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Thursday, April 15, 2010

North Pole Photos!

Final Audio Update

Final Post! We Stood at The North Pole - and Drank Champagne!!!!

What a ride - at 9:21 am Dale Shippam stood at the North Pole. Who would
have thought that that would happen!!

But let me go back over the past 60 hours - We had finished up Day 9, a briliant day, but as we came into camp a storm blew in. We had intended to get up the next day and ski but the storm was unbelievable. We stayed in the tent while it blew, shook, rattled and rolled and the ground intermittently trembled.

At our usual 8 pm check in phone call - we heard from Vadim (The Russian organizer of all things Barneo, flights, choppers etc.,) that the weather was bad, closing in and we should conserve fuel. We had 2.5L at that time. Planning an 11 day trip and being told that you may be stuck on the ice for a few more days waiting for the weather to change was really actually very scary. We had a look at the food and fuel and immediately went into conservation mode. Keith and Dirk were all over it, but for me the unknown was a touch terrifying. It made me realize how incredibly small and vulnerable we were in a 6 x 8 foot tent, -20, windchill to nearly - 40, and winds > 25 mph.

Dale, reminded both Michel and I that this is what it feels like day in, day out, for someone waiting for a transplant. No control over events, vulnerable, waiting - it put a whole new perspective on things. My admiration and respect for transplant recipients and those waiting continues to grow. What we experienced was only a small fraction of what they go through day in, day out while they wait - I really can't imagine it.

Day 10 we used no fuel during the day, tucked in, staying warm. Used minimal fuel in the evening.

Day 11 no flights, so again minimal fuel - sorting out food so we could ration what would be required if we had to hunker down for longer. Finding out that the runway at Borneo had cracked and developed a huge lead of open water.....Many calls over the course of Day 11, every 2 hours are we going - Vadim - no weather closing in; 8 am, 10 am, 12, 2 pm, 8pm, and finally 10 pm - no flights. Bad night sleep last night again wondering, worrying, waiting - at 8 am we got the call the chopper was coming for us. It took us the remaining way to The North Pole and at 921 Dale became the first heart transplant recipient to our knowledge to stand at TNP. What a feeling - impossible to describe!!!!

Ultimately we had done a Polar Century - 100 miles of skiing, over ice, snow drifts, across open water, through gale force winds, freezing temperatures and ended up within 12 miles of the Pole, but for the weather we would have made it on our own steam, nonetheless, I believe it was a stunning accomplishment for Dale. Especially after Keith said it is the worst weather he has ever seen on a Polar ski!

We then flew back to Barneo and immediately on to the Antonov 74 plane to fly back to Longyearbyen.

The team was extraordinary. Imagine spending 60 hours in a 6x8 foot space with 5 people and keeping your sense of humor and in fact actually enjoying yourself (apart from intermittent panic about departure). Keith is a cross between Grizzly Adams and a Polar Bear - setting the pace, keeping the focus, finding the path. Dirk was the sweeper - steadfast, solid with a brilliant sense of humor and pulling up the rear, picking us up, pushing our sleds through tight spaces. Dale as always never ceases to amaze me with what he is capable of. 11 years post transplant, pulling his weight, one step after another pushing the boundaries and representing transplant in the best possible way. Michel - endless energy, bouncing in and out of the tent during our 60 hour downtime, keeping things light and positive.

I must thank a number of people - Mr. Ian Delaney whose ongoing support of the program has allowed us to raise awareness on a global scale through innovative means such as this trip - Thanks Ian - we missed you out there.

The team at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and MultiOrgan Transplant Program for the dedication they show 24/7 to their work that allow the Dale's of the world to live a full life.

To my patients you motivate me daily! Keep your spirits up and believe.

Nicole, Nona, Bill (UHN), and Kevin (Sherritt) deserve special thanks for allowing the Blog to happen.

Thanks to the Borg family, B. Gosevitz and T. Lasorda for all the help with fundraising.

Special thanks to Linda Goldsack- you rock girl.

Special thanks to TGLN for all of their support and effort to increase organ and tissue donation.

Thanks to Peter at Hofman Motors for the brilliant tire that I pulled throughout the City of Toronto, I can give it back but I am pretty sure you don't want it!

We are safe in Longyearbyen (wouldn't you know it that a Volcano would erupt in Iceland and delay us further) - all in all another magical spiritual experience that has left me speechless

Thanks to everyone for following our story!

