It was a perilous undertaking, to be sure, but the importance of the message inspired Larsen and Dupre throughout their preparations, and motivated them in the long weeks and months that followed. They partnered with Greenpeace to keep their expedition in the media and public eye, and to continue the mission of saving the polar bear long after reaching the North Pole.
There’s a good reason why no one had ever managed a summer expedition to the North Pole before. The polar ice cap melts during the summer months, rendering the ice unstable, dangerous and riddled with large expanses of frigid open water. Areas of solid ice were often covered with a thigh-deep layer of slush, and areas of open water could be littered with huge blocks of ice that hinder passage. The Arctic is blanketed by thick fog for much of the time in summer, limiting sight to as little as 100 yards, making travel and navigation difficult. Temperatures of 10 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit combined with high humidity and damp conditions lend themselves to hypothermia, a debilitating and potentially deadly condition. And through it all, global warming is magnifying all of these conditions, making future journeys like this one even more perilous.
Much of Dupre and Larsen’s time preparing for this journey was spent pioneering new technologies and techniques for handling such treacherous conditions. They have modified whitewater canoes so that the canoes can be towed on solid ice or paddled through open water. When faced with a mix of open water and broken ice, they used a technique Lonnie pioneered in Greenland that involves a gaff hook and brute strength to haul themselves and their canoes through the open water from ice floe to ice floe.
Their goal was to become the first-ever explorers to reach the North Pole during the summer, their reason for such an ambitious expedition was to show the world the impact of global warming and expose the plight of the polar bear. To reach their goal they had to slog their way across one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, by paddling, skiing, climbing, and hauling toward the North Pole. They succeeded, reaching the North Pole on July 1. But the journey to bring attention to the changes the Arctic region is undergoing as a result of global warming, and the threat that disappearing Arctic sea ice presents to the polar bear, has only just begun.