North Pole Expeditions

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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North Pole expeditions can be undertaken on comfortable passenger ships that were originally built as polar icebreakers, or on land expeditions that end with skiing to the geographic North Pole at 90 degrees North latitude. Cruise ships are neither built nor equipped for the rigors of such a journey; their itineraries include Arctic travel only to the outer reaches of the Arctic Circle. North Pole expeditions are for those adventurers who are prepared to ski to their destination, either in groups or alone.

No one was able to reach the North Pole until 1909 when, after several attempts by others and himself, Robert Peary claimed to have arrived at the famous location; his claim is disputed, however, by those who believe he missed the Pole by several miles. Despite blizzards and the hazards of ice drift and the full moon, visitors continue to plan their attack on the site, and every year sees more and more attempts. The easiest way to see the North Pole is from an icebreaker that has crunched its way into the pack ice to get you as near as possible to the actual Pole.

Dangers of North Pole Expeditions

Polar bears aside, the potentially fatal dangers of land expeditions to the Pole are many. There is the weather, of course. In mid-winter, when the sun never rises, temperatures can easily drop to -90 degrees Fahrenheit. Storms are less frequent in this region than in Antarctica, but they can have more serious consequences. These blizzards break up the ice and cause the ice to drift for miles in a short time, possibly stranding trekkers or causing them to become disoriented.

Travel to the North Pole is also made hazardous by the full moon, which brings on high tide and rising ocean waters. Ice breaks up, sometimes so rapidly that some North Pole expeditions have been forced to jump haphazardly from piece to piece to save their lives. These continuous break-ups are accompanied by frightening sounds like a roaring freight train or the sharp crack of a rifle shot, which can be extremely disorienting.

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It doesn't get that cold

Not -90 F. Maybe -50 F to -60 F.

It's gotten that cold in Siberia but not the Pole itself.