remain a mystery. However, it seems that in making a dash out of a frozen inlet, Ross style, a combination of starvation and lead poisoning from a new canning process caused all to be lost.

In coming back to the present day and the discovery of the North Pole, we find that even this is not a straightforward story. For a long time it was thought that the Pole had been reached in the early twentieth century. The British assumption that it was possible to sail through the Arctic had been abandoned and most attempts were made overland by sledge. In 1907 Frederick Cook travelling west of Ellesmere Island claimed he had reached the Pole. Initially greeted as a hero, he was soon uncovered as a fraudster. In 1908 Robert Edwin Peary, an acknowledged polar explorer, claimed to have reached the Pole, again from Ellesmere Island. The debate still rages: as recently as 1988 the National Geographic Society stated they thought he had reached the Pole but the balance of opinion today is that Peary’s mileages are exaggerated and he did not.

We then have to roll forward to 1926, when Amundsen (yes, the man who beat Scott to the South Pole) along with Ellsworth and Nobile were the first to see the Pole, flying over it in an airship on route from Spitzbergen to Alaska. Following this, in 1948 on the instruction of Joseph Stalin, Alexander Kuznetsov and his team landed at the North Pole. Since this date a number of aircraft have landed at the Pole.

Amazingly it was 1969 before someone got to the North Pole by traversing the Polar Ice Cap. That award goes to the Brit Wally Herbert and his team who went from Alaska to Spitzbergen via the Pole with the aid of dog sleds. To put this in context, only two months later Armstrong was the first man to land on the moon.

Following that the challenge developed, first to do it on skis (ie. man power only) but

with re-supply (1979) and then to do it by pulling a sledge (man power only) without re-supply or assistance. A number of teams got close, with re-supply only being to evacuate a sick team member. Amongst these in 2000 was one Alan Chambers and Charlie Paton – Alan being one of our guides  and Charlie providing back-up in Spitzbergen. They travelled from Ward Hunt Island and took 67 days to get to the Pole, their only re-supply was to have two sick colleagues airlifted off the ice. Finally the list concludes with Pen Haddow, another Brit,  who in 2003 was the first person to complete a solo trek to the North Pole from the more arduous North American side and without re-supply.

We only have the statistics to 2002, but they are amazing and worth repeating. Up until the year 2002, only 184 people had been to the North Pole, including those that had flown or used other forms of power such as dogs. Only 26 people had got there unsupported. Simply amazing. More people have been in space than at the North Pole.

For those of you who know us, by now you are thinking this must be a joke or that in some form of mid-life crisis we have lost the plot. Can eight City softies (Andre aside) really be doing this? Well, the answer is both yes and no. We are doing the “executive trip”!  We will not be walking for 70 days over 300 miles of Arctic wasteland. Rather we will be doing the final degree, from 89 degrees North to 90 degrees North. This is a somewhat more modest 60 miles as the crow flies, probably up towards 100 miles taking account of the drift and open water leads. We will be pulling our own sledges, which will weigh in at around 60kg. So, man powered and without re-supply, but with just a little help from a Russian jet to get us to 89 degrees. This will be the real McCoy with all the Arctic challenges but just a little shorter in time. We will be on the ice for up to 9 days, facing all of the elements, including a full moon, which is challenge enough for most men.

Robert Edwin Peary (1856-1920)
Peary studied Inuit survival techniques, dressed in furs, and learnt to build igloos.
Sir Wally Herbert.
On 6th April 1969, Herbert's team was the first to reach the Pole on foot.
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Dr. Frederick A. Cook (1865-1940)
Cook claimed to have reached the Pole in April 1908 with only two Inuit men.
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