Heather Ross

April 14th Audio Update

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 11 On the Ice

.......And we are still in the tent.........suboptimal weather - spirits remain great......we are waiting for the window to open so we can get going!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 10 Continued

The Barometer has fallen all day - gusting winds, - 20 windchill to -30; wind > 25 mph - we did not get out of the tents all day.

We had + drift to start but now are moving away again being carried by the under-ice current away from the Pole.

It is a long day in the tent - napping, chatting, playing connect 4.
Some of our challenges over the week have included 3 broken ski bindings (2 for Dale, one for Michel); one broken tent pole (we carried 2 spares), I punctured my thermarest cutting cheese (patched - or it would have been a cold night); one broken ski pole.

But all in all we remain optimistic that the weather pattern will clear and we will make a push later tonight or early in the morning.


Maintainin morale over a small stove

Day 10

Woke up and yet again mother nature is being aggressive. It is clear the Arctic does not surrender her treasures easily. We are all 5 in tent - blizzard white out conditions outside - hoping for a break in the weather so we can get moving to attempt the pole.
We had some positive drift overnight so now we are at 89.47 - we are moving hugely to the west - big wind, but some of it is pulling us closer north as well.
It is too dangerous to go out in this weather because the snow drifts can mask water and soft spots.

Will touch base later.

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 11th Audio Update

Day 9 - On the Ice

Day 9 on the ice.....

Started out early this am trying to get the distance done...only to spend almost 4 hours to get 1.7 miles! Ice cubes, water - Dale dipped his toe in (he didn't want to be left out) - but nothing else. He is absolutely fine.

Then things really improved and we were able to make some good time/distance. Dale led for quite a while - quote...'interesting to see the whole empty ice field right to the horizon with no tracks ahead - hoping I wont miss a soft spot'

We are at 89.45 East 129 - 15 miles left to go.....

Overall total distance covered 81.61 nautical miles

Everyone is doing well, the difference today was the cold, man was it cold - 25 plus windchill putting it down to about -40. The kind of cold that defies explanation - damp as well. We came into camp and the wind really picked up - major challenge for fingers and toes.

We are loading up tonight - bagels with salami, cheese appetizer followed by Lasagna in a pot (sorry LP and EDL)

The two polar cowboys continue to amaze finding paths through the chaos.
Hoping the wind is blowing us closer to TNP

MW Iced up

The boys at a rest stop

Finally the sun is out

Audio Updates for April 9 & 10

April 9th

April 10th

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 8 on the Ice- Mother Nature is a Tease

Day 8 on the ice - Mother nature is a tease.....

We woke up - and the first thing out of my mouth, even before the eye blinds were removed, before I thought of my morning coffee - was 'positive or negative' - this directed at Keith my tentmate - re drift - in fact we had drifted 1 mile towards the North Pole! Excitement was palpable. We got organized and broke camp, (much oatmeal eaten this morning), and started off.

The wind picked up and the snow started. As we marched along -Mother Nature showed her true colours.....and there was water everywhere - we lost count of the leads - everywhere we looked. It was an incredible challenge. Keith went in (twice - but he is OK Stacey). We had to use the sledge as a bridge on many occasions. I managed again to put in my left foot (but just my foot). Between Keith and Dirk there is > 1500 miles of Polar experience - we have felt safe, secure and looked after the whole time.

The ice age ranges from days (one of the leads we crossed), to about 3 years old. But overall the ice extent has been steadily diminishing in size, thought to be due to global warming. Some predict in 5 years there will be summer time free ice, i.e. there will be no structure and ships will be able to pass through the northwest passage in summer. . Thankfully we have not met any animals - as we don't want to see any Polar Bears.

Overall we travelled 9.5 nautical miles today (so our grand total is 69.3 nautical miles) so now we are.......at 89.34.0 (i.e. for every 2 miles we work we have gained 1 mile towards the pole..) and still 26 miles away...

Mother nature indeed is a cruel mistress....

We set camp and the high point of the evening was Tomato soup with shredded Parmesan cheese - yummy. Two tents - Dale, Michel and Dirk in one; Keith and myself in the other (we are the cook tent and entertainment tent). Tonight we are back to Beef Stew. We burn about 6000-8000 calories per day, between the temperature and exertion - it is hard (but fun) to keep up.

Hoping for much drift tonight.

