In Iqaluit, Canada, a severe weather warning means a danger of frost-bite in less than 5 minutes. These are the extreme conditions that intrepid adventurer Pat Falvey is training in, as he awaits the arrival of Dr Clare O'Leary at their training camp in Apex. He spoke to his Killarney Mountain Lodge base by Satellite phone as the countdown continues to the extraordinary pair's expedition to the North Pole. Here is the audio with text below of same.
"Well I'm in place now, and for the last few days in Apex, Iqaluit, in the Nunavut region and we have over 8,000 pieces of equipment and food all actually at our B&B. We've been sorting that for the last week or so. I was waiting for Clare to arrive with the rest of the equipment yesterday. She had arrived in Ottawa the day before but she has been 'bumped' because of storm conditions up here. The temperatures here have been very, very low. Since I've come there have been minus 20 to minus 50 degrees Celsius. Every day I'm out in the ice, testing our equipment, skis, snow-shoes, and general gear. It's lonely and I'm looking forward to Clare getting up and training with me. Yesterday in Iqaluit it was minus 50 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. I took some great pictures and hopefully we'll post them on the website. Training here, as you can imagine, is very hard as we always have the highest xxx ??? movement in the world; it widens and falls over 13 metres, creating massive, and I say 'massive' pressure ridges for us to train on, really back-breaking stuff when you're pulling sleds. Next week we'll be testing all of that.
The cultural situation here in Apex is amazing, where I'm staying. It was an old Inuit settlement and a lot of the workers who came here were Inuit in the early days of the American Base in Iqaluit which was set up for protection for Americans during the Cold War. Some of the people that I have spoken to, indeed one who was in her fifties, and who was doing some work with me here in the house... I couldn't believe the fact that she was 10-years of age when she saw her first house! She was born in an igloo and a fascinating woman. The people around here are absolutely fascinating. You know, I suppose, it's got very high unemployment they've lost the ways of the past; the hunter, the gatherer, the trapper - indeed, Martha, the girl that worked with me used to hunt with her father. Now all of this has stopped.
Well, Clare as I said, was due to land yesterday and join up with me here, but the weather conditions were bad, there was actually a forecast given out by the Canadian Met Office that warned of 'extreme wind chill' minus-50 degrees overnight. This is a warning that extreme wind-chill conditions are imminent or occurring in these regions. It advised that we monitor weather conditions and listen for update statements on the radio - that's what people are doing. It says that at these extreme wind-chill values frost-bite on exposed skin can occur in less than five minutes. Well I'm staying in a bed and breakfast in Iqaluit with a lovely woman originally from Faroe Islands and is very friendly. Well that's it for today, I'm really upbeat. The testing of the gear is going well, I have a couple of problems with sweating - believe it or not - in minus-50 degrees Celsius, with stopping and it freezing onto my skin. So, like, it's fairly severe. Feeling good, looking forward to Clare coming and thinking of all you at home during the elections. You know, it's an amazing time in my own country, and I'm so sad to be out of it while this is going on. But anyway, to more pressing stuff, training continues for the North Pole."
Pat's report Feb 1st
"Here I am now in Iqaluit, it's the 1st of Feb, very tired, since leaving Ireland. 3 days finalising all our purchases in Ottawa, ensuring last minute provisions are now packed, and now moving up to our training camp in Iqaluit, on Baffin Island, in a remote region of the Arctic. I'll be here for over 2 weeks.
Arriving at Ottawa Airport, I had 9 bags of provisions and equipment, in actual fact I was full to capacity - at the check-in desk, they were inquisitive at the fact of where I was going. Once they were aware that I was Irish and I was heading for the North Pole all the stops were pulled out! Absolutely brilliant staff at Air Canada. Couldn't believe that it went so well, the baggage charge went over $720 dollars - everything in relation to this expedition is expensive, and I'm on my way into the next stage of our expedition.
Heading North, the landscape below was changing dramatically. It gets whiter and whiter and more barren, as my journey now away from civilisation has begun. Arriving at Iqaluit in the Nunavut region, I was greeted by freezing temperatures. It was minus 30 degrees Celcius. A cool temperature compared to what Clare and I are expecting as we actually head to the start of our expedition to the North Pole. For the next three weeks, we'll be finalising our packing and testing all our gear here. I will be staying just outside Iqaluit in a small village called Apex, with Moniva Simonson B&B. That's it for today, the first of Feb. Everything is going according to plan. I'm awaiting Clare and looking forward to her coming out."
Pat - Apex Day 2
"Apex and day 2 in the Nunavut region, just outside Iqaluit. Lovely day today; looking out I can see right out to sea. Not too sure how much of it is iced in, pressure ridges all over the place. Left here about 9 o'clock for a couple of hours training, walking into Iqaluit. Took my skis today - big mistake! The sea ice was very very shiny, not very much grip on it. On getting down onto one of the pressure ridges I slipped and sprained my wrist from the fall.
