On the Pole! "I was told that this road will lead me to the Ocean of
Death, and I turned back half-way. Since then
I am walking on crooked and lonely and
roundabout ways..."
A. Strugatski & B. Strugatski

The Northern Odyssey of the "Newest Russians"

Unfortunately we have stopped wondering. Everything looks so simple when one is watching TV. We have completely forgotten that through the centuries the North Pole lured lots of illustrious travelers as an unattainable but highly desired goal and that just a hundred years ago the world announced the final verdict: "The North Pole is inaccessible!..."

The human yearning for adventures cannot be easily explained by the fact that they just exist. The impetus is always concealed in the complexity of the human nature and rests there incomprehensible and latent.

The fantastic and adventurous journey organized by VICAAR Agency and NEVA Extreme Tourist Center under the leaderships of Victor Boyarski and Anatoly Moshnikov took place in April 1997. It goes without saying that the search for adventures and the novelty of the task of conquering the North Pole always brings about a genuine interest of foreigners and successful Russian businessmen and this interest is warmed up by difficulty obtaining technical and financial resources.

Among participants were:

Anatoly Moshnikov, a famous mountain climber, who conquered Mount Everest and Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas without using oxygen.

Sergey Koldin, talented businessman , a romanticist and an adventurer.

Oleg Lysov, General Manager of Petrospek, a former boxing and karate champion, holder of an honorary Eagle decoration entrusted to him by Mr. Chernomyrdin, the Prime Minister.

Under solicitous guidance of Anatoly Moshnikov these people have left for Norilsk having bid farewell (though temporarily) to the civilized world. The silent expanses and the severe simplicity of the North have easily erased the usual world of cellular phones, current affairs and discordances.

Modern conveniences though are not of essence . The most challenging factor is to adapt oneself to the surroundings and to assume a proper attitude towards your own associates. There in the Arctic the essentials are loyality and self-sacrifice .

The itinerary to the North Pole started in St.Petersburg (59°54.04'N & 30°25.67'E) and continued as follows:

Alykel (in 50 km from Norilsk) - Khatanga - the Sedov Archipelago, Sredni Island (79°31.14'N & 91°08.56'E) - the Ice Aerodrome (88°29.31'N & 59°49.19'E) - the North Pole (89°59.59'N & 62°4.67'E) and back.

One of the participants recalls:

"After careful checking procedures at the frontier in the town of Dudinka which is the second largest town in this area we have left for Khatanga on a transport plane. Being part of a vast Krasnoyarsk area that covers the territory similar in size to that of Norway, Khatanga is one of the oldest Northern settlements with population of 6 thousand people. It is located in the permafrost zone and is notorious for its extremely severe living. The major problems of its inhabitants are the same as everywhere else: postponed salary payments and absence of any outlooks for the future.

We stayed overnight in the only hotel in the town and slept in our sleeping bags on the floor of its service room, the rest of the hotel being occupied by the President of the Republic of Saha and its delegation. In the morning we departed for the so-called Ice Aerodrom, a huge ice-floe found and prepared for landing and taking off as a result of heroic efforts of technicians from Khatanga. Two hours later the plane was damaged and we were obliged to make a forced landing on Sredny Island. While the damage was being repaired , we took our time enjoying hospitality of a fellow-countryman and tasting his liquors. The plane repaired, we landed on the Ice Aerodrome and hardly avoided the destiny of being crushed by a crowd of foreigners eager to return back home. We were left alone.

Helicopter seen from the tent window. In a distance of 300 meters a number of tents housed a radio operator and helicopter pilots whose helicopters MI-8 stood motionless not very far away. Before we reached the tents, it became evident why foreigners were so eager to leave - bitter cold of 30 degrees below zero and a strong northern wind have turned our faces into icy masks. The snow around the tents was littered with belongings left by those who had so gladly left for the real world just a few minutes ago.

The pilots told us about the extraordinary hard weather conditions of the year. Strong head wind, severe frost and unfrozen patches of water made the route impassable for many . Two groups had turned back half-way. Italians and French could not resist crucibles. A Japanese who had ventured to undertake the journey alone hardly survived.

Our goal was to join a group of Austrians (and among them the celebrated Hubert Meissner) guided by an experienced polar explorer Victor Boyarski on their way to the North Pole. We were equipped with a food stock (Gallina Blanca instant soups, vigour beverages and lard as an indispensable item of every far-away journey). a compact gas burner, a double water- and windproof NORTH FACE tent, GPS location system and a compass.

We took off on the 22nd of April, and made on the average 15 km per day, ice-hummocks, the head northern unyielding wind and impassable patches of unfrozen water being the main obstacles. Adventures were not long to wait for. The compass turned to be broken, and because of extensive usage the GPS accumulator expired. Besides, during the first night the block of ice we were camping on drifted 8 km away from the course. As a result of combined efforts we managed to get GPS running from the video camera accumulator but it considerably narrowed the opportunity of shooting.

Putting up the tent was the most torturous thing of all. All the parts got frozen and we struggled with every piece to join them together. We cooked in the tent (as people usually do in the mountains) on a gas burner melting ice cubes prepared beforehand. Usually it took one hour and a half to prepare a bowl of tea or coffee. One morning we were waken up by a terrible crash and found ourselves on a block of ice surrounded by crumbled ice. Having feverishly picked up the belongings, we desperately searched for a way out and silently prayed for survival.

But the happy end was not very far away. We joined the Austrian group at the Pole and solemnly celebrated the event with champagne and red caviar (see the picture above).

Lonely helicopter.
White bear.

Then the helicopter brought us back to the Ice Aerodrome where we were surprised by the news of a polar bear who had hurt 2 persons and devoured a heap of food. The technicians were dismantling the tents ready for departure. The ice-floe cracked, and we had to hurry up not to stay here forever..."

It is not true that gone are those days when courageous people headed for unknown distant lands of the North and suffered hardships for the sake of the dream come true and died having the goal not attained. Certainly, the unknown lands are scanty but the Poles will remain as will remain courage, bravery and search for unexplored inciting people to take risks and have adventures. In spite of how well the traveler is technically equipped the Nature has stocked for him floods, storms, earthquakes and avalanches to prove his mortality.

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