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Personal Log

Thursday, April 18th, 1985 (Day 1) - Initial Meeting

This is the big day. This is the day I have been waiting for. It has been two and a half years since I first made my initial plans to go to the North Pole. This day consisted of getting up at 7:15 AM and leaving for LaGuardia Airport at 8:30 AM. I caught Air Canada flight #775 to Toronto, Canada and then Air Canada flight #127 to Edmonton, Canada. I arrived at the Westin Hotel at 5:45 PM. There will be drinks at 7:00 PM and a dinner at 8:00 PM in the Crown Room #2009. I am staying in room #845.

I am very excited. This is a once in a lifetime adventure. My memories will be captured on film and my thoughts will be transferred to this log.

We all met at 7:00 PM for drinks. Everyone that is involved on this trip is an extremely fascinating person. I am the youngest of the 10. I believe that the oldest is a 70 year old woman. (Actually, the oldest is 79).

The "leader" and guide of our expedition became ill 5 days before our adventure was to begin. So, Dr. George Llano was replaced at the last minute with Pat Sutherland, a woman who is working on her Ph.D. in archaeology. She seems to be a very good replacement.

The meal that we all enjoyed at 8:00 PM was reindeer. It was delicious. During the meal, we all introduced ourselves and explained who we were and why we wanted to go on this bold adventure. Then, Pat ran through some necessary checklist items that we should all know for the trip. We adjourned our first meeting on the first day at 10:30 PM.

Friday, April 19th, 1985 (Day 2) - Touring Edmonton

After a good night's sleep, I awoke at 7:00 AM and enjoyed an excellent breakfast. We will all be meeting at 9:30 AM in the hotel lobby to begin our day at the Edmonton Planetarium. Today will be spent touring Edmonton.

It turned out the Planetarium was not open for a show in the morning. So instead, we started out our day at the Provincial Museum of Alberta, Canada. After that, we stopped off at the Edmonton Space Sciences Centre but we were still too early to see a show.

We then came back to the hotel for a smoked salmon lunch. After a delicious lunch, we went and visited Al Oeming's Polar Park. It was there that we saw Polar Bears, Camels, Lions, Tigers, Grizzlies, Prairie Dogs, Gorillas, and any other animal you can think of that does not belong in the Arctic. It was most enjoyable.

On the way back, we stopped off at a liquor store to buy 6 bottles of champagne. I bought a bottle of blackberry brandy because I know it's going to be cold.

I must pack before dinner tonight because we are leaving at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning to fly to Resolute Bay. We have been told to pack light - so I must re-arrange my suitcase.

Dinner was very interesting. We all arrived at "The Carvery" at 7:00 PM. This is the restaurant at the Westin Hotel. We all had some before dinner drinks (mine was a Tanqueray Martini straight up, triple olive). I then had a half dozen fresh oysters for an appetizer. For the main course, I had some medium rare bison. It was absolutely delicious. But it also took 3 hours. So our leader, Pat Sutherland, complained. They told us we could have complimentary after dinner drinks. But when they came around to giving us our drinks, there was no mention of it being complimentary. So none of us had anything to drink. Instead, we demanded that we not pay for our before dinner drinks. They finally accepted that and apologized for being slow. In the end, we received 80 dollars worth of free drinks and we left no tip. That'll teach 'em!

We had to cancel the slide show that we were going to see. Pat had arranged for us to see some slides of the high arctic. But since it was 10:00 and we did have to all get up at 4:00 AM the next day, we decided to wait until Saturday night to see the show.

Halfway through our dinner, we were joined by two gentlemen from the National Geographic. One was a writer and the other was a photographer. Their purpose on this expedition was to go with us all the way to Eureka and then be left there to do a documentary on wolves. We would pick them up on our way back. It is too bad, but I don't think they are going to do any documentary on us.

Saturday, April 20th, 1985 (Day 3) - Leaving Edmonton

The alarm went off at 4:15 AM. I awoke to a snowstorm. Just great, I said. I just hope the plane will be able to take off. I made a 4:30 AM phone call to Nigel Larn just to make sure he was awake. Nigel is a Roman Catholic priest that is traveling to the pole with us. He is from London and is an absolutely charming man.

We were all supposed to meet in the lobby and be all checked out and ready to go at 5:30 AM. One gentleman, Will Savy, from Geneva, Switzerland was not quite ready. So we decided to leave him behind so he could catch a taxi to the airport.

We all eventually met back at the airport. There was mass confusion at this point in time. I will try to recall all that happened.

First, the van driver put all of the luggage on the area to be tagged for the cargo hold - including carry-on luggage. Our leader told the airline official to stop the conveyor so she could get her hand luggage off. When we finally got all of the luggage straightened out, we were handed 13 boarding passes for 14 people. We didn't discover this until all of the boarding passes were handed out. So we had to quibble with the airline official to give us an extra boarding pass.

Finally our group was ready to pass through security. But wait, we were missing two people! Pat was up in arms. I told her that everybody was over 18 years old and if they missed the plane, then it was their own fault. The two missing persons finally showed up.

From there, we simply boarded the plane and got ready to fly to Yellowknife and then onto Resolute Bay.

And now, I will relate the first time I was scared on this trip. We were to fly out of Edmonton to Resolute in a 737. Now study the picture.

