Last night I went to a talk in Dublin by Norweigan Borge Ousland who is one of the greatest polar explorers of our time. It was a very interesting talk about all his expeditions to the North/South poles, Patagonia and even Everest. Some of his pictures were breathtaking and his video clips were an eye opener to the extent of the conditions they faced.
The most insiring part of the lecture was about how he travelled to the North Pole in the middle of winter with Mike Horn, who wins my vote for most hardcore traveller, in 24 hours of darkness. He was the only person who thought it was possible, everyone else said it could not be done. It was facinating to hear his train of thought and how he confronts challenges. There is something really cool about hearing people ramble and say what they feel. Alot of people hold back on what they say and make sure it will portray the right image and attitude.
One of his earlier points on dealing with Polar Bears was that if you could see them coming from a distance it was no problem, now in the dark it was a different story. Who ever was the back was more than likely the one who would get a tap on the shoulder from the polar bear, so they split the time at the back fairly evenly! Each day, 6 times on average, they would have to cross open water by putting on a dry suit and swimming across pulling and pushing the sleds.
When the talk was finished question time was funny. Some old guy in the audience asked him why try climb Everest even though some 2000 people had climbed it already. Even though he had already explained why he wanted to in his section on Everest he patiently said "because its the highest mountain in the world". The old guy was clearly looking for some convoluted answer and was not happy with his reply haaaa. Borge did not make it to the summit as his oxygen bottle had a leak and he would not have had enough to make it to the summit and back safely so turned around after 2 months getting that far and only 200 meters from the summit.
The worrying thing was the evidence of global warming, the pictures he has in his collection from 20 years ago of the thickness of the ice are shocking. In the next couple of years there will be no ice at the north pole during the summer. This will have some serious consequences for the wildlife and on the global scale for all of us.
On one of his solo trips to the North Pole he finally reached the pole after 2 months when he heard a helicopter. Out jumps a Saudi Prince, he had only left the base camp 30 minutes ago and laughed when he heard how long it took Borge to get there!
I have always enjoyed reading about expeditions to the poles so getting to hear personal stories from a true explorer was a delight. How do you take a dump at -40 celcius? hmmm 10 times faster than you normally would.