We had breakfast about 9:00 AM and learned that the Otter was on its way back from Opal with an ETA (estimated time of arrival) of 9:30 AM. It was another glorious day outside with weather much the same as yesterday, and it was decided that we would try for the Pole today. While Debbie prepared a lunch for us to take on the trip, I showed the group epoxy reproductions of some of the artifacts I had found over the last eight years at Lake Hazen and in surrounding areas, explaining that these reproductions were going to be part of a permanent display in Grise Fiord on the prehistory of Ellesmere Island. Matt arrived back from Opal with another pilot, John Brechin; Monty stayed at Opal, but he would be accompanying us in the second Twin Otter for the latter part of the trip to the Pole.
Before we left camp, Elsieanna announced that it was her 76th birthday and that she had hoped to be at the North Pole on this date. We all wished her happy returns, and Earl presented her with a tiny stuffed koala bear. We got away at 11:45 AM, flying at approximately 9000 feet until we came to the north coast of Ellesmere Island. As we passed over the ice shelf and Ward Hunt Island, we began flying at 2000 feet, which gave us a very good view of the permanent Polar pack with its pressure ridges and open leads in the ice. We arrived at our refueling point, Camp Opal, at 2:30 PM. The camp was located at 85 degrees 59.2 minutes North and 87 degrees 54.8 minutes West. It was quite cold with an air temperature of 25 degrees below zero Celsius (13 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) and a wind of 20 knots. Commander Wales, the leader of the American Naval expedition, met us as we climbed out of the aircraft. There seemed to be between 8 and 10 men in the party, all dressed in royal blue wind suits. Some of them helped with the re-fueling while our group looked around the camp. One tent was restricted because it contained classified equipment, but they allowed those who were cold to visit the other two tents which were heated. When asked about their work here, they simply said that they were doing acoustic experiments under the ice. The second Twin Otter that we were going to use for the trip to the pole was on contract to Commander Wales and his group. John, the pilot, told us of two other camps, Crystal and Ruby, that were part of this expedition which would continue to operate for another couple of weeks.
We stayed about half an hour and then split into two groups with Bob Antol, Van and Nigel flying with Monty. We arrived at 90 degrees North about 5:00 PM and put down at 5:15 PM after Monty found a suitable ice floe and landed first. Our landing spot was about half a mile off 90 degrees North on an ice floe about 1 mile in diameter fringed by pressure ridges about 3 to 4 feet high. Most of the surrounding leads were frozen; the one closest to the aircraft appeared to have a cover of ice only about 6 inches thick. The temperature was 26 degrees below zero Celsius (15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) with little to no wind. Everyone with cameras began photographing the scenery immediately after leaving the aircraft. After a short time we got organized, and I began taking group photographs around Society's candy-striped pole, which we set up so as not to be shooting into the sun, although this created some inevitable shadows. After I had finished taking group shots, individual photos were taken; meanwhile, Tom did quite a bit of video-taping. Earl was photographed with all sorts of miscellany that he had brought along, including a silk butterfly, artificial roses, a can of Foster's beer, a cigar, and various flags. Van had brought a flag of India, figuring that he was the first Indian citizen to reach the North Pole, so he was photographed and I also had my picture taken with my National Museum of Man poster which read: Land of the Maple Leaf, Home of the Beaver. It was not as cold as at Camp Opal, but it was chilly enough that it was decided to have the champagne inside the aircraft. We raised our glasses in a toast to "Exploration, Adventure, and the North Pole" and polished off the four bottles of Mumm's we had brought, just as it turned to slush.
With our objective accomplished, we took our seats in the two Otters and took off at 6:45 PM. We arrived back at Camp Opal for refueling about an hour and a half later. It was a very brief stop and most people stayed on board. Bob Antol, Van, Nigel, and Bob Kaller, who had flown back with Monty in the second plane, rejoined us. Once again we were airborne. Over the north coast of Ellesmere, while John visited with the group, Matt flew the Otter and I sat in the cockpit taking photographs out the pilot's window. We arrived back at Hazen at 10:30 PM, and had a bit of cheer and a delicious chicken dinner and birthday cake (for Elsieanna) which Debbie had prepared. Most of the group went straight to bed after supper, but a few of us headed out about 1:30 AM to try our luck at ice fishing. We did not catch a thing, but we had fun trying.