On May 7, 2014, after eight hours of hiking and swimming — while wearing insulated dry suits — polar explorers Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters reached the North Pole.
They’d travelled 3.5 nautical miles that day, the last leg of an almost 500 mile journey that took 53 days from start to finish.
As Larsen recently explained to Business Insider and describes in his book, “On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic,” written with Hudson Lindenberger, many expect their trek to be the last unsupported, unaided expedition across the frozen Arctic to the North Pole.
Here’s what that journey looked like.
The team packed two sleds full of gear, each weighing 317 pounds. The shotgun saved their lives on day five when they used it to scare off a mother and cub pair of polar bears.
The going was so rough at the start that they covered less than seven miles in those first five days.
They'd have to decide whether it'd be better to take hours going around a massive obstacle or to try and clamber over it.
'You're just constantly faced with these two bad decisions, and oftentimes we would remind ourselves out loud: be decisive, confident, and safe,' Larsen said at a recent talk. 'Because at this point, even a bad decision is better than no decision.'
Temperatures of 30 to 40 below were common, with howling storms and fierce winds making things even colder.
Whiteouts, with snow and wind making it impossible to see, make navigation incredibly difficult. 'If you want to know what life is like on a major polar expedition, here's what you do … go home tonight, fill your bathtub up with ice water, sit in it for about 12 hours, and stare at a white sheet of paper,' Larsen said.
What's more, whiteouts, with snow and wind making it impossible to see, make navigation incredibly difficult. 'The Arctic is a beautiful place,' Larsen said, 'I just wish I could have seen it when I was there.'
At night, they'd huddle in a tent, using social media on their satellite phones to keep up with those following the expedition (often falling asleep mid-tweet, Larsen says).
On the last day, they hit open water three-quarters of a mile from the Pole. They had to swim, pulling the sleds behind, and then make up for the distance they'd drifted.
In a way, the end was 'anticlimactic,' says Larsen, since you can't sit and celebrate 'at the Pole' -- you're constantly drifting south. They called for a flight out and set up camp.
'As we flew off I looked out the window at all that ice and at this stunning environment that I've come to know so well over the past 10 years and that I have a profound respect for -- it is such a unique place, the Arctic Ocean, a place like no other,' he said during his talk.
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