger of Polar Explorers, Wilmette, IL.
May 16: We were transported by ski equipped Twin Otter from Kangerlussuaq to 67.04° North, 49.04° West, approximately 72 km (45 miles) from Kangerlussuaq at an altitude of 915 m (3,000'). We arrived at 4:00 PM local time. We flew over an area that was heavily crevassed but landed in a beautiful area with relatively solid ice. Temperature was -4° C (25° F) and conditions were perfect- unlimited visibility, minimal wind and blue skies. We plan to make camp and hit the trail tomorrow. We have 14 dogs on one team and 12 dogs on the other. The mushers built a special sled for this expedition which is 5 meters (16') long. For comparison, the sleds we used for the North Pole expeditions were about 3 meters (10') long. All are very excited to commence our expedition.
May 17: All is well. It's a beautiful day- blue skies, unlimited visibility, minimal winds, temperatures just at freezing 0° C, 32° F. Due to the relatively warm conditions, we plan to adjust our schedule and travel in the afternoon and into the night (2:00 PM to 12:00 AM) so the dogs won't get too warm and the ice will be more solid.
May 18: Current position is 67.06° North, 48.39° West. We had a fantastic day of travel yesterday, covering 21 km (13 miles). We had beautiful weather- blue skies, unlimited visibility, slight wind at our faces, temperatures still around 0° C (32° F). We were planning to begin travel around noon today.
May 19: Current position is 66.59° North, 48.11° West. Today is Larry Lahays (team member from Colorado) birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LARRY!! Hes thinking about his mother and brother and wishing them all the best. We will celebrate with a special birthday dinner tonight. Conditions currently are overcast with blowing snow, temperature still around 0° C (32° F). The snow is very wet, tents, boots, everything is wet so moisture management is a key issue. We hope the temperatures will drop some to freeze the snow further. We traveled 24 km (15 miles) yesterday in 8 hours. Conditions were very overcast with flat light, giving no depth perception. This made travel and navigation tricky and we felt very positive about covering 24 km. All are in great spirits looking forward to another good day of travel.
May 20: Current position is 66.53.253° North, 047.45.479° West. We had a challenging travel day yesterday with zero visibility, winds from the SE at 24 km/hr (15 mph) all day, blowing snow. But we persevered and traveled 22 km (13.7 miles). Temperatures were warm 2° C (35.6° F) which contributed to the challenges.
May 21: Current position is 66.48.63° N, 047.27.79° W. We traveled 15 km (9.3 miles) yesterday through very challenging conditions- wet, heavy and deep snow. We had gray skies and very poor visibility. The dogs were stars, pulling the sleds through the difficult snow conditions. And the team members all did a fantastic job breaking trail and persevering through the challenges. Temperatures were -7 to -4° C (20-25° F) but have now dropped to -10° C (15° F). All are in good spirits, hoping that the temperature will continue to drop and bring about better snow and travel conditions tomorrow.
May 22: Current position is 66 40.772° North, 046 56.878° West. We had an excellent day of travel yesterday in challenging conditions. We covered 27 km (16.8 miles) with winds from the south at 40 km/hour (25 mph). We had zero visibility, making travel and navigation quite difficult but temperatures were in our favor, -15° C (5° F) so the colder temperature combined with the wind dried out the snow and let the dogs really run.
May 23: Current position is 66 32.773° North, 046 27.971° West. 66 32.773 N 046027.971 W Weather's great and everyone is in good spirits. The team started 10k from the distant early warning radar site, today's destination, which was set up in 1959 to monitor cold war activities from the U.S..
May 24: Current position is 66 29° North, 45 58° West. The team is 13k west of the radar site from yesterday. The team spent 2 hours at the radar site, and still managed to cover 23k. It's sunny, with a light wind, and the team is ready to go.
May 25: Current position is 66 27.22° North, 45 18.19° West. Yesterday was beautiful with mixed clouds and very nice travel conditions. We traveled 30.2k. The wind began to pick up once we made camp, and continued to increase all night. Once morning came, it was too much to travel. We've been getting outside to dig away some of the snow piling against our tents, but otherwise it looks like today is an off day.
May 26: Current position is 66 27.22° North, 45 18.19° West. After yesterday's forced layover due to 40 Mph winds, We ready to get moving again. We had some excitement last night, when one of the tents had to be moved in 35 Mph winds to a better position. The winds have abated now to about 20 Mph with 30 Mph gusts. We are busy trying to dig out all the dogsleds and tents from the drift snow, so they can get on their way.
May 27: Current position is 66 26.12° North, 44 50.11° West. We managed 21k after a late start from waiting for the wind to die down. We travelled through a lot of different conditions yesterday. Things changed quickly and frequently. We went through sunny skies with a headwind, then to overcast with almost no visibility. We were rewarded with some tasty fried tortillas for our efforts.
May 28: Current position is 66 23.598° North, 44 13.589° West. We traveled 27.5 km (17.1 miles) with decent travel conditions. Visibility was limited and the winds were at our faces but we managed to cover significant distance. we look forward to reaching the summit soon. All are in very good spirits.
