Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul (2010) Movie Script

l guess its T minus twelve hours
now, just about.
We're going to preload the plane
and at 7:00 am tomorrow,..
...if weather is good,
we'll take off for the ice.
l think we're ready.
lt is difficult to pin point
the beginning of this journey.
Was it the childhood dream
to follow in the steps of...
...the supermen who chartered
the maps of our world...
...with their bravery, instinct and
natural connection with the land?
Was it the day the thought
entered my mind...
...that to make the poles could
in fact be within my reach?
Was it a year ago when l began
articulating the thought,..
...first mentally, then vocally,
that l would undertake...
...the Everest of polar expeditions,
perhaps the toughest on Earth?
Was it six months ago when l stepped
up both my training and diet... increase strength and mass
so that l could endure...
...the brutal cold
and harsh conditions...
...of six to eighth weeks
on the ice?
Was it when, lo and behold,
amidst a failing economy...
...minimal funding came
through to green light... my two-member Centennial
expedition to the North Pole... commemorate Peary"s first
successful reach 1909?
Or is it just now, as l sit in the
middle row of a fully booked...
...flight to Minnesota to undergo
a week of "shakedown" training... test the equipment,
the systems and our capabilities?
Conditions here can simulate
the arctic environment.
And spending a week on a
frozen lake, sleeping in snow,..
...and dropping into a hole
in the ice for survival tests...
...can wake you to
the realities ahead.
We were leading by example into
a wilderness that is endangered.
One which is suffering greatly,
at the hands of climate change.
We had a shortage of food,
We face really, really tough
traveling conditions.
Those decisions we made in a tent
hindered us from peak performance.
-We had very reduced visibility...
-l was physically exhausted.
...because l virtually could
hardly see a damn thing.
Rescue is uncertain.
North Pole is a very,
very difficult experience.
And travelling to there is
the hardest trip in the world.
The ice just simply opened up from
under me and swallowed me.
l got the exploring bug from my
Grandfather who conducted safaris... lndia and Africa
in the 1940s and 50s.
By mid life he traded
his gun for a camera.
My earliest memories of photographs
date from childhood...
...and viewing black and whites
of his lions and elephants.
l shot my first pictures of wildlife
in Africa when l was 12.
From that time on, photography
has been my weapon.
With images my mission"d be to help
people fall in love with their world.
Because l feel that we will not
save what we do not love.
My first trips to Antarctica
were game changers...
...and such rich experiences.
lt is also a system that is
challenged by climate change.
l first went there in 2006 with
my friend John Quigley... send an SOS from a remote
iceberg in the Gerlach Strait.
That trip consolidated
my love for the ice,..
...and from it l brought back
impressions that changed my life.
l had dreamt of reaching the
North Pole since l was a child.
Today that environment,
ground zero for climate change,.. melting away
at confounding rates.
And my childhood dream
will no longer... afforded to the children
of future generations.
Part of my mission is to commemorate
the remarkable feat of...
...Admiral Peary, Henson, and his
team of lnuit who set off on foot...
...and reached the North Pole,
100 years ago, on April 6th, 1909.
But it is also to raise
awareness on the fact...
...that there"ll be no bicentennial
expedition on foot to the North Pole.
The Arctic Sea cap is melting away
so rapidly that it will be gone... the summer months--
within just a few years.
lt is hard to imagine the
North Pole without ice,..
...but that is the impending
reality that we will face.
This should send a clarion to the
world and raise a significant... onto our responsibility
to develop sustainably.
l do not know what Duluth, Ml looks
like any other time of the year.
But in early February it does not
figure on many top 10 destinations.
Short of dogsled training and
Outward Bound programs.
The approach by plane spelled out
the grim and frigid environment.
What kind of individual
volunteers to fly...
...from sunny California to this
outpost near the Canadian border?
On the taxi drive from the
airport to the motel... driver susses me out by
assessing the slew of...
...sponsor badges that
adorn my expedition jacket...
...and concludes accurately that
l am not from these parts.
l share the purpose of my trip, and
he tells me that two months ago...
...he saw the coldest temperatures
ever recorded here:
Minnesota, it turns out, can produce
conditions that approximate...
...the Arctic environment.
The "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is...
...ideally suited to train in
continental US for polar expeditions.
Balmy day in the Arctic.
This will be a joke
compared to where we're going.
After careful consideration,
l will lead my own team.
Keith will be with me
and l feel good about that.
We're out camping.
Four inches of snow.
l met Keith in training...
...and we share a passion
for Polar exploration.
He is an expert outdoorsman,..
...and l"m confident that
his skills will complement mine.
For someone like myself, who is
enamored by polar travel and...
...polar history, the opportunity
to get out there and experience...
...the environment that those
explorer are travelling in...
...was the highlight for
my young adventuring career.
Keith and l are the only ones here
to plan for the five to six weeks...
...needed to cover over
the 300 nautical miles,..
...or the last five degrees North.
ln the years since Peary,
less than 150 people...
...have traveled that
distance on foot.
Within the next few years, no one
will likely be able to travel...
...that distance any longer...
...unless they"re willing to
travel partly by night.
For the ice will get too thin and
fragmented during the spring days.
Up early to feed the kennel
of sled dogs...
...we find unusually mild
temperatures and rain.
Breakfast of champions, yes.
Five class accommodations.
Courtesy of Mr Rick Sweitzer.
Rick, the owner of Polar Explorers
later tells me that the shakedown... designed to dissuade all but
the most committed adventurers.
ln a flat, matter of fact tone,
he announces that...
...the week had been designed to
"shakedown" the less than super fit.
lt's really beautiful around here.
Conditions are a lot milder than
they will be in the Arctic.