There was a heavy snowstorm. We were boarding a 737. We were warned to watch our step as we ascended the back stairs of the plane because of the de-icing fluid was becoming slippery. All I could think of was Air Florida Flight 90 and Washington, D.C. and wind shear.

When we started to accelerate down the runway for take off, my heart started to pound. I could hear it in my ears. We left the ground. 100 feet up and the plane took a drop. All of this was perfectly natural and I am sure my excited condition caused this emotional over reaction. There were no problems with the flight at all.

We stopped in Yellowknife for a very brief time. It is very beautiful up here.

Sunday, April 21st, 1985 (Day 4) - Waiting in Resolute - Meeting the Cast of Players

First, some interesting facts about Resolute Bay: If you were to buy a breakfast, lunch or supper here (and fortunately we didn't have to pay), it would cost you:

    Breakfast $27.00
    Lunch $45.00
    Supper $62.00

Electricity is charged by the kilowatt. The following are comparative charges:

    California 3 cents / kilowatt
    Edmonton 4 cents / kilowatt
    Resolute Bay 37 cents / kilowatt

And now for the log. We all got suited up yesterday at Bezal's place. We were supplied with arctic down underwear (long johns), arctic pants, arctic coat (parka), arctic mittens, face mask, and boots (if needed - I had my own). The equipment is extraordinary. I will not be worried about getting cold. Speaking of which, it was 27 degrees below zero Fahrenheit yesterday and it is now 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

We had a slide show after a superb dinner. I left in the middle of the show because I wanted to go outside and take pictures of the sunset. The sun set at 10:00 PM and rose at 2:00 AM. By the end of next week, Resolute will be bathed in constant sunlight. The sunset was spectacular! It was a gorgeous red ball setting over a field of snow.

I had no trouble sleeping. I awoke at 6:30 AM and took my last shower for 5 days. Water will be at a minimum farther up north. Breakfast was delicious. If all goes according to schedule, Nigel will be throwing a mass at 8:30 AM. We will then attempt to fly to Lake Hazen if the satellite photographs indicate good weather. It is beautiful here in Resolute right now. But we don't know what it is like further north.

We played pool before dinner last night. There were teams. I played with one of the gentleman from the National Geographic. Both of those guys are great.

Well, the weather report came in. The weather was bad at Eureka. We were supposed to refuel there so we must delay our departure by possibly one day.

Instead, we drove around Resolute looking at old villages made from whale bones dug into the ground. I shot roll #1 today. It contains some shots from Edmonton's Polar Park and the rest are from Resolute Bay. I lost a roll of film today. It may be around here somewhere but I believe it is lost. I will go outside and look around.

Also, some of the pictures were taken at where I stayed in Resolute.

The latest weather report came in. There is 1/2 mile visibility up north. We will be staying in Resolute for the night.

Another comment about roll #2. There are some pictures taken of the Resolute village as seen from the local water storage facility. I ran up the hill and tried to get both the water tanks and the village in the same scene.

I took some shots of the food that we got to eat. All of the food is delicious. Good news - my film has been found.

Speaking of film, roll #1 contains some shots while I was in France and also my arrival in Edmonton.

General comments about the people traveling in this group:

    Charles (Chuck) Bergman
    He is a writer for the National Geographic. He is currently working on an article about wolves in Eureka. That is the main reason he is traveling with us - just to hitch a ride.

    Robert (Bob) Burns
    Bob is a retired Winn Dixie (supermarket) executive. He has a very funny sense of humor and is a joy to travel with. He was the one who found my film. He loves to be comical. For example: We were sitting at the dinner table in Edmonton and when the waiter came over and asked him if he wanted another drink, he said, "Sure. They only cost a dollar, so I can have one more because I only have two dollars." He said this in a typical Florida southern drawl. The waiter didn't know how to take him. Another example: We can only bring one carry-on aboard the airplane. He told Pat, "I only have six carry-ons, I don't see any problem with my bringing a seventh." Pat believed him.

    Elsieanna Graff
    She is an old woman who has traveled around almost everywhere. It will be interesting to see how she does at the pole.

    Robert (Bob) Kaller
    Bob is interesting. He left the dinner the night it took 3 hours to get served. He didn't want to wait. He also bought a new camera to take to the pole. He didn't know how to work it. He should have experimented with it before the trip.

    Patricia (Pat) and Thomas (Tom) Largen
    Tom is a general surgeon from Florida. He had someone build him a sheepskin bag for his camera to keep it warm. They are both fun people. It was so funny watching Pat trying to get into the touring truck. She was all dressed for the arctic and had a hell of a time getting up into the seat.

    Nigel Larn
    Like I said earlier, Nigel is a Roman Catholic priest from London. There was a mass this morning. It was only him and I. He had hosts and some Franciscan wine. After the mass (which was very short), he apologized for not giving a sermon. I laughed and said that was OK. He is my roommate on this trip. I like him. He loves to laugh and really appreciates the beauty that is outside. It was an interesting mass with a priest in arctic pants.

    Frances Rogers
    Frances is also a retired woman with a lot of spunk. She is really looking forward to the Pole.