Anyway, it's minus 35 still air temperature & minus 45 wind chill. Good test of gear today. No icing up; I was freezing cold, got some of the bearing systems wrong, but that's the reason why we're here. It's lonely actually, out on the ice on your own training, and I'm looking forward now to Clare coming in the next few days. That's it for today, I was packing food until 12 o'clock last night, walked - you know, did about 4 hours training yesterday. Ok, over and out"
You will also find these and more in our podcast gallery.
The team were dropped off on Tuesday evening Irish time and were only able to move 1 nautical mile in distance over and around house sized ice blocks, ridges and ledges to their first night on the frozen edge of the high Arctic.
With no contact from the team until 1pm today Friday, the initial anxious wait for family and followers is now over.
" We have about 9 nautical miles done so far and we seem to be getting closer to the edge of the ice shelf that gets pushed toward the frozen lands edge behind us a about 15-20 miles. John, Clare and myself are in good form but its very tough with temperatures down to -40C. We hope to enter more even ice now over the weekend and start making better distance. We managed only 1 mile on Day 1, then about 4 on Day 2 and Day 3. We seem to be out of the worst of this section, hopefully have time to contact base again and give our position later tonight or early tomorrow"
Ice conditions are reported as 'good', which is positive news for all the teams. We will post the teams position here once received and we will have a trackmap available very soon also.
Niall Foley - Operations manager
Irish adventurers Pat Falvey, Dr. Clare O’Leary and John Dowd have early this morning Canada time (Tuesday 2 March 2010) departed from Resolute to complete a historical and icy voyage as they navigate, walk, ski, and swim for two months on a 784 km expedition of endurance. Man-hauling their sleds across the rugged, broken, melting Arctic Ocean from Canada, they plan to be the first Irish team to reach the North Pole without the aid of dogs or any mechanical means.
Having spent the past 22 days training in YellowKnife and Resolute on the North West Passage in Canada, the Irish team are now on there way to the start of their Journey at Ward Hunt for their 60 day trek to the North Pole.
“We are very concerned at the ice condition at the moment having had satellite images showing the thin ice and large open leads. The team are confident but we won't underestimate the conditions,” says Pat Falvey, “through cold down to -50 degrees Celsius.”
Following several postponed flight over the last week in both Yellowknife and Resolute, the team are now boarded and flying north with gear weighing hundreds of kilo's packed into their chartered Twin Otter aircraft following a green light for take-off this morning. Weather in Ward hunt had been unstable over the last two days grounding their final flight.
" We are go, just boarding the plane now and hope to start skiing later on tonight (2nd March Canada time, 3rd March Irish time), ice conditions are improving somewhat with sea conditions stablising also as we move away from the recent full moon. Clare, John and myself are nervous but confident." Pat said over Satellite conversation with Operations manager Niall Foley at lunch time today.
The teams progress can be tracked at News section on PatFalvey.com.
A few weeks before Christmas a member of the expedition team was invited to talk to the students of 'Our Lady of the Wayside' primary school in Kiltiernan in Dublin. The North Pole team were out in Canada training so Niall Foley travelled up to give a short presentation on the Antarctic and South Georgia.
With so many kids in attendence Niall decided to bring some props as follows: Down Sleeping Bag, Thermal Sleeping Mat, Rucksack, Winter Expedition Boots, Crampons, Ice Axe and Harness.
"After a lovely welcome I was thrilled to see that the school had the corridors covered in Antarctic and Ice project work, Sharon Kelly of the PALC had mentioned it was this years theme for the school, brilliant idea!"
Mrs Duckenfield would have been the driving force behind the Antarctica Project in the school. Also, our Acting Principal is Mrs Burns (while Ms. Corcoran is on maternity leave) and the talk was given to all classes from 2nd class up to 6th class. The Parents Associations Library Committee, in conjunction with Mrs Duckenfield decorated the School Library / Corridor and each class made something to display during Art.
All the kids entered the hall and were very excited. Niall spoke a bit on History first as a starting point, raising questions to the kids ever so often. With a slideshow behind him he then displayed some fantastic colour images of South Georgia and training for doing the crossing, not to mention the many different types of penguins and seals. The excitment rose further when Niall was speaking about Pat and the South Pole trip, he displayed some great images of Freddy T Bear pulling a sled and skiing. Once he finished up a little later Niall produced freddy out of his rucksack and there was mayhem!! The kids couldn't believe Freddy had also come to their school. A few photos later and there was a big thank you to Niall for coming along with his stories and expedition gear. Each class getting a chance to hold freddy's paw on the way out back to their classes.
Niall mentioned "It was a great day, I was a little nervous when I arrived but when I walked up the hallways to see the great project and artwork on the walls it was like I was back in the Antarctic. The kids were brilliant, and we hope they keep up their interest in the Antarctic and the Arctic especially as Freddy is heading up with the Irish North Pole team soon. Bravo to the Teachers, staff and PALC for keeping the kids minds alive with great activities like these projects, I'm sure the extra effort will go along way... Some of the kids sent me lovely letters, it was really nice to read each one and what they learned from my visit."