The sled as a bridge

Polar bear safety

HR getting ready to cross the breach

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 7- On the Ice

Day 7 on the Ice

Something magical about today.......we hit our 60 nautical mile target - unfortunately we are only at 89.25 so we are still 35 miles from the Pole. We will need some positive drift and divine intervention - but at least we know we skied the distance required. From here it is all gravy. I myself spontaneously cried and all the guys looked at me like - here we go again! I remain amazed at Dale and his capacity. Steady pace throughout 8 hours of pulling.

I got to lead for a while today - nothing in my periphery but 180 degrees of magic desolate ice. It looked like an ocean had been snap frozen, with waves in progress, whitecaps, the peaks and valleys of waves of ice.
We had great ice today so overall we skied 11 miles covering 9.8 nautical miles north (not much drift today).

The sun came and went all day - temperature minus 20, no major windchill so pretty tolerable (compared to last few days). Keith almost went in the drink but managed to show impressive balance one ski on ice, and one on water......

Here's hoping for (+) drift.

Don't try this at home

Dale about to negotiate open water

An open lead


Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 6 On the Ice

Day 6 on the ice

We woke up again to the usual ugly weather, blowing snow and crazy wind - nasty nasty nasty.
But first a word about last night - I think in all the weather, the drift, the arctic 'treadmill' as it is called made life a bit miserable - so we had a treat. Keith had reconstituted dried apples, I caramelized them, et voila - quesidillas became crepes a la Ross (no a la mode - though we could have reached outside the tent and added plenty of snow). Then came the Baileys (Dale) and Laphroig (Keith) - all in all we went to bed feeling pretty satisfied.

Back to today - we started out
9 nautical miles but only made 6
89.16!!!!!!!! East 138

The other group that went out at the same time as us is somewhere near us but we can't see them - apparently 2 of their team left the ice by chopper yesterday - we don't have details but hope they are well.

It was a major day of rubble - basically as you know we are on the arctic ocean - huge pans of ice that are floating - kind of like a jigsaw puzzle with space between the pieces. So these pans float along till they meet another pan and then crash, boom, they make rubble - i.e. they push up on each other and make giant sized ice cubes - some shoebox sized, some volkswagen sized - and we have to go through them......so skiis on skiis off - all morning long. In fact we did about 4 miles of work to make about 2 miles of distance in about 3 hours......

Also lots of open water - which leads me to the next challenge - apparently my horoscope today says something along the lines of relax by the water - well I had other plans - I didn't quite swim - but I came close - there was a small tilted pan of ice, some slush and unfortunately I caught a tip and down I went - left leg in up to thigh - Dale was behind me and was about to rescue me (what else is new?!) when I told him to stop as I wasn't sure if the pan would hold me, my sled and Dale as well. I tried to find purchase and put my left arm in to above the elbow. Slowly I was able to extricate myself - and all I could think of was thank God we did the dip in Ely or I would probably have panicked instead of just taking my time. Got the full slushy - lots of water in my boot - Keith (Captain Keith) said keep going - we had to get off the pan. about 5 minutes later we stopped and the team went to work. Keith found my spare liner and sock, Dirk took my boot and sock off, Michel gave me warm drink - they rubbed my foot to life, redressed the sock and spare liner and away we went - best way to stay warm is to keep moving! Now we are in the tent and I am just fine!!

Michel provided the biggest moment of humor today - there was about an 8 foot drop off into powder and he decided to do a ski jump launch - but face planted instead - I thought Keith was going to wet himself he was laughing so hard.

Finally a bit of magic about 1 hour from camp - the sun came out - we could finally see the landscape - gorgeous, somehow like the moon, shadow, sunlight low on the horizon - everyone much happier for it.

Dale has coined the best expression so far of the trip - day in day out like taking a hammer to your head, get up the next day and HIT yourself again!

Whose idea was this trip anyway?

Perhaps tomorrow could be dull????

The sun coming out

Navigating the jugsaw puzzle

Doing the rubble dance

Which way should we go?

April 8th Audio Update

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 7th Audio Update from Dr. Heather Ross

Here We Go Again

Latitude: 89.14.5 Longitutde 136.27.25

We have skiied 44.8 nautical miles over the ground to date.
Today was a day of water and wind. We came across many many breaks, small ones, slushy ones, lake like ones. Keith was amazing at finding paths around, over, through which made for some interesting moments!

We crossed 89.1 again today - it is 'groundhog day' (remember the old movie.....) - we go to sleep, we drift, we wake up still behind 89.1 and we ski all day - losing 0.2 to the treadmill each hour - so we have skied 39 miles, 29 hours and lost 0.2 about for every hour - hence our total ski is 44.8 nautical miles. Yet we were closer to the pole 48 hours ago......and are still 46 miles away.