    William (Bill) Savy
    Bill is from Geneva, Switzerland. He is a stubborn man. When we were being outfitted for the Arctic, he indicated that he did not want any equipment - he had his own. Ridiculous! The equipment we were provided with had no charge and was absolutely fabulous. Why would he turn it down? It would be like committing suicide going to the Pole without it.

    Jagannathan (Van) Srinivasaraghavan
    Van is from India currently living in Chicago. He is a psychiatrist. Maybe he thinks we're all crazy going on a trip to the Pole but then that makes him crazy because he is going too, so I guess we can't be crazy if a crazy man says we are. He was on a cruise to the South Pole 3 months ago. He has been to every continent and loves to travel. He brought with him a wonderful Nikon camera outfit with several lenses. I hope to trade some pictures with him.

    Pat Sutherland
    She is our leader. A very small woman with a lot of enthusiasm. She is very interesting with a lot of archaeological knowledge.

    Earl Wilkinson
    Earl is not listed in the original cast of players. He is from Sydney, Australia and has a great sense of humor. On his Arctic parka, he has stuck a sticker that reads "PERISHABLE - DO NOT FREEZE". I hope the picture I took of him turns out OK.

    Art Wolfe
    Art is the photographer from the National Geographic. He is working with Chuck Bergman on the wolf story. He is a funny guy with a great sense of humor. I will try to get him to take my picture.

And now, some general comments about the trip. My face is the only thing that is getting cold. I have not yet tried my balaclava. I have some wind burn on my cheeks. But what can you expect from a wind chill temperature of 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. There is a picture of my boot print in the snow. The significance of the picture is to see how far I sunk while I stood on a snow drift. The snow is so cold, it is solid yet it is not icy.

Monday, April 22nd, 1985 (Day 5) - Arrival at Lake Hazen

My second roll of film is labeled "A". This was the roll I lost outside. I hope the film is OK. And now for the latest.

It is a little warmer this morning. The temperature is reading 23 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. As of this minute, we will attempt to depart Resolute for Lake Hazen at around 8:30 this morning. The weather is critical at both our refueling stop and our final destination. We have been told there are no bathrooms on the plane out of here to Hazen. Fortunately, we will be able to deplane at Eureka (for refueling) to do our business.

Last night, Bezal came over to show two reels of home movies. They were both fascinating. The wildlife in the north is beautiful. I do hope that we might get to see some polar bears, musk ox, arctic hare, and maybe an arctic fox.

The meal that we had last night was steak (absolutely delicious), baked potato with sour cream and bacos, corn (delicious), sauteed mushrooms, garlic bread, and my favorite - milk. And breakfasts are just as delicious. Any kind of egg you desire, bacon, sausage, potatoes (actually hash browns), toast, orange juice, milk, melon, cantaloupe, cereal, jellies and almost anything you want.

I had another hot shower this morning. This will probably be my last until next Saturday. A small price to pay for such an exciting adventure.

I wrote some post cards yesterday. I plan to bring them to Grise Fiord to mail them. That place is the northern-most mail station.

It is a very peculiar sensation I get when I look out the window of the dining room in Resolute and see mile after mile of cold snow and think that at this exact moment in time, people in Fishkill are walking across the parking lot in short sleeve shirts to get a cup of coffee and a bagel. If they could only experience the beauty of it all.

Several hours have passed since my last entry. The reason for this is because I am now at the Lake Hazen camp. I will try to recount every exciting minute that has happened. It is now 6:00 PM.

We received word at 7:30 AM this morning that weather at Eureka and at Lake Hazen was acceptable for take-off and landing. So it was only 25 minutes since my last log entry that Bezal picked us up at the Resolute "Hilton" and took us to the airport. We took everything we did not want to bring with us to a storage room at the hotel. We then loaded the vans and went to the airport. It was 8:30 AM when we lifted off.

The plane that we were in was called a Twin Otter. There were 15 of us packed in there like sardines. Refer to roll #3 for a picture of this.

A very funny comment came from Elsieanna when she said she didn't see her baggage being loaded or she didn't see it in the plane and that she wanted to see it "now". Pat and I assured her that it was on board.

The picture that I took had the following people seated in the following seats:

Airplane Layout
        Monty Matt Pilots
Frances Rogers Tom Largen Pat Largen Row 1
Will Savy Debbie (the cook) Bob Burns Row 2
Chuck Bergman Van Art Wolfe Row 3
Nigel Larn Earl Wilkinson Bob Kaller Row 4
Elsieanna Graff     Bob Antol Row 5
    Pat Sutherland     Row 6

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. Of course, the scenery was spectacular! Mile after mile of snow that did not get boring. We were flying over ice (water) and mountains. The terrain was so beautiful. But the fun was just beginning.

We had to land at Eureka for two reasons. First, we had to refuel. Second, we were leaving our two National Geographic gentlemen behind so they could do their article on wolves.

So while we were waiting for the plane to be refueled, we got the opportunity of a lifetime. We went over to the weather station riding in the back of a pickup truck (yes, it was cold!) so we could relieve ourselves. Then we all boarded one of two "bombardiers" (snow roving vehicles - see the pictures) and took a ride across the Slidre Fiord to an iceberg. It was pure beauty! The ride alone will be unforgettable. Riding across frozen water was more exciting than anything at Great Adventure. It was very bumpy and our "pilot" was really sailing. When we arrived at the berg, we got out and took pictures. I was running around like a little kid that just got away from his parents. I can't stress how beautiful it all was!