May 29: Current position is 66 22.869° North, 44 05.288° West. Windbound! We traveled in full white out conditions yesterday with winds of 48 km/hr (30 mph) and zero visibility. We were able to follow the tracks of the dog teams and kept close together but it was extremely challenging. After 3.5 hours, we had made 7 km (4.4 miles) and decided to stop and make camp. This as you can imagine was quite difficult with such winds. Today, the winds increased to 80.5 km/hr (50 mph) sustained with gusts significantly higher. The weather forecast indicates that the storm should blow over tonight and winds decrease tomorrow. All are well and safely in their tents, looking forward to hearing the wind die down so we can continue their travels.
May 30: Current position is the same as yesterday as we were not able to move at all due to the extremely high winds. We boldly braved the storm and maintained high spirits throughout. One tent sustained damage in the winds and we had to have 4 teamates stay at one tent, but it has now been repaired. We were delighted to find the winds died down today and we have a beautiful day for travel.
May 31: Current position is 66 19.47° North, 043 25.32° West. We had an amazing day of travel! The storm finally broke around 1 a.m. to the great relief of all. We had a slow start to the day as we had to dig out the dogsleds which were completely buried in snow, break off the ice balls crusted in the dogs fur, repair the tent which had been damaged in the wind- all part of the adventure! When we started traveling, we had no wind and 100% sun, perfect visibility. As the afternoon wore on, it became partly cloudy and we had a slight wind but it was at our backs. We traveled 30 km (18.64 miles) in 7.5 hours- the fastest travel date yet. All are very excited to be back on the move, looking forward to more travel days like this.
June 1: Current position is 66 16.756° North, 042 45.980° West. We had another great day of travel, covering 30 km (18.64 miles). The weather cooperated nicely with lots of sunshine and mild temperatures. We look forward to continuing this trend of clocking the kilometers toward our final destination.
June 2: Current position is 66 13.853° North, 42 07.134° West.
The team is doing very well. Yesterday, We traveled 30 km in mixed conditions-
at times, the snow was very wet and heavy which can stick to ones skis
and have the effect of slamming on the brakes. But we persevered and were able
to make good progress.
We received an email from Mary D., wondering about the location of the dog food cache. It is located at 66 03.14° North, 40 10.84° West. From there, it will be all downhill and we anticipates making significant progress, clocking away the kilometers, heading into the home stretch.
June 3: Current position is 66 10.717° North, 41 31.951° West. The team had an exceptionally challenging day yesterday aswe traveled through deep, deep snow. It took great effort on everyones part, skiers and dogs, and we deservedly felt very proud to have made 27 km (16.8 miles). We woke up to stormy conditions this morning and were concerned we might be weathered in again. But the storm blew threw and we were able to get a late morning start, still hoping to cover 30 km today.
June 5: Current position is 66 03.142° North, 040 10.835° West. Yesterday the team traveled 30 km (18.64 miles) again. We experienced all different kinds of weather- at the end of the day we experienced the most beautiful sky we have seen yet. We are now 78 km from the coast. Everyone is in great spirits as the end of the expedition is nearing and we experience the sense of accomplishment from all our hard work.
June 6: Current position is 65 57.036° North, 039 34.096° West. The team traveled another 30 km yesterday. We had excellent weather and great travel conditions. Going downhill really helps too! We are nearing our goal rapidly and feeling excited as the end draws nearer.
June 7: Success!!! We traveled to their pick up point yesterday at 65
53.773 North, 039 13.239 West and met the charter helicopter which took us to
Kulusuk. We were extremely fortunate that the weather cooperated- the pilot
told us that had it been 20 minutes later, he would not have been able to fly.
We arrived in Kulusuk and thoroughly enjoyed all of the comforts of civilization-
showers, celebratory dinner in the restaurant and perhaps a few alcoholic beverages.
Overall, it was an outstanding expedition. We had some absolutely spectacular
days of weather and travel, some extremely challenging days, we weathered a
severe storm which had everyone rather anxious and we all worked together as
a team to accomplish our ultimate goal- crossing the Greenland Icecap. It was
a unique situation to have a 10 member team representing 7 different nationalities.
Today all will be departing from Kulusuk, beginning their journeys back to their
homes, families and friends.
Congratulations to all team members on a spectacular accomplishment! Expeditions such as this require not only good physical conditioning but can present mental and emotional challenges that not all are cut out for. Our team did an incredible job meeting all of the various challenges. We are all extremely proud of team members Alexander Drozdkov (Russia), Norbert Kern (Germany), Katerina Marinaki (Greece), Jin Fei Bao and Fei Xuan (China) and Lawrence Lahay (USA) with expedition guides Mykkel Lybaech and Peter Ignatiussen from Greenland and Annie Aggens and Keith Heger of Polar Explorers, Wilmette, IL. Bravo!!!
Fei Bao gets back to Yunnan just in time to carry the Olympic torch!