Adventurous Couple Skis, Swims Towards North Pole

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Traveling Over Ice

The Sjogrens ski while pulling buoyant sleds, which they have learned to sometimes use as precarious boats. Without the aid of dogs or vehicles, they labor to pull the 150-pound (68 kilogram) loads across the rugged landscape which can include pressure ridges that are 15 feet (five meters) high or more. They began the expedition to the North Pole with four sleds, moving them forward in shifts.

Ten-hour days can sometimes yield little progress, especially when the moving icepack is working against them. The drifting pack can retard progress and challenge navigation. "Last night we drifted about 5 miles (eight kilometers) toward Greenland," Thomas reported during the May 15 satellite call.

The biggest problem the adventurers are facing, however, is the tremendous amount of dangerous thin ice and open water they are encountering. The icepack is unstable at this time, and shifting ice is creating "problems with huge amounts of open water," said Thomas.

The channel of open water created by a break in a mass of ice is known as a lead; the Sjogrens plan to go around the leads when possible. When it's not, and the leads are small enough, the alternative is to swim them. That's right, swim them.

The Sjogrens have trained to wade right into the narrower leads and swim, while pulling their sleds.

"We have specially made dry suits," Thomas explained. "They are thinner and weigh about four pounds (1.8 kilograms). What we do is just swim the short leads, or sit on the sled and just kind of paddle—there are no style points for this kind of thing."

Despite their extensive training and recent experience in Antarctica, the North Pole experience has still held some surprises for the couple.

"We did a lot of research but never imagined all that we would encounter up here," Thomas said. "The Arctic can be like a kind of horrific amusement park—but it's not really funny."

Although the challenges are great, the end is in sight. On May 15, Thomas estimated that they have seven days of travel left. They also had seven days of food and fuel at full rations, so he feels that they might have to go to half rations for four or five days to build a margin of safety.

Even with such concerns, the mental challenges are the hardest for the team right now, so they must fight through them and continue onward. They do so by repeating the mantra that has sustained them for 110 days of nearly continuous exploration: "Don't think, just go!" If it works, they might just celebrate Tina's next birthday at the North Pole.

For updates on the progress of the expedition, and dispatches and images from the previous expeditions, visit the Sjogrens' Web site: Go>>

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