As far as the effort of pulling the
sled, it's a little harder here.
The snow is sticking to the sled;
it makes it a bit heavier.
lt's about 300 pounds
as it is, this one here.
And that'll be my lifeline
for about six weeks.
All these lakes in Minnesota'd be
very difficult to travel and hike...
...around in the summer because all
those trails that we're walking...
...would be filled with marsh
so you can cut trails... the winter and that's
what we're doing.
lt's gorgeous around here.
The mild temps and the rain make
for very slushy conditions...
...and l have some trepidation
pulling my 200 pounds of weight.
As it turns out, the sledge
starts gliding in the slush and...
...before long my body temperature
rises to a steady sweat.
This will be the biggest
challenge in the great North.
Sweat can be deadly. The game
hinges on how to regulate the... to maximize performance,
while minimizing body heat.
Tomorrow will be the
first test of endurance...
...with eight full hours
of skiing.
My body aches, and as l lay to
rest l am contemplative...
...of my limitations which silently
scream from the depths of my soul:
"What type of man are you to think
you will succeed at this?"
The countdown has begun;
l will set off on March 23rd.
March 1 7th, 2009.
Tonight we'll be honoring Sebastian
Copeland who is travelling... the North Pole to raise
awareness about global warming.
Global Green's resident architect
trekker, author, and Board Member,..
...also an Angeleno. Sebastian
will depart on a two-month...
...Arctic trip to the North Pole to
document ice cap melts,.. bring further attention to the
loss of the Arctic to global warming.
Today, the city of West Hollywood
made a proclamation of... departure and gifted me
with a certificate and...
...a proper send off
at City Hall.
lt's a great honor to have you
recognize this trip.
As you've mentioned the North Pole
is a rapidly changing environment.
lt has had the greatest
consecutive ice loss...
...culminating in the last two years
with about a half million...
...square miles of ice loss
in the summer periods.
That's an area the size of
California and Texas combined.
Welcome back to Larry King Live.
lt's now a great pleasure to
welcome Sebastian Copeland.
The acclaimed photographer
and environmental advocate...
...who serves on the board of
Directors of Global Green USA.
His photographs are in the book
Antarctica: The Global Warning.
The foreword, by the way, to this
book is by Mikhail Gorbachev,..
...and the preface by
Leonardo DiCaprio.
Larry King had me on the show
discussing the importance of...
...creating an international treaty
for the protection of the Arctic,..
...and how different the Arctic
is today than it was...
...a hundred years ago.
Training for the Pole
is a daunting task.
With a 70% failure rate it presents
life and death challenges...
...for even the fittest
of athletes.
Early morning workout starts with a
one-hour workout at 7:00, then...
...a hearty breakfast and a yoga
session for an hour and a half,..
...then do some work
and emails.
Then in the afternoon with
an hour and a half hike...
...with a hundred pound vest.
And in between, just
eat a lot of calories.
l'll take this guy to the Arctic;
feed him to the polar bears.
The meditation practiced here will
provide me with the strength...
...needed to combat the isolation
one feels from traveling...
...the frozen wilderness.
My daily routine then led me to my
afternoon hike at Runyon Canyon.
l take my 100-pound vest and climb
to the grand vistas of Los Angeles.
Come on, let's go.
One day all of this will produce
power sustainably.
And it won't be a day too soon.
Come on, girl.
March 18th 2009.
Departure is finally upon us,..
...after months of
training and preparation!
A seamstress works late
into the night to affix...
...the sponsor patches
onto the outerwear.
Meanwhile, back at the fort and
with the company of a handful...
...loyal friends, l stay up all night
finalizing the remaining items...
...on my to-do list, and
complete packing.
l guess one never feels ready.
They drive me to the airport,
and after a powerful send-off,..
...the plane takes off for Ottawa
where l overnight and meet Keith.
Hey Keith.
-How are you?
-Good buddy, how are you?
-Ready to head North.
A quick dinner and catch up
and then lights out.
Neither of us have
slept last night.
The morning ritual of
excess luggage.
March 19th, 2009.
Early flight out to lqualuit today.
lt takes another three and
a half hours to reach lqaluit,..
...just at the edge
of the Arctic Circle.
A layover there gives us time... make some last minute
food shopping and check...
...the local museum which l
visited last summer.
How do you feel buddy?
-l feel ready to go.
We're still on our travel day.
We have a few more hours;..
our longest flight, so far.
This is my longest flight so far.
We're going to be heading up
North to Resolute Bay.
We're going to go meet Ozzy
at the South Camp lnn...
...and spend the next couple of days
preparing to get out on the ice.
We're like T-minus four days,
l think, three days now.
We're in lqaluit, a stop over on
our way to Resolute.
l think we're both ready to go,
just rearing to go.
lt's mild here temperature wise,
which is both reassuring...
...and surprising at the same time.
lt's been very cold up
North, on the ice.
We've had reports from
a couple of teams there.
They've been just struggling
with the temperatures.
But it feels to me that's its warming
up a bit, so we might get lucky.
The plane finally takes off for
another three hours up north,..
...with a short stop
in Naninsivik.
These are familiar steps, retracing
the itinerary of my summer,..
...but for one detail: when l landed
in Resolute in early July,..
...temperatures had hit a
historical high of 67F degrees.
Today it"s minus 36 degrees
We just touched down
on Resolute Bay.
That's the last stop after
two days of travelling.
-This is it.
Lovely Resolute.
lt's minus 36 right now.
The landscape is covered
with a sheet of white--
And upon walking out of the plane,
the air explodes in my lungs... a shot of adrenaline.
Resolute is a town of 200 people,..
