THE LAST EXPEDITION TO THE NORTH POLE
Eric Larsen and his colleague Ryan Waters travelled 500 miles across the melting Arctic Ocean to complete the last human navigated expedition to the North Pole ever. We take a look at the challenges they faced, the reason for the Arctic ice to be melting with record rates and the consequences of this phenomena to humankind
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Bao Menglong
12 December 2019
Reaching the North Pole has always been a difficult task. It is a challenge that not many are ready to face. In the past, there have been numerous expeditions to this Arctic destination, mainly for scientific purposes. All the experiences and facts travellers have gained regarding the North Pole are precious. The knowledge scientists have accumulated on expeditions could not have been recorded in any other way. Yet, recent expeditions to this far-away land have become harder. It is even possible that in the near future visiting the North Pole would simply be a memory of something that could only have been done in the past.
There is a simple explanation of why this is happening. The North Pole is known for its rough climate. Usually, a trip there could take up to 50 days. That part of Earth is a cold place with severe climate, covered in white snow and thick ice. Surviving in these conditions for so long is difficult enough, but it would still be manageable, if the land would welcome visitors. However, the ice is recorded to have slowly begun to wear out. Today going to the North Pole is much harder compared to 8-10 years ago. The temperatures in the North Polar region are increasing because of the global warming.
Adventurist Eric Larsen has visited the severe area in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. He documented how different his last trip was compared to the two he undertook earlier in the decade. Eric’s mission was the subject of his book On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest Into the Melting Arctic. The book tells the story of Eric and his colleague Ryan Waters, who travel 500 miles across the Arctic Ocean aiming to reach the North Pole from Northern Ellesmere Island.
"To think about something that's so big and so huge and that's identified exploration for centuries, one of the last great unexplored places ... what would you say if Mount Everest got bulldozed and was no longer there? […] It's a sad thing."
- ERIC LARSEN on the melting of the Arctic ice
Their journey is made even more challenging by the melting ice that didn’t allow them to move quickly. In some areas, the ice surface was so thin that they could even feel it break under their skis. Eric and Ryan found themselves forced to drag all of their equipment alongside, including sleds, in almost inhumane conditions. This astonishing two-men expedition is a historical one. Pastel images and GPS maps help the book readers follow the author’s journey through this icy kingdom where the temperatures would sometimes drop below 70°C.
Larsen and Walter’s visit to the Northern Pole is also called “Last North Expedition”. Their journey is likely going to be the last ever human-navigated expedition to this Arctic place in the history of all mankind. The North Pole is a piece of land that remains frozen for the better part of the year. The ice of the Arctic Ocean expands and shrinks with the seasons’ change. Today the ice is melting faster than ever, making the North Pole out of human reach. Mark Serese, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Bulder, Colorado, stated that this year the ice cover has reached record low levels and the number is only expected to decrease. NASA reported the same conclusion.
Reading “On Thin Ice” will give you an exclusive insight at what Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters experienced on their ambitious journey to the North Pole. From swimming in below zero degrees waters to escaping from polar bears, the two explorers were unstoppable in the face of challenge. Larsen and Walter were on a mission to visiting this magnificent Arctic destination one last time for the sake of all mankind.