We continue to drift as we sit in the tent so tomorrow we get to wake up and do 89.1 all over again!!! In fact it got me thinking - we have drifted 25 miles - so when you think about it.....25 plus 39 means that we have essentially skied on the land that was at the North Pole 5 days ago! Didn't see any corks go by...

Keith had a great kite which we flew in camp. Winds gusting to 20 mph again which made for amazing kite flying.

Spirits remain high despite the challenging conditions.

Finding our way across

Kite Flying

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Really Testing Our Limits

Take extreme weather and harsh condtions - put them in a blender and you have today in a nutshell. We opted to go out at 4 pm as we thought things had settled down. About 1 hour in we came across open water, a lead, that was about 8m wide. Huge sections of slush, all I could think was add lemon, rum and an umbrella and away we go. It took us about 45 minutes to try to find a way around it - but we did eventually - moving quickly. Again zero visibility in sections. The plan was to pull until midnight.
Then around 6 the wind really picked up - I mean howling - we pushed on for another 2 hours and then called it. 8pm we started to set camp - wind was about 30 mph gusting much more. All hands on to put each tent up in turn - I was hanging on to the strings and all I could think is wow I'm going to fly.
We are now in tent and eating beef stew.
We have actually skied 29.5 miles which still doesn't account for drift when we are skiing.
However tonight we are further from the pole than we were two nights ago - the drift is amazing. Our location is: 89.10.665; 134.32 - i.e. we have skiied 29.5 miles but accomplished just over 10!
This really is testing our limits

Keith navigating open water.

The Man!

Open water slushy

It Certainly Is An Adventure!

Wind is 35 mph - with gusting to 40 mph
sustained > 25 mph
drifted 5 miles south since going to bed
we have a sustained drift of 0.5 mph mainly to the east/southeast
there has been drifting snow that has buried all of our sleds, skiis and started to bury the tent.
overall too dangerous for us to venture out - visibility very poor, so can't wander off or you wouldn't find camp again
89.11 degrees and moving away from the pole
we are hunkered down and waiting it out - nothing else that can be done -
living arrangements are tight but we are making it work
we may go out later if things settle down
Happy Birthday to Trudy, Stella and John

p.s. Can't thank everyone enough for the comments - they bring warmth and humour to us everynight as we do the dinner prep!!

A windy day

Snowed in

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Voicemail from the Top of the World!

April 5

April 4

April 3

Day 6 - Day 3 on the Ice

Location - latitude 89.15.736 (i.e. 45 miles to go). Lost 2.1 nautical miles during sleep due to drift. Ugh.

Amazing day - not hard to imagine what it would have been like for the earliest explorers! -10 or so celsius (warm), but gusting winds 10 knots with snow flurries and white out conditions, visibility <>

The wind was from the northwest - so we continued to lose ground as we walked along, reminding me of a gerbel on a spinning wheel. The gusts were so strong that at times the sleds would run to the side of us. My goggles on the left side were completely frosted over due to wind and snow.

There were not as many obstacles today so we covered - 8 nautical miles. We set camp amidst the crazy wind - a bit like flying a kite - something we will do on a better weather day. Dale is doing great. Keith and Dirk are machines. Michel is providing the humor.

For dinner tonight is Pasta Primavera with chicken, appetizer is quesadilla with cheese - the menu has been brilliant. I have been doing the breakfast short order style - this morning we had bagels, bacon and cheese. We are getting better at setting up camp, though the weather adds its challenges, it makes it that more important to get the tent up and get out of the craziness out there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 2 on the Ice

location: latitude 89 degree, 09.9 minutes, longitude east 123 degrees 04.1 minutes, elevation about 3 feetwe drifted overnight 1.25 nautical miles

OMG, we spent the first 90 minutes just catching up to where we were when we went to bed. What a day - overcast, windy and then snow - flat light - really hard to sort out where we are going! Some pretty big winds. We came across our first large open water. As we stood there the ice drifted, moaning loudly and slowly closed up one areas of the open water allowing us to cross the water. The sound was incredible. You could feel the ice move and rumble underneath us - and a crack open on our side of the ice while waiting to cross...