...but it is the logistics center for
all activities in the high Arctic.
lt has taken five planes and
two days to reach this outpost... the middle of the freezing
Arctic, some 3500 miles north of LA.
The hotel brings back all kinds of
memories and some nostalgia.
l had spent over a month in and out
of this hotel last summer,..
...dreaming of coming back
to try the Pole.
March 20th, 2009. Woke up today
to find Keith already downstairs.
We spend a few hours organizing
our food allotment for the first...
...twenty days, which is when
we will get our first re-supply.
This is a ration for five days.
Got your cereal,.. got your rice and beans,
your stews, your breakfasts,..
...your lunch, and your
dinner. Your company.
And your butter, and your bacon.
That's right, salami, bacon, bread;
lots of fat and saturated stuff.
Not for vegetarians.
This right here, is a blend
of bacon and cranberries.
So the bacon was fried up
just to the point of producing...
...all that fat and grease, then the
cranberries were thrown in...
...and poured in a blender and
blended to this consistency.
Now when we get up to the Arctic
this will freeze solid and...
...we'll be able to chunk this off
with a knife and eat that...
...almost as a snack on the trail
or thrown into our dinner at night.
This process is a fine balance
between calculating each meal"s...
...caloric intake and exacting it
against the precise weight...
...we will be pulling. lt is a virtual
science, and the magic number...
...should not exceed 2.4 pounds
of food each per day--
For a caloric value of around 7000!
This is one pound every 5 days,
for two people? That's not much.
Let's stick this stuff back in here.
Very important stuff.
-One sheet per day.
-One sheet per day, yeah.
We watch it.
Our protein drinks.
-This is the powder?
Herbalife protein shake and power
bars, electrolytes, candy and...
...cereal are each carefully
examined to meet...
...the exacting criteria of
the unforgiving scale.
5 days worth of food for two people,
one mission. 30 kilos. 30 pounds.
Keith is a strict numbers cruncher.
l am so used to carrying
extra camera weight that...
...l am somewhat looser in the
approach. But l know that...
...out on the ice, after a few
days of intense effort,..
...l will be cursing
the extra butter!
-This is 4, 8, 12, 16 days.
Rick has arranged for us to
invite the elders to dinner.
This turns out to be a great
thoughtful gesture.
The elders bless our dinner and
share with us the manner... which climate change
is affecting their lives.
Over the years, it just became
smaller and smaller and... it's just basically a
religious holiday.
lt takes 500 square miles to feed
one person in the Arctic.
Excessive carbon emissions in our
cities are leading lnuit to poverty.
Their culture endangered, they truly
put a face to global warming.
After the dinner, the elders sign
the Polar Explorer flag...
...that will be flying on our tent
every night. And they bless our trip.
Outside the sun is hanging
low on the horizon--
Casting a pink glow
on the frigid landscape.
Keith and l decide that tomorrow
we will ski out and test our gear... last time before departure,
including our blogging technology:
An iridium satellite phone
and an HP lPAC.
We will sleep on the ice,
preferably near a pack of dogs.
They provide early warning
for the bears!
One was sighted outside the hotel
just three days ago!
March 21st, 2009. Another day
going over the pack list,..
...and shedding a few more
pounds off the loads.
How much is your weight, Keith?
-Not too sure yet.
lt was a balmy -35 last night.
lt's still quite icy out there.
Got my good friend here. We'll
be friends you and l, aren't you?
That's my personal kit, right here.
Keith has got about the same.
Camera equipment, GPS,
ion batteries,..
...and an easy chair,
which is a killer item.
ln the tent it's like this and it's
more comfortable than most sofas.
The cold kit here,
for the colder days.
And this one here,
for the warmer days.
Socks, underwear, not many
of them as you can tell,..
...for a month and a half or so.
Face gear, head gear, glasses,..
...the iPod of course. And then
the base layers, the boots--
Those are important. Quite a few
pairs of gloves, wind stopper vest,..
...over mitts, inner layer for the
boots, water and thermos,..
...and then finally of
course: the sledge.
We are waiting for Keith"s sledge
to arrive in Resolute... it did not make it on time for
the scheduled flight on the way in.
Fingers crossed that
it arrives today by cargo,..
...otherwise we will lose a day.
There are always rich encounters
in Resolute; people who,..
...just like us, wait for
the go-ahead...
...on their way to make
their dream come true.
Take Tarka and Catlin for instance,
who have crossed...
...the Chinese Gobi desert on foot
over 4,000 kilometers in six months.
Or Michele who is on the footing
of departure for a solo ski trip...
...from the South Camp lnn to
the Magnetic 1996 North Pole.
Gobi refers to the type of desert
that it is, as opposed to its...
...geographic location. There's lots
of Gobi deserts around the world,..
...but the Taklamakan Desert is
the largest of the Gobi deserts,.. people will tend to
call it the Gobi Desert.
We started in the middle
of the Gobi Desert, 40C.
As we moved east through the winter,
it got colder and colder,..
...averaging out to about -35C
over a two month period.
How does it compare
to this weather here?
This feels considerably colder.
l think -35 is
quite different to -40.
Minus 40 and below
is quite a big jump.
For some reason it feels
considerably different,..
...but up here you get much
stronger winds and wind chill... a lot worse than
what we found in China.
We walked from the West Viewpoint
of the Great Wall,..
...walked right across it, then up
over the mountain range,..
...which are again massive amounts
of region in Northern China.
Then we headed out all the way
across to Northern Korea.
How long did it take you to do this?
That took us about 6 months,
give or take a few days.
167 days it took us, with only
3 days off. A long time.
Final packing of the sledges.
They weigh in at about 190 lbs,..