We then left the berg and drove out to the weather station dump. It was here that the two gentlemen from the National Geographic will spend the rest of the time writing their story on wolves.

Well, we were extremely lucky. I saw 5 wolves. I took several pictures. I hope one of the pictures turns out. I had the two National Geographic guys with their cameras studying the wolves who were in the background. Maybe I should send the picture to the Geographic so they can use it in their "On Assignment" section.

It was then time to re-board the plane so we could continue onto Hazen, land of perpetual sun.

Once again, an uneventful trip, but the scenery was gorgeous. We finally arrived at the base camp at Hazen. One of my pictures should show this from the air.

We had to hand carry the luggage from our landing spot up a hill to the camp and it was about 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Since I was so excited and energetic, I took 3 trips to unload and help out with the extra heavy baggage. I don't think that some people were expecting what they got into.

But too bad. I came here for the adventure and excitement. I knew this wasn't a fancy resort. I am having a blast!

Anyway, the best is yet to come. I chose a bunk to sleep on because I had advance knowledge of who slept in it last. The cook gave me the information. The bunk and sleeping bag that I am using was last used one month ago by Neil Armstrong, America's first man to set foot on the moon. Yes, both Neil and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to conquer Mt. Everest, went to the North Pole one month ago. To imagine, Neil was walking around here just like I am right now enjoying the sites that I am seeing. (See the attached article on their trip.)

After I got settled, Pat and I went for a very long walk around the area. I cannot find the words to describe the sights I saw and the sounds I heard and didn't hear. Let me explain.

The snow has a very strange sound. When you walk across a drift, you hear a hollow sound. Because there was icing, packing, fluffing, more icing, more packing, more drifting and it all adds up to a hollow crunching sound. But not everywhere. Some of the snow is just plain deep. I would unexpectedly sink in a spot that was completely level with the surrounding area.

The silence of the area is what is really beautiful. There is no sound or sign of humanity. No people sounds. No car sounds. No plane sounds. No running water sounds. And today, there was not even the sound of wind. It was still and very, very quiet. You could not record this silence, because when you play it back, you would be around noise. It is totally unreal and beyond anything I've ever experienced.

Now back to the walk. There were tracks of animals everywhere. I saw both arctic hare tracks and lemming tracks. (When we were landing at Hazen, I saw 4 beautiful white arctic hares). Pat and I were looking for the hares but when we couldn't find them, we changed direction and climbed to the top of a hill where Bezal (in 1978) built a small monument. A funny incident happened on the way up the hill. Pat said her camera died. Batteries lose power in the cold. So I thought I would check my batteries by barely depressing the photo switch. Well, with my gloves on, I pressed too hard. The batteries were fine and the camera clicked. I think I have a blurry picture of a rock.

We eventually reached the summit. An interesting side note. My mustache was always freezing up. And I began to sweat because I was getting hot. Well, my eyebrows and eyelashes started to generate icicles. It was very bizarre.

The walk back was also very fun. Pat slid down one of the hills on her butt. It was very cute and funny. One of my pictures should show our tracks coming down the hill and one section of the tracks will have a slide pattern. Another picture to comment on. I took a picture of Tom and Pat Largen from very far away. I should find two bodies in a sea of snow.

There will also be 2 pictures of our guest book at Hazen. I am on one page. Neil Armstrong is on the previous page. I have loaded in the camera right now roll #4.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 1985 (Day 6) - Arrival at the North Pole

I had a lot of fun sleeping last night. It was just like the old days. But I had one of the best sleeping bags you could imagine. All of the men were in a dormitory like structure. There were beds and bunk beds. I was on the bottom of a bunk but no one was on top. We all had sleeping bags especially made for arctic conditions. I slept like a baby all night. I woke up at 4:15 AM and the sun was streaming through the cracks in the shade. It was weird. I went to bed after seeing the midnight sun. It never sets. It just traverses a giant circle in the sky.

I woke up for good at 7:30 AM. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, milk, and orange juice.

I must make a comment on our bathroom. There are two of them. You can see your breath in there. It consists of a toilet seat and toilet lid on top of a bucket with an extended pipe leading outside. The bucket is "changed" once a day. Peter is in charge of that. He joined us from Resolute.

A span of time has happened since my last entry in the log. The reason for this is because I have been busy. I have been to the North Pole!

We received word from Camp Opal at 10:07 AM that the weather was satisfactory for an attempt. I have a picture of the two pilots conversing with Opal at the minute of our decision to go.

Prior to take-off, the pilots were refueling the plane. Elsieanna was sitting on a drum watching it all (a fuel drum). The gas started to get to her. She didn't feel too good. So the two doctors had her walk around and get away from the smell of the fuel. When we were ready to board the plane to fly to the Pole, Elsieanna was on the first step of the plane and fainted. A combination of fuel fumes and excitement got to her. Tom Largen caught her from behind and laid her on the ice. I thought, "Just great. What a time for her to pass out." It was only a minute when she came back to life. She was so apologetic about missing the first step. She didn't know she fainted. From there, we had no more troubles.

