North Pole 2005In association with Verbier Exclusive
Our plan was simple - to retrace Commander Robert E. Peary's footsteps from Cape Columbia on the north coast of Canada to the North Pole and try to match or better his disputed 1909 journey of 37 days. 80% of North Pole expeditions end in failure. So to set ourselves a target of getting there in the fastest time in the history of polar exploration was setting the bar very high.
Nothing could have prepared our four-man, one-woman, sixteen-dog team for the debilitating temperatures of the Arctic which hovered around the -40oC mark for the first 3 weeks of the journey. We battled our way over 30-foot pressure ridges, often making less than two miles of northerly progress in a full day's travel. It made our South Pole expedition three years earlier seem like a Sunday stroll.
Then came the balmy (-20oC) weather as the bitter polar winter turned to spring, bringing rapidly shifting ice floes as the Arctic Ocean started to break up. Southerly drift and open water became the new threats and every one of us (dogs included) fell into the perishing cold water at one point or other.
But it was the dogs on whose Herculean efforts our success depended and the special bond we had with our amazingly loyal and hard-working Canadian Eskimo Dogs is what I cherish most from the expedition.
The Barclays Capital Ultimate North Expedition finally reached the top of the world on April 26th 2005, after a gruelling journey of 36 days and 22 hours, beating Peary's time by a couple of hours. There were times when I genuinely believed that we might not make it, but to be standing at the North Pole, the centre of the Earth's axis, looking south in every direction, felt absolutely incredible.
The admiration and respect which I hold for Robert Peary, Matthew Henson and the four Inuit men who ventured North in 1909, has grown enormously since we set out from Cape Columbia. Having now seen for myself how he travelled across the pack ice, I am more convinced than ever that Peary did indeed discover the North Pole.
Driving dogs is the most efficient way to travel up there and the travel speeds that Peary claimed to have achieved seem highly reasonable. Whilst there will always be those who set out to discredit Peary, we believe that our expedition has swung the argument very much in his favour.
I hope that we have finally brought an end to the debate and that Peary’s name will be restored to where it belongs in the pantheon of the great polar explorers.