...including fuel, which is better
than l had anticipated.
We have confirmation,
weather pending, that...
...we will be wheels off at 7 AM.
T-minus 10 hours.
-Oh, l know why--
-Why is that?
Because you have your
extra food in there.
-And the toilet paper.
-And the toilet paper, yeah.
We're T-minus 1 1 hours now.
So after 8 months of waiting and...
...planning and suspense, and
whether or not sponsors would...
...come through or not, and all of
the training and everything else,..
...if weather permits, which of
course, in these parts,..
...often doesn't-- right now anyhow,
we're leaving tomorrow morning at 7.
lt's 8:00 in the evening, so
seven o'clock tomorrow.
And can l just ask, just purely for
me, why you've chosen to do this?
Other than the obvious answers,
are the centennial of Peary's...
...reach of the North Pole in 1909.
lt's clear that there won't be a...
...bicentennial because the ice
is just changing so rapidly;..
...its' melting so quickly. lt still
gets very cold in the winter,..
...but it just warms up very rapidly
and the all of a sudden it's gone.
Any time soon it'll be gone
in the summer months.
But l think the underline story
of any of these Arctic stories,..
...and l think anyone who travels in
these parts would know, is that...
...part of those trips is also trying
to find yourself in the process.
lt's all kinds of adventure,
and it's a climate message and... the end of the day,
it's a personal journey.
And what do you expect to get out
of it, as a personal journey?
Um, well, hopefully
not frostbite anywhere.
But some... peace, l think.
What l especially like about those
long solitary days walking,.. the meditation. Just to be in
a mental space that's just your own.
ln communion with nature and
feeding your soul in that process...
...with seeking to soak up,
everything that surrounds you,..
...the beauty and the uniqueness
of that situation.
And by virtue of that, l think
one feels pretty unique... that moment as well.
That's the idea.
-You're go tomorrow?
-Go tomorrow, yeah.
-How many hour?
-Seven o'clock.
-Yeah, we leave at seven.
Our six AM weather report
comes in negative.
Our team on the ice
reports low vis,..
...and we are back to bed
until an eight AM update.
Beautiful downtown Resolute.
This is the South Camp lnn.
You're giving us a
send off, huh?
At nine thirty Steve at Ken Borek
calls asking if we are ready to go.
Like two bats out of purgatory,
Keith and l are on the go.
Here we are, in the van,
first in the process.
Getting out to the airport.
Reality sets in on the way,..
...and we both contemplate
our impending experience.
Our friends at the South Camp lnn
give us a solemn blessing--
And we ride in silence
to the airport.
Good place for some thinking.
l love the space up here;..
...will go back to UK with ideas
and plan for the next year.
March 24th, 2009. Troy, our pilot,
greets us by the hangar.
Just had a little conversation
with Troy.
The weather has been steadily
improving throughout the day.
Wind shifted around the southwest,
blowing a front that kept us from...
...flying away yesterday
up north over the pole.
So, it's good news,
yeah, we're going.
lt's all loaded up,
there's nothing in there.
l just did a double check of all
our equipment in the corner there.
lt's not on the plane;
l don't know where it is.
-ls it ready?
-Yeah, all ready.
Alright mate, l'll see you
on the other side.
There's a safety card in the back.
lt'll tell you about no smoking.
...about two and a half
hours to Eureka.
Are you excited?
Always, a little bit of
nervous energy on the start...
...of something like this, but
excited to be moving out there.
We are landing down, man.
Two and a half hours and we
land in Eureka for refueling.
Here we are. Eureka.
Here we come. One more stop.
Stepping out of the plane,
-43C temperature is...
...a stern reminder of
what lies ahead!
A slight breeze, and that air
stings like a fist of needles.
A seam on the fuel pump malfunctions
and Keith and l, both giddy and...
...cold, run around the
runway to keep warm.
How many missions have you flown
to the North Pole, Troy?
You know, l would say
about a half a dozen.
What do you like about this region?
Actually, this is probably
the best part of the planet.
Yeah, it's unspoiled, picturesque
and yeah, totally remote.
We're not going today so we gotta
run off a little steam to stay warm.
Possible frustration there, but hey,
we'll have plenty of time on the ice.
The weather closed in on the ice.
So we're in Eureka.
We were about to take off
and now will have to wait...
...a couple of hours,
and see what happens.
Perhaps overnight here,
which could spell trouble.
Sometimes you overnight, then
it becomes two nights and then...
...over three nights,
then over four nights.
The weather went out
at the re-supply point.
Basically fogged in, so we can
all hold out for a few hours.
We'll be out of duty day by then.
Then we'll have to wait for
tomorrow. So possibly, we'll be...
...overnighting here, without
having to go back to Resolute.
The last bastion of civility before
heading to the ice, Eureka is a...
...station battered by the merciless
lashings of the great north.
The vehicles that make it there
know they have reached the...
...end of the line and are resolved
to finish here without ceremony.
The men who drive them
have stern faces shaped by...
...their pioneering spirit. As
with frontier towns of the past,..
...people here are lured by
But as the lines on their faces
deepen, they all seem to...
...soften internally, moved by
the power of this harsh desert,..
...and surprised by the answers
that come to them...
...from questions they
had not sought to ask.
Eventually it"d seem, everyone is
forced to ponder the same question:
"Who am l, and why am l here?"
ln the white stark vastness
of the great north,..
...answers come easier, because
there aren"t as many places to hide.
Out of the cold, dinner is served.
At our table, much of the talk is
about how multi year ice has...
...become fleeting, systematically
being replaced by new ice.
This confirms the scientific data
l know all too well, but it is...