We left Hazen at 11:30 AM and flew to Opal to refuel our plane so we could make it to the Pole. Opal was beautiful! It is a scientific community based on the Arctic Ocean. It consists of several small huts and some radio equipment. One very interesting structure was the camp's toilet. It is situated out in the open with 4 foot walls surrounding it. The toilet is dug into the ice with a hole about 15-20 feet deep. I decided to try it.

The temperature was about 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. I must say, taking a piss out in the open in 20 degrees below zero weather is quite different. Refer to my pictures.

We then picked up a second plane. The pilot wanted 3 people who were very "hearty" to ride with him. I volunteered. The reason he only wanted 3 and the reason he wanted hearty people was because there were 4 fuel drums riding in the cabin with us. Also, a rather steep step was required to board the plane.

Pat remained on board with the old folks and Van, Nigel and myself boarded the second plane.

We were the first to take-off from Opal. The scenery from Opal to the Pole was actually quite beautiful. A very beautiful site was seeing the other plane outside of the port window.

I am still so excited! I have to get to the Pole portion of this adventure.

We were the first plane to land. The pilots were circling the pressure ridges trying to find a place to land. When our pilot finally located a "landing strip", he went in for the landing.

The landing was even more exciting than the bombardier ride we took in Eureka. It was extremely bumpy. It was fabulous! Our pilot then "drove" around our area checking out smooth places for the second plane. It was now 5:18 PM.

We then disembarked and proceeded to watch the other plane come in. It was fantastic! I took a couple of pictures of this landing. Van and I then ran over to the edge of the pressure ridge so we could take pictures. We each got pictures of ourselves. Pat then got out of the other plane and told us not to cross the ridge - it may be dangerous. Leads may be present. A lead is a section of open water.

It was absolutely the most beautiful site in the world! I guess I was expecting a flat desert-like area full of snow. Boy was I wrong! The North Pole is very scenic. All of the way around us were snow piles and ice piles. These are called pressure ridges and are formed from pressures so great that great ice sheets are pushed against each other and bunching of ice is the result. I hope my pictures bring this out.

I snapped several more pictures and then we had to group together for the planting of the pole. This pole is a red and white striped pole that symbolizes the location of 90 degrees North. We all had group pictures taken with each of our cameras. The photographer was Pat.

I was getting impatient. I wanted to go exploring. So after all of the "pole" pictures were taken, I ran around the pressure ridge. I was snapping pictures left and right. I then collected samples of snow for a souvenir. I had to be called back in from my explorations because they were ready for the popping and drinking of the champagne.

I was given the honors of opening every bottle of champagne. I saved the corks for souvenirs. Drinking the champagne was fun. It was extremely cold and turned slushy within a couple of minutes. It was then time to depart.

The portable toilet, called a honey pot, was being loaded in the storage area. It was originally in the back of the plane so people could be warm when they used it. I had to take a piss. So I went behind the plane and did it out in the open on the North Pole. It was 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

I boarded my plane along with Van, Nigel, Bob Kaller, and a bottle of champagne. Needless to say, that bottle did not last long! I was so excited. We left the pole at 6:38 PM. That one hour and twenty minutes was beautiful. I will never forget this for as long as I live.

Wednesday, April 24th, 1985 (Day 7) - Ice Fishing, Departing Lake Hazen, Arrival at Grise Fiord

When we left the pole, our plane circled and watched the other plane take off just to make sure it was safe. I took a picture of the lift-off but I think my lens was all fogged over so the photo probably won't turnout.

There was pure excitement and disbelief aboard our aircraft. Here were four guys sitting together that had just walked on the pole. We were all in another world.

We flew to Camp Opal to refuel one last time. We all then re-boarded one plane. We took off from Opal and just enjoyed the beauty of the Arctic Ocean. When we reached Ward Hunt Island, the northern-most point of land, I started taking more pictures. One of my pictures should show four musk oxen huddled together.

We landed at Hazen at 10:30 PM. Our dinner consisted of fried chicken, rice, and beans and carrots. I was famished. It was a fabulous dinner.

After dinner, I started to write in the log. Pat asked me at 12:15 AM if I wanted to go ice fishing.

A slight digression first. Earl handed out "North Pole" cigars. Pat had one. So I went outside with her and took pictures of her smoking in a midnight sun. I also have three beautiful pictures of the midnight sun. Now back to the story.

I said sure. She said, "OK, let's go". Well, it was 12:15 AM and I was tired, but how many opportunities do you get to go ice fishing in the sunlight at midnight.

We boarded a Ski-Doo snowmobile with Matt as our driver. As soon as we took off, we spilled the machine. It is extremely bumpy out here. So we all learned how to lean.

We drove 2 miles across Lake Hazen to the Ruggles River. Due to the high velocity of the river flowing into the lake, it does not have a chance to freeze. So we parked our Ski-Doo and began to dig holes in the ice with a 7 foot pole. After the ice was broken, a tin can with holes in the bottom was used to scoop out the broken ice. We then took tree limb fishing rods (where they got these, I'll never know) with line attached and all they had on it was a 3 pronged hook and a metal fly. We simply dropped the hook through the hole and let it bob up and down.

We had no luck at the first set of holes (which consisted of 3) so we moved on to dig a new set. We were out about 20 minutes and had no luck. We decided to give up because we were getting cold.