This week Freddy T. Bear has announced that he will be traveling to Antarctica in November with students to help them complete a project on Global Warming and Climate Change. He is really excited! You can read Freddy's daily blog on the website. Stay tuned for more information!
Hip, hip hoorah!! WE ARE AT THE SOUTH POLE!!
I am so excited, I can hardly sit still to write this! Yesterday morning we started skiing at 7.00am and could see the South Pole in the distance. It was just a black dot, but we didn't care, we were finally within reach of our goal.
The sun shone as we skied the final 20km; Polly and I couldn't stop grinning, knowing that after 58 days on the ice and 1,140km of skiing, we would soon get the chance to stand at the South Pole.
Nobody wanted to stop for breaks! We're all tired of eating the same food and are too keen to get there.
By 4.00pm we were walking along the runway towards the South Pole Station. Thirty minutes later we could see the international ceremonial flags which surround the South Pole globe.
"You go ahead first, Freddy, you have done the team proud." Clare called from behind. I slowly walked up to the globe, touched it, looked at myself in the glass and then broke into a huge smile. "Wow! We really are here!!" I shouted. Pat, Clare, Shaun and Jon stepped out of their skis and unclipped from their sleds. Together with Polly, we all hugged, cheered and waved the Irish flag. What a proud moment....one I will never forget - I am the first Irish bear to reach the South Pole, Polly the first penguin, Clare the first Irish female and all of us make up the first Irish team!
After taking some photos, we were met by the station master. She took us on a tour of the station where 243 people are currently working. It was so cool to step into the warmth of their canteen where we were treated to hot drinks and fresh cookies!
Our journey is finally over. Thank you to everyone at home who has followed our expedition. We've had a long, tough trip and all your messages have meant a lot to us.
I'm looking forward to getting home now.. See you when we get there!
Freddy & Polly.
Clare O Leary has been helping Freddy write his blogs since he left Ireland. Her enthusiasm and commitment for keeping it updated is a fantastic achievement and may help children get involved and learn about their expedition experience. Great job Clare.
Wow! I couldn't believe it when Clare told me this evening that we only have 70km left to ski to the South Pole!
Polly and I squealed with delight. Imagine we have been skiing for 55 days now- its hard to believe - we have already covered over 1,000km!
On the map, we can see how close we are getting to the Pole. We started at 80 degrees and have now reached 89 degrees - when we get to 90 degrees, we are there!
I'm trying to picture what the South Pole will look like, when we will be able to see it, who we will meet and what we will do there...
If everything goes according to plan, we should reach the Pole in 3-4 days - I can't wait!
Thank you to everyone who has sent good luck messages to Polly and me in the past few days - it is really helping us stay strong.
"Wake up, Freddy, it's 6.10!" I rubbed my eyes and tried to sit up. I couldn't believe it was morning already. Clare was cooking breakfast and had already packed most of her gear. "Hurry on, Freddy - we're starting earlier this morning; we leave at 7.30am."
I struggled out of my sleeping bag, while at the same time eating my breakfast. I really didn't want to be late - it is not fair to leave the others waiting in the cold - and I was afraid they might start without me!
My boots had frozen solid during the night and it took me ages to force my paws in. I could feel the hard ice inside and shivered as I left the tent.
We started at 7.30am as planned. I skied as fast as I could to try and warm up. I hadn't eaten a proper breakfast and soon felt hungry. The extreme cold here eats into your bones and uses lots of energy - that added to 8-9 hours skiing everyday is tough on our bodies.
As I skied behind Shaun and Jon, I could see how loose their clothes had become. Pat looks like a different person now and Clare like a stick insect.
I can't really see myself, but Polly tells me I am slowly disappearing! I have to work hard at eating everything - it gets so boring eating the same food day after day - I'm longing for a big home cooked dinner followed by my jar of honey!
Yippee! Finally a rest day and a chance to celebrate Christmas. We've had a really tough week here on the ice and are all exhausted from skiing (over 900km!), hauling, pulling and dragging. Everyone looks very tired and too thin. Pat is still in pain but is managing to pull his own sled; Polly and I have been helping Clare out with the digging, sawing and cooking so that Pat doesn't have to bend his back. As a treat for our rest day, Jon cooked Christmas dinner. It was a real treat not to have to eat out of a plastic bag! We had potato cakes, quiche and banoffi pie all made out of dried food! Amazing job! I had completely forgotten to bring anyone Christmas presents, but was really chuffed when Clare gave me a wooly hat, Jon gave me a new toothbrush and Shaun gave me a homemade card. We listened to some Christmas music and Shaun played the tin whistle. It was a lovely evening and I wished I could stay in bed for one more day.