...interesting and refreshing
to hear their point of view.
ln fact, Arctic multi-year ice,
ice that is ten years old or more...
...went from 80% 20 years ago
to 3% today.
New ice accounts for the fragile
conditions of the sea ice,..
...and how rapidly the Arctic summer
ice can simply break entirely.
lt also factors why in
a short matter of time,..
...explorers will likely no longer
have a window to...
...reach the pole, as
we are attempting to.
We will spend the night here
tonight, and pray for...
...our marching orders in the
morning. Next update is at 7 AM.
Hopefully, Sedna, the lnuit goddess
of the ice, will be on our side.
l think that's finally it, leaving
Eureka and dropping to the ice.
ln about two hours we should be
on the packed ice,..
...on our way to
the North Pole.
This is our approach. We're about
to get dropped off on the ice.
Troy is trying to get us on
some nice ice to land on.
Not easy around here because
it's filled with rubble ice...
...and pressure ridges.
That's what l call
a rock n' roll landing.
There's no getting the seat
in the upright position...
...and making sure your seat belt
is fastened on these planes.
This thing has landed on
this really rough ice.
Troy is an ace pilot.
He got us down here on the ice.
We are officially on the Arctic Sea
ice about to begin our journey.
lt's pretty exciting.
l guess l'd like to say
welcome to nowhere.
This is it! lt's like
stepping on the moon.
We're here, 85th degree.
About three hundred and some
nautical miles from the North Pole.
We got about 34 days ahead of
us. And the journey begins.
That was an awesome flight, Troy.
Thank you so much.
Well, best of luck, you know.
Best of luck, getting to the Pole.
These are the luxury accommodations
here at the Polar inn.
We're a little short on
amenities though.
We called in for a shoeshine
but nobody picked up, so.
There's no late night snack.
-Yeah there is.
-Oh yeah, where is it?
-Leftover dinner.
Yeah, frozen.
-No microwave.
-No microwave.
After a day on the trail, virtually
every stitch of item is wet,..
...this is what we use to
dry it. This line right here.
And this goes for long johns,
base layer, the second layer,..
...third layer, fourth layer,
fifth layer.
So that's my complaint
to management,..
...l'm gonna tell them to
build more cabinet space.
What happened to the stove?
-lt's out.
As you can see, the ice frosts
over the tent at night.
We get the heat up with the
heaters in the evenings and...
...then in the morning again.
But during the night,..
...we've got to obviously
turn them down to save on fuel.
The temperature drops pretty
considerably in the tent and...
...everything gets pretty frosty,
as you can see from all the stuff...
...over here. This is what
we get our water from.
The water reserve here. And
this is our local chef here.
Hey, l got some breakfast brewing.
l'm getting it all figured out
here in the morning.
That's it, life in a tent. lt's
a little tight, not glorious.
But the company is fine.
Second day and we are bushed!
The ice is clumpy as we
negotiated a field of rubble...
...that was pretty discouraging.
After two hours of pulling
our heavy sledges across...
...these pressure ridges
the size of trucks, l looked up... see the same landscape
for miles in all directions!
Well, this is day 3, it's been
pretty cold so far.
lt's sunny everyday at least,
that's pretty good.
But we've had between
-34 and -40.
Both Keith and l have little
frost nips on our fingers.
lt's pretty chilly.
On the third day we're
treading along, hopefully...
...this will be a good omen
for the future.
Like Sisyphus and his rock,
we pull our heavy sledges...
...across this uneven icy landscape
one step after the next.
Occasionally cursing our decision
to be here in the first place.
Day 5. North.
-What the f..k.
lt is common for the first few days
of any expedition to be...
...the hardest as you get
acclimated and into a rhythm.
We are up for the challenge
and hoping that...
...the temperatures warm up a bit.
Like nomads trekking across the
white desert of another planet,..
...we advance one laborious
step after the next.
A gale grew from the west.
Even 5 knots of wind lashes
the face like frozen razor blades.
lf indeed the human body has
a hundred million trillion cells... constant communication
with one another,..
...then mine were all
screaming, ""l am cold! ""
The cold temperatures
crystallize the water deposits,..
...preventing them from
bonding with the ice.
The result is like pulling the
200 lb sledge through sand.
The terrain is never flat,
even when hitting nice pans...
...which has been rare.
Mostly it has been rubble fields,
which slow us down and...
...can be quite discouraging
when they sprawl on for miles.
The mood varies between
euphoric and upbeat,..
...and frustrated and doubtful.
Still, the Arctic desert
reveals itself to us... all of its majestic and
endless subtleties in the way...
...that it only does to those
committing to traveling...
...its unforgiving realm. The lunar
vistas are simply breathtaking.
No life here, and no sounds
but for the cruddy break...
...of our feet on the ice and
our constant marching companion:
The steady and heavy
rhythm of our breath.
The sun does not rise above
15 degrees from the horizon... its apex, but
no longer sets either.
All this in the silent and lonely
universe of the intense effort...
...punctuated only by the
sound of heavy breathing...
...and the endless sunset
of the midnight sun.
Time to get up.
We started late today,
as a wind from the south...
...was shaking the tent all night.
Also l think today is Sunday,..
...and on that day we felt,
we too could get some rest.
Every morning is the same exercise.
Just grabbing stuff out of...
...your sleeping bag and
hanging it on the line to dry,.. that we can repeat
that process again the next day.
We felt no rush in getting
beat up by the elements...
...and were slow out of the tent.
Mmm, porridge.
Sesame seeds, oats and
we render it with some pemmican,..
...which is basically just some
bacon fat and bacon bits and...
...we've thrown in some cranberries
just to spice it up.
Lots of calories make up for
what we're going to burn today.