So we boarded the Ski-Doo and drove back home. The ride back was more exciting. Matt decided to blaze his own trail. So he took off across the lake dodging mini-icebergs that were up to 1-2 feet high. When he approached the entrance path, he veered away saying, "Wait, I've got a better idea!"

He drove around the plane across the lake and turned around. He said "Hang on!"

He floored the Ski-Doo and headed right for base camp. When he reached the edge of the lake, he hit the snowy embankment and flew through the air. There were 3 of us above the Ski-Doo about a foot. We continued flying up the hill hanging on for dear life. We made it, but it was quite a ride. Remember, all of this time, we were dragging a 12 foot sled behind us that carried our digging pole. I had a tremendous time. It was about 2:30 AM when I got to bed.

I got up about 9:45 AM and had an excellent breakfast of french toast, maple syrup and sausage. By the way, you can see your breath in the bathroom. I've already said that.

The days activities consisted of boarding the plane and flying to Fort Conger. This was an old fort that was used in the late 1800s by Robert Peary. It is amazing thinking what some people had to endure. I was actually more fascinated by the ice pressure ridges. So I spent most of my time walking around on the ice taking many pictures. We then left Fort Conger and headed back home to Hazen.

After we landed, Pat informed us that we must close down Hazen and move on to Grise Fiord. We rolled up our sleeping bags, turned off the stoves, threw away all of the drinking water, and packed to leave. We laid our baggage on the sled and walked down to the plane saying good-bye to one of the most beautiful places I've every stayed.

The glacier I photographed from Hazen to Eureka is called the Henrietta-Nesmith Glacier.

We had to refuel in Eureka, and then continued on to Grise Fiord. We left Hazen at 5:21 PM and arrived at Grise Fiord at 9:00 PM. We lost an hour due to time changes, so it was instantly 10:00 PM. Hazen was actually on Grise time, but we left our watches on Resolute time while we were there.

Grise Fiord is a comfortable place. We were back to 2 people per room. My roommate was once again, Nigel. There was a water shortage in Grise so we could only take showers interspersed. 2 in the night, 2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, etc. Now to decide who should go first, Pat made the only fair decision she could think of. Alphabetically! I have never been so happy to have a name like Antol.

The shower was wonderful. We take for granted being clean. After the shower, I had a nice supper of fried eggs, toast and honey, and milk.

The beds are bunk style. I slept like a baby all night from 12:30 AM to 8:00 AM.

Thursday, April 25th, 1985 (Day 8) - Touring Grise Fiord

We spent our morning walking around Grise Fiord. It is a beautiful little town of 101 people. We went and visited 2 small igloos that were already built from an Easter igloo building contest.

After lunch (bowl of delicious chile), we went over to the Grise Co-op and bought post cards and souvenirs. I bought a Tuke (hat), a poster, a polar bear patch, and a shirt.

After shopping at the co-op, we boarded 4 sleds being pulled by Ski-Doos and traveled 5 miles across Grise Fiord. It was a fabulous ride. It was extremely bumpy, but I loved it!

When we arrived at our destination, we visited an old Thule house (circle of stones in the ground).

Our drivers then cut some snow and made snow tea. It was delicious. They had Coleman stoves that they melted the snow with. I am not a tea drinker, but this was delicious. They also gave us some home made Eskimo bread called bannock.

It took us 20 minutes to travel 5 miles. That figures us to have been traveling at 15 miles per hour. The stop that we made was extremely pretty. We walked around beautiful pressure ridges. I sure hope my pictures show the colors that I saw. The frozen ice sticking up out of the ground was a beautiful turquoise.

We had a fun ride back to Grise and then walked around town until dinner. Our dinner consisted of pork chops, potatoes, and peas.

I think my body has become "climatized". I go outside without a hat or gloves with my jacket zippered down and the temperature is 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The body is amazing.

I fell in love with the cutest husky puppy dog today. I was changing my film when she came up to me and crawled in my lap. I think I was warm and she wanted to get off the snow. I had Nigel take my camera and take a picture of me. When I got my camera back, I laid down and the puppy nestled her nose against my neck. I tried to take my own picture and I sure hope it turns out. The puppy was adorable.

Nigel and I visited (before dinner) the Grise church. He, of course, was extremely fascinated with it.

I have just come in from outside watching the neatest thing. Two Inuits (Eskimos) just built us a 5-man igloo. It took 1 hour and 15 minutes. They constructed it from 64 blocks of hard snow cut about 9 or 10 inches thick. Each block weighed about 50 or 60 pounds. It was extremely fascinating watching it being built. I took a whole roll of film (roll #11) on how it was constructed. The plan is to sleep out in it tonight. As of now, I plan to remain the whole night. We will know if I made it later in this log.

Friday, April 26th, 1985 (Day 9) - A Night in the Igloo and Arrival at the Magnetic North Pole

I did it! I spent the entire night sleeping in the igloo we watched being built. There were 3 of us who decided to brave the elements. We covered the snow covered ground in the igloo with foam mattresses and animal skins. We then pulled in the sleeping bags. The Inuits had cut a breathing hole in the top of the igloo. We covered the door with garbage bags and sleeping bag holders.