We pulled for 8.5 hours achieving about 8 miles - but as I sit here writing this note we are continuing to drift away from the pole....We had a huge number of obstacles that have required us to take off our skiis and walk everything through the spaces. So things really take a long time - and it isn't at all like the cross country skiing I've been used to. Spirits are good

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 5

Well we are on the ice. It is about - 30 and windchill so tough to type. I think this will be par for the course for the next 10 days...highlights

Plane ride in was amazing - about 2.5 hours smooth ride - Had a chat with the pilots - great - let me sit up in the cockpit for a while - great view. Landed and had about 1.5 hours at Barneo - great soup, coffee and cookies - the best was the porta potty with sign reading next toilet 1500 km!!

Then we boarded the helicopter and took off to our starting point. landed at 89 on the nose - and all of a suddden we were completely alone - the helicopter took off and it was unbelievable - felt like I was on the moon.....landscape was amazing.

Now we are at 89 degrees 4.1 minutes - so we skied for 3 hours and covered only 4 miles - over typical terain. Gives you an idea what we have to do to cover 60 miles to pole, let alone drift and obstacles, open water.....wind howling as we set camp - almost lost one of the tents - now though we are inside - Keith has stove on - we have cocoa and dinner is getting fired up. Dale is so strong it is amazing.

Thanks Stacey for the great Easter Candies!!!! That's all for now - I will update temperature, longitude and latitude daily as well as some info on camp life!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 4

Today was a day of organization! Keith and Dirk arrived at 9 am and went through all of our gear again - to make sure that we were taking what we need, no more, no less. So there were adjustments to be made, sacrifices, food (goodies) left behind........but we managed to make it fit.
We loaded our sledges - Dale - 36kg, Michel 37 kg, and me Yipee only 33.5 kg (prior to adding all my electronics - OMG).
We sorted food out rather frightening how many kilos we have - diet is very high in fat and carbohydrates.....not what I would recommend as heart healthy.
We went out to the airport and had orientation and weigh in....rules from the Russians....
Barneo was set up via parachute drop on March 20th, 9th year they have done it this way - the runway was ploughed in 24 hours - 1500m long (plane only needs 800). They have erected the tent city with common areas and sleeping areas, as well as private areas for research (its primary mission)
Tomorrow we fly out, dare I say, weather permitting, at 930 am - 2 hour 15 minute flight.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 3

What a day we had today - Easy start with wonderful breakfast at the Hostel where we are staying. Then we went down to the large uninsulated shed to look at the gear. We sorted the skiis and bindings and made sure we had what we needed.
The sleds have a smooth contoured bottom with heavy material screwed in for the top, kind of expandable, so we can take what we need and shrink down as we eat! - 109 lbs of food (that is before it is rehydrated - OMG). More on this later....
This afternoon we went up and met Tom - he has 17 husky sled dogs. We put two sleds together 11 dogs on one, and 5 on the other. The sled with 5 dogs was smaller and each of us had a chance to mush! It was exhilirating - no words can adequately describe it. The landscape all snow, rock and mountains, no trees. We took a circuitous path up and around the mountain working the sleds up the hills helping the dogs. Our destination was the ice cave.
we put on our helmets, and our headlamps and in we went. Wow. We were in the bowels of the glacier. Apparently we took the expert route, ladders, ropes, and 10 foot icewalls that we went down, ice slides. We went a long way down into the caves, beautiful untouched ice sculptures naturally made. The trip came to a halt when Tom went down a slide and coaxing me down I got wedged in the ice - a Norwegian WEDGIE! Well a bit unusual and quite stuck! Eventually we extricated me and figured that was far enough for us to go. We then had to haul ourselves out by rope, grunting and sliding along. Magic
We mushed back to Tom's place and had wonderful coffee and cookies. Back to the Hostel and a hot shower.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 2

We left Oslo this morning and arrived in Longyearbyen to about -15, though windchill makes it feel a lot colder. Dirk and Keith were at the airport to meet and greet! Short drive into the hotel, converted from miners lodging. Longyearbyen is known for coal mining and some commercial fishing. It also holds the world's seed repository. The seeds from the world's plant life are stored here underground, safe from permafrost up on one of the mountains. Noah's seed ark.

After we checked in we wandered around town. The houses are built up on wood stilts so that the frost doesnt' cause them to break. The road's are sheet of ice so all the cars have studded tires. We wandered past the church and into town. Stopping for dinner at Svarbar. The highlight of today was the sighting of real reindeer, followed by NO sighting of polar bears!Team is in great spirits though a bit tired from all of the travel. It will be great to have a day to recoup.