Lovely day on the Arctic Ocean
here. 87 degrees north.
Three more to go,
two weeks in.
There's my live commentator for you.
Three hours in, we came across
our first large open lead,..
...and with it came the black
color of the Arctic ocean,..
...which of course is
constantly below our feet.
lt's all open water. That's why
we're seeing steaming there.
lt's open from all the way
there, to back here.
About here it looks like it closes.
So that's what we're going to
try to do, is cross it over there.
lt was a complex system of
cracks in the ice generated... the awesome power of
currents and winds, and after...
...following its banks for a while,
we finally found a crossing point.
When a lead freshly forms it could
actually undulate, rubber ice.
So it had some flex, and we were
okay with how much flex it had.
lt's good.
Open leads and pressure ridges
are the biggest challenges... North Pole travelers.
We hurried as the environment
was rapidly changing...
...and the lead widening.
-Not so bad, huh?
-Not so bad.
l stopped there because l want to
unclip my harness, just in case.
You know if you go in, you may not
want all this stuff attached to you.
By now both Keith and l
have a number of frostbites.
-Getting better, hopefully.
-One here, and one there.
This is certainly not uncommon
when traveling regions...
...where men have no business
spending any amount of time in.
But those nips have to be carefully
monitored or the risk could be loss.
On day 16,
l've got Arctic, 2 and Sebastian, 8.
This was another tough day.
But it will change...
we keep heading north!
We skied hard and for the first time
began to grow into our rhythm.
We might have done better mileage
but for the many rubble areas...
...we are still dealing with.
This quantity of rubble and
pressure ridges is consistent...
...with newly formed, and
therefore weaker, ice.
Multi-year ice, which is almost
all gone in the Arctic sea,..
...tends to be thicker
and smoother.
lt has more structural integrity.
lt is amazing to consider the
awesome power of currents...
...and winds crushing multi-tons
chunks of solid ice like twigs,..
...and piling them on top of one
another like an auto salvage yard!
That is just unbelievable! This
pressure ridge, look at this--
Look! This pressure ridge is
being formed just as we speak.
Just the forces of nature,
the tides crumpling these...
...massive pieces of ice, billions
and billions of tons of ice...
...being moved and crumpled.
lt's really unbelievable
and an extraordinary sight.
Such is the power of nature.
Our focus as a people...
...must be on harnessing
that into renewable energy.
-l got the rope.
-Good, excellent. Well done!
That's how you cross a lead
on the Arctic Ocean.
Yeah, that's a little boat creation.
Not Cancn, but
it does work as a raft.
Today was a grind.
There were no gimmies.
No freebies. No mulligans.
No "this one"s on the house",
or "first ball in".
Nothing but hard-earned
slow miles.
We had, essentially, a blizzard.
The stress of the cold
was challenging.
l had the good fortune of fogging
both of my goggles that day.
We had temperatures
minus 46 Fahrenheit.
So l was forced to relinquish
my position in the lead.
You never know what to expect.
Once we got resupplied, there was
a sort of break of our rhythm.
And our second ration of
fifteen days was a little short,..
...which gave us food shortages.
lt's tough being out there
when you're both food stressed.
-We were hungry, a lot!
-lt's what you focus on so much!
Keith was just beat up
at the end of that day.
lt really pushed me mentally.
What are you doing here, Heger?
l'm just getting ready to send
a dispatch with our PDA unit...
...and our iridium
satellite phone.
This uplinks with the satellites
and we're able to send images,..
...text messages and our position;
so that folks back at home...
...can virtually join
our adventure.
This is truly remarkable.
We are witnessing
one of nature's...
...most extraordinary
display of power here.
This lead that's been blocking
our way is actually closing.
So the two plates are coming
together and it's in fact...
...what's creating these
pressure ridges around here.
But, it looks like, if we're lucky,
this whole lead is going to...
...close up and we're going
to be able to cross it over.
The arctic terrain can be
unrelenting and unflinching.
Yard by yard we negotiated
the broken ice boulders.
The mix of cruddy, powdery snow
swallowed up the sledges" rails... if dragging them through
syrup. Each section led to...
...another chaotic and random
display of Nature"s forces.
ln this grand theater, it is hard
not to feel insignificant.
And the purpose of our mission,.. its simplicity,
felt all the more absurd.
Nice job.
Try and imagine
a giant crumble cake.
Throw it into the deep freeze.
And now reduce your size to
about an inch,..
...strap on some skis
and decide to cross it!
Sometimes the best thing to do
is to just put one foot... front of the other, and
move forward without thinking.
This is us after
fourteen hours of travel.
We're pretty exhausted.
We're going into the negative drift
at this point. So, it feels like...
...walking on a conveyor belt.
Every mile that we do we lose...
...about a tenth of that mile
to the drift pulling us backwards.
We're travelling
on the Arctic Ocean,.. we spend 35 days
without touching land.
First, there is no point
on the sea ice where...
...there is an actual
geographical North Pole.
That night we realized that we had
started drifting south.
That point is at the bottom
of the ocean and...
...everything above
it is essentially floating.
So the miles we were making,
they were being taken away...
...from the, sort of,
Arctic treadmill.
So, we're pretty exhausted.
The wind has been whipping us... whip boys, all day. lt's
blowing about 25 knots right now.
And although the temperature is
not that cold, the wind is...
...dropping them by 20-30% so it's
about 25 degrees minus right now,..
...but it feels about 35 minus.
Although we're happy to be here,..
...we're pretty beat up right now.
Right Keith?
Agree with that!
The drift was so strong that day
that we woke up the next morning...
...behind the spot that we had
woken up the morning prior.
From morning until evening,
hardly a word is exchanged.