The 2 other people who joined me were Van and Bob Kaller. We were given half a bottle of Napoleon brandy that we finished as soon as we got inside. When we finished the bottle, we tried to go to sleep. But just like little kids on a camping outing, we told jokes and laughed.

Then we heard some footsteps and voices outside our igloo. There were little kids investigating this new large house. We said "hello out there" and they ran away.

Before I went to sleep, I took off all of my clothes and slept naked inside the sleeping bag. It was cold on any exposed portion of skin. I tried to sleep with my head out but it was too cold to breathe. I used my heavy arctic pants as my pillow.

I got entirely inside the bag but found it difficult to get any oxygen. So I ended up with making an air hole in my bag and then had no problem at all. This is also going to be a time of my life that I shall never forget.

Van got cold about 6:15 AM and came in. Bob Kaller left after him at about 7:30 AM. I slept like a baby until 8:15 AM. I got dressed (which is an art if you don't want to get cold) and walked back to the hotel.

All of my traveling companions were eating breakfast then. I joined them for a hearty meal of Raisin Bran, scrambled eggs, sausage and apple juice.

After breakfast, the 3 "igloo men" went out to their lodging and made their beds. We folded sleeping bags and rolled mattresses. We had to carry our equipment back to the hotel. It was a perfect ending to a perfect night.

A comment about the little kids. They do not have any idea of time. With the sky always bright, kids will play outside at all hours of the day and night.

Bob Burns brought a lot of Chicklets chewing gum with him. He hands it out to any kid he sees. They really love the gum.

We left Grise Fiord at 1:30 PM. It was sad to wave good-bye to the igloo - it was my home for the night and was very comfortable. We flew straight towards the Magnetic North Pole.

We arrived at the Magnetic North Pole at 3:30 PM Resolute time. We gained an hour as we flew back from Grise. We had to circle the pressure ridges to look for a safe landing spot. Our pilot found a relatively "smooth" landing area and set the plane down. I will have a picture of the northern-most year round body of water prior to our landing at the pole.

When we got out of the plane, the pilots told us to stay close, as we were in Polar Bear country. The first thing I did was to set my compass down on the ice and take a picture of it. It was not exciting - it did not go crazy - it did not spin wildly. The North Magnetic Pole is rather boring. The geographic north pole was beautiful!

Pat then had all of us group together so we could take group shots again. It was cold here. The temperature was 1 degree below zero Fahrenheit with a wind. And it was a piercing wind, too. We didn't stay long here.

When we got back in the plane, I took a picture of the latitude-longitude indicator to show our position at the Magnetic North Pole.

Magnetic North Pole
77 degrees 08 minutes North, 101 degrees 55 minutes West

We had a very smooth take-off and headed back towards Resolute. On the way, I took a picture of the northern-most lead-zinc mining company and air strip.

I also shot a picture of Resolute as seen from the air. We landed at Resolute and were issued new rooms. My new roommate is Earl Wilkinson. I have a nicer room now than I did when I first got here.

The very first thing I did was to take a long hot shower. It felt great! I also changed out of the long underwear and insulated gear I have been wearing for so long. I feel clean and new. It is about 8 degrees below zero Fahrenheit right now. The National Geographic guys came back from Eureka early and have gone home. Apparently, they got some very good pictures of the wolves. They were nice guys.

Some interesting facts:

Camp Opal
85 degrees 59.2 minutes North, 87 degrees 54.8 minutes West

Also, it was Elsieanna's birthday the day we went to the pole. What a beautiful birthday gift. When we got back to Hazen, Debbie had a birthday cake waiting for her.

Saturday, April 27th, 1985 (Day 10) - Last Night in Resolute

Last night, Bezal came over and picked us up. Bezal and Terry Jesudason are wonderful people. A neighbor of theirs came over with her daughter to perform some throat singing. It was bizarre! It sounded like something from "The Exorcist". It is a dying art that this Inuit woman is passing along to her family. The two women face each other and begin "singing". When one of them start laughing, the song is over. It is very difficult to describe how it sounded.

Then the old woman brought out 3 Jews Harps. This is a musical instrument that you put on your teeth and strum an extending piece of metal. The fascinating thing about all of this is that Bob Burns has been playing one of these things throughout the entire trip! So he joined the old woman in playing a song. It was great.

After the two Inuit women left, Bezal got out some booze. It was rye, rum and Canadian Labatt's beer. I had 2 cans of beer - they tasted great.

We were then issued a certificate showing we went to the North Pole. Earlier, Pat stamped our passports with the "Society Expedition: Project North Pole" stamp.

We came back to our Resolute Bay base camp and then proceeded to finish off the 3 bottles of champagne.

I got up at 7:15 AM and had a nice long hot shower. I still haven't shaved. I then had a breakfast of eggs and bacon.

I packed all of my belongings and am ready for 10:00 AM when Bezal picks us up to take us to the weather station.

Photo sequence
4 A B C D 1 5 2 3 6 7

Sunday, April 28th, 1985 (Day 11) - Coming Home

Bob Burns has been kind enough to give me a roll of film (roll #13). I finished off my last shot on my last roll. I have finished taking pictures. I think I have about 400+ pictures.

Bezal picked us up at 10:00 AM but we did not go to the weather station. We turned in all of our arctic gear and drove to a hill looking for fossils. I found some crinoids - I was so excited. A funny comment came from Elsieanna. When Bezal was bent down on top of the hill looking at the ground, Elsieanna said, "Oh look. Bezal must be looking for seals." Pat told her that he was only looking for fossils and the water was miles away.

I think Elsieanna had senility set in during this trip. There was much deterioration in her mental well being.

We came back to the "Resolute Hotel" and had a farewell luncheon. It was tasty as usual. Dan Harris makes fabulous tomato soup.

We then boarded Bezal's vans and headed out to the airport. The cook, Debbie, and the pilots, Matt and John, came down to say good-bye. It was very nice of them to do that.

We had an ordinary flight from Resolute to Cambridge Bay to Yellowknife to Edmonton. Our Yellow Cab Vans were waiting for us to take us back to the Westin.

Now a slight problem developed. Resolute was 1 hour ahead of Edmonton. Edmonton was going to change all of their clocks up one hour due to day lights saving time. Therefore, there was a canceling action that took affect so you didn't have to touch your watch. Some of the old people on this trip couldn't get that through there thick heads. What can you do - you try to explain it to them. Oh well, maybe they will all miss their flights home.

But the fun was just beginning. We arrived at the Westin at 8:30 PM Resolute time. Pat asked who wanted to go out to eat a Japanese dinner. There were 7 of us who wanted to go. Great, then we were to meet in the lobby at 10:00 PM Resolute time.

We went to the front desk to get the luggage they were holding for us. I presented my ticket stub and even pointed out my bag. I checked into room #1248 and waited. And waited and waited and waited. I was getting pissed. This hotel has been nothing but a pain in the ass. So I called the bellman. I explained my problem to him. He said my bag was on the way. So I waited some more. Finally, I got up to go down there and give him a piece of my mind and carry my own stored luggage. Well they were lucky because the little Chinese bellman was just coming down the hall. No tip for him.

I was actually quite lucky as I found out later. Tom Largen was waiting for his bag because his razor was in it and he wanted to shave. He finally went down to the lobby and saw the "bellman sitting on his fat ass with the luggage in the middle of the lobby". Tom was furious. Frances didn't get her bag delivered. They lost it in the short time of 1 hour. We were all pissed. It turned out that the little idiot bellman who couldn't speak English put her bag in Van's room. And Van was out visiting an Indian temple.

In any event, Frances got her baggage back at 10:00 PM Resolute Bay time and we decided to go out to dinner. There were supposed to be 7 of us who wanted to eat. In the lobby was Bob Burns, Pat Sutherland, Tom Largen, Frances Rogers and myself. We didn't know where Bob Kaller and Van were. Well, it was time to eat so we walked to the restaurant.

We had reservations for 7 people at 9:00 PM to be eaten in the traditional Japanese style. When we arrived, the little guy said he had no room so he would send us upstairs for a regular Japanese dinner. When we got upstairs, we all said we had reservations for traditional so we wanted to go back downstairs and eat traditional. We were put in a waiting room instead. Well, Tom was still pissed because of his luggage so he went to the front desk and complained. We were immediately taken to where we wanted to eat. A half an hour later, Van and Bob finally joined us. The meal was good. Van then bought a round of drinks for all of us and all the people at the next table.

We had one more drink at the Westin and then all went to bed. I got 2 hours of sleep and got up at 4:00 AM.

And now for some more fun. Elsieanna and I had the same flight. Pat had a flight 5 minutes later. So we were all taking the same bus. Well, Frances decided she wanted to go to. When we arrived at the airport, which by the way was suffering from day number one of a ticket agents strike, Frances discovered that she was at the wrong airport! She should have been at the Municipal Airport, not the International Airport. She was mad at Pat. She yelled at the bus driver (like it was his fault). The bus driver gave her a reduced rate and drove her to the Municipal Airport.

From that point on, everything went smooth.

I have been carrying with me an Arctic willow tree that I picked up in Hazen. I have been hand carrying and babying this souvenir for thousands of miles. It will be good to finally get it home.

The high points of my trip were:

    The North Pole
    Sleeping out in the igloo
    Ice fishing at 1:30 AM in the morning
    The bombardier ride to the iceberg in Eureka
    The sled ride in Grise Fiord

Some additional comments. Passing through Canadian customs, I was still carrying my arctic willow tree when I heard the customs agent scream. She thought I was carrying a snake. I told her it was a piece of driftwood. She probably wouldn't have let me take it on board if she had known it was really a willow tree from the high Arctic. Then she asked me if I had anything to declare. I told her I had an Arctic fox skin. When she asked to see it, I told her it was in my luggage already loaded onto the plane. This freaked her out. I then showed her my export permit that I got from the Inuit that shot the fox. This calmed her down somewhat and she let me on the plane. Whew! It was close, but I made it (and so did my fox skin).

The flight from Toronto to New York was to have taken off at 2:40 PM. But the pilot detected a problem with a micro switch in the flap controls. They were operating successfully but there was no indication in the cockpit that they were working. How ironic. This entire trip to 90 degrees North was entirely by plane and the only airplane trouble that we had was on the last leg of this remarkable journey. We eventually left Toronto at 4:20 PM.

End of Polar Journal

copyright (c) 1985, 2000 Robert A. Antol

For more information, contact Bob Antol
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