The terrain was friendly and
relatively flat and the scenery epic.
As each day rolls into the next,
there are no signs of life... break the quiet sanctitude
of our journey.
Not a bird; not a bug; no plane
high above in the sky.
The feeling of solitude in this
white stillness could, for some,..
...scream louder than despair.
But mostly l immerse myself in
complete communion with the ice,..
...and feel at one with it--
one in thirty million species...
...inhabiting the earth;
no more, no less.
And l get lost in the unique
privelege of finding myself here.
Nourishing my soul with the pure
and raw power of Nature.
We came upon an enormous system
of melt ways, frozen over,..
...remaining most likely
from the summer.
Huge waterways looking like rivers
stretching for miles east and west.
lt spells the ominous demise
of the Arctic summer ice.
lndeed while it"s predicted to break
entirely in the summer period... as early as 2013, privately
scientists feared it might have...
...happened last summer,
and could anytime hereafter.
Broken ice in the summer means
the end of multi year ice...
...and a rapid breakdown of the
structural integrity of the sea ice--
Regardless of seasons. But for us,
today, it was eerily beautiful.
All cold environments are
challenging to shoot in.
But out here, each opportunity to
shoot has to be measured against..., the time to stop, open
the sledge and set the gear up,..
...and two, the cold that
sets in from stopping.
Consequently, shooting
is extremely challenging,..
...and made all the more
frustrating for the fact that...
...there are quite literally
100s of shots daily...
...that cannot be captured
but to memory.
Eerie and ominous,
with the profound beauty...
...of the simplicity of void.
This lead spells out the future of
the Arctic Ocean as it breaks up;..
...its ice thickness
further threatened by...
...the exponential factors of
warm air and warmer water.
This lead was enormous:
two miles across and...
...its length unclear as
it stretched East and West,..
...well beyond what
the eye could see.
The ice is rapidly changing, and
l wonder if generations to come...
...will have the chance
to do what we"re doing.
My one great privilege which
will undoubtedly live to be...
...a great frustration is that whilst
witnessing such unique sights,..
...l also know that
it is impossible... capture its scale
and breadth on film.
When the sky is overcast out here,
all manners of depth,..
...perspective and height disappear.
The pale shade that normally... the icy terrain
its detail is completely gone.
What remains is the seemingly
posterized ice blue color...
...of most pressure ridges--
and pure white.
The morale was low, as
yet another reality sunk in:
At the rate we have been going,
we will not make the pole in time... exit through Barneo.
So the additional challenge is set;
the race against the clock is on.
We need to average
12 nautical miles a day,..
...which we have not done so far,
and not for lack of trying.
Besides we are drifting south--
we lost a mile last night,..
...and by the time we wake up,
we will have lost another mile--
The drift is taking us backwards,
which is not unusual.
We will re-strategize.
But for now we are dead tired
and will seek sleep for counsel.
Now to pull the frosty sleeping bag
out of its compressor bag.
l'm actually shivering right now;
l'm not fully cocooned.
All right, good night.
l cannot help but think of Peary,
Henson and the four lnuit on...
...their team, and how after reaching
the pole on April 6th 1909,..
...they then had to face
the un-assisted return to land,..
...for many more months
of journeying.
There were no satellite phones,
no blogs, no power bars,.. technology developed fabrics,
no nylon tents.
Just six brave men
facing the unknown...
...with no safety net,
and no back up.
The race for the pole is still on,
we hope for good luck... the terrain again so
we can maintain our speed.
We have been told categorically
that our flight off the ice...
...will be no later than the 26th
in the AM, as Barneo closes.
Barneo used to close later in May,
but the rising temperatures have...
...made this too precarious for
this floating station servicing...
...expeditions and scientific
research on the ice for four weeks.
Yesterday l said that
the ice on a lead generally...
...doesn"t break at once.
Well, sometimes it does.
And today it did.
So we were investigating something
that looked potentially passable.
l took a chance on it because
l was trying to make time.
The only way to find out is
if you take the initiative to...
...walk out there and see if it's
going to hold your weight.
We were trying to make time
and had a good start until...
...a small east/west lead
blocked our way.
A narrow section looked
questionable but doable,.. it was only about
10 feet wide.
l unhooked from the sledge, stepped
carefully on the flexing ice,..
...took a large step forward, and
all at once... the dreaded.
The ice gave in from under me
and l slowly but inescapably...
...sunk to my neck
in Arctic water.
He was fortunate that
he had loosened his skiis.
l kicked them off and they had
floated up to the surface.
lt took about two paddle strokes
to get to the edge where l was.
l got to pull myself up
with Keith's assistance.
Keith quickly threw me a line
and pulled me out which left me...
...dripping in -25 degrees Celcius.
lt goes without saying that...
...getting down to your skivvies
under these conditions isn"t...
...anyone"s idea
of a good time!
And l rolled into the snow,
at least the ice,.. absorb some of the
moisture as possible.
The powder snow is so dry that...
...when it hits the water,
it acts like a sponge.
You know, it was unpleasant but
it was a quick moment in time.
There's no other better remedy
for hypothermia than activity.
There are funner things to do,
to be sure, in the Arctic...
...than to change and get naked in
those frigid temperatures.
One of the great lessons of this
environment is that...
...there are no time-outs,
no quitting and no savior.
The mess you"re in
is yours to clean,..
...and this responsibility
works anywhere.
With nothing but open space in front
of me, l motored and skied hard.
My legs got sucked into the rhythm,
and never complained.
Nor did Keith, though l knew
his hip bothered him.
But the day was set to put a mark
on our vanishing legacy.
Each hour that passed was punctuated
by the pleasing speed that would...
...define our last travel day, and
the looming and steady creep...
...of a countdown that brought
a mix of relief and sadness.
The last few days have been the
toughest, but today, in spite of...
...the wind"s chill, we are
eating miles and feel unstoppable.
As if to teach us one more time
the meaning of the word respect,..
...the pack ice threw a field of
junky, powdery blocks at us,..
...and the clouds
overtook the sun... flatten out detail
in the terrain one more time.
l was anxious, pushing forward,..
...intent in reaching
our farthest north.
Then it all cleared:
the sky, the wind, the rubble.
And the end came abruptly,
systematic and unapologetic.
Ahead of us and within reach,
on a flat pan framed by...
...pressure ridges, stood
my childhood dream.
The point that makes
explorers through the ages...
...squint with wonder
does not surrender easily.
But l was determined,
GPS in hand,.. see those numbers line up
and honor Peary and his men...
...from where they stood
a hundred years ago.
Zeros! This is it! Right here!
This is the North Pole, right here.
From this point forth,
no matter where you go,.. matter what direction
l go, l'm going south.
And here's the other thing; if l do
this, in doing this right now...
...l've walked through every
single time zone on the planet!
This is it, the North Pole, right
here. The top of the world.
We made it, it's pretty exciting.
And in seconds, just like that,
it was gone.
That point from which any step
heads south, the top of the world,..
...where all longitudinal lines
blend and all time zones meet,..
...where the world rotates below
your feet, that point was mine...
...for one brief, ethereal
instant. And then no more.
Beneath the frosty facemask
and under my icy ruffed hood,..
...the breath l took filled my heart
with the essence of purpose,..
...and a mission accomplished.
For a while l stared in silence
at the field in front of me,..
...taking in the open,
unrestricted ice kingdom;..
...committing to memory its vastness
and the contours of the mounds...
...and ridges framing it; noting the
way that the sun defined the terrain.
Feeling the wind biting my left side.
l heard my heart pounding, fresh
from the effort, tugging at me...
...with undecided trepidation,..
...not sure whether to weep
in relief or beg for more.
Any moment now, this solemn and
suspended reality would be broken... the distant flapping
of the helicopter"s rotors.
And the dream would end.
As Keith and l stood there in
the silence that had come to...
...characterize our solitary travel,
l knew that this image would...
...define my experience
up here. And l relished it.
The North Pole is so ephemeral;.. fleeting that it can
feel like an illusion.
While the Pole itself is a
static geographical point... the bottom of the ocean,
up here, on the sea ice...
...constantly drifting, nothing is.
ln fact sometimes,.. happened to me then,
the dream feels more real.
And as the ice shifts, unmoved
by the human desire to pierce...
...its crust with a marquee post,
what is left is the image that...
...we chose to retain. And to me,
it will be that open field...
...staring me in the eye, as if
to say: "l"m leaving too. Soon. "
ln the distance, the wind carried
the unmistakable flapping of...
...the Ml8"s rotors.
lnvisible at first, the heavy craft
appeared south of us.
l stared out of the port hole of the
helicopter as we lifted off to...
...Barneo, feeling real fondness
and nostalgia for this tough...
...and unforgiving environment.
We were leaving the pack ice,
its ridges, rubble fields and... leads; its frigid humidity
and freezing winds;..
...its cloud cover and zero
visibility; and its canvas that...
...challenges the human spirit
and pushes the limits...
...of its physical potential. And
the thought troubled me... it slowly sank in that
l would likely not be back here.
At least not like that.
lntense and epic, the North Pole
is one tough, tough mission.
The legendary Reinhold Messner said:
"Everest is very dangerous,
but crossing the North Pole,..
...which l attempted to do, is
ten times more dangerous. "
l knew flying away that what
l brought back with me...
...was an experience that has
marked me, and perhaps...
...changed me for life.
After five weeks of this
epic adventure, l know that... will be a challenge.
But all things do come to an end.
And l could really
use a sandwich!
l reflect on human"s
amazing ability to survive... one of the harshest
environments on Earth.
As the world celebrates Earth day,
l think of how important it is to...
...get out of this false sense of
security that we have developed... city dwellers, lulled away by
the convenience of technology...
...from the responsibility and
connection we have to the land...
...that hosts us. Where does our
garbage go? We don"t know.
What is the true impact of our
electrical power source...
...and what is our consumption?
lndigenous cultures have an
innate sense of renewable...
...and sustainable living
because it is logical.
Western cultures have
mostly lost that.
And l hope that this experience in
the Arctic raises awareness...
...of how fragile this is. And while
the Arctic is melting away,..
...our societies, our governments,
and our economies are all vying... exploit its resources
made more available and...
...accessible because of the
melting. And in such we are...
...perpetuating a cycle which was
the genesis for the undoing...
...of this environment to begin
with. lt's a profound link:
lt's one of the multiple links that
tie us to this natural order.
Any weakening of any link in that
chain puts everything in jeopardy.
Everything, except of course for
nature and for the world which...
...carries on in the way
that it will.
Ultimately this is not
about protecting the planet.
Ultimately this is really about
protecting ourselves from ourselves.
With each step into the white
vastness of the Arctic sea,..
...l am reminded of how small
and vulnerable we really are,..
...and confronted with the mirror
of my own footprint.
While the snow drifts cover
my tracks, l know that l, too,..
...would soon drown in the tears
of the earth as its ice melts...
...and floods our cities,
forcing on us the reckoning...
...of an order that we lost.
l am left to ponder in amazement... the power of the nature that
surrounds us, and to appreciate...
...the freedom we"re afforded to
journey unrestricted through it.
What an adventure!
TV-Rip: Burak AHN