90° North: We have reached the North Pole!

Local time: 14:23 2016-08-22
Position: 89° 59.02’N 070° 24.63’W
Heading: 310°
Speed: 4.8 knots
Water depth: 4225 m
Wind speed: 8.5 m/s
Air temperature: -5.15°C
Feels like (wind chill): -12.76°C
Sea temperature: -1.5°C

We have reached the North Pole! Yesterday, 21 August 2016 at 11:03:35, we finally reached it after lurking around in the area for several days.

The day before yesterday, we were told that we would reach the pole in the morning, so everyone was prepared for the event. At around 10:00, the captain called everyone up to the bridge by speaker announcement. The crew had prepared champagne for everyone and some cake bites and snacks. The officers on the bridge was dressed up “properly” with stripes on their shoulders, and some had dressed up, so it really felt like formal occasion (the crew on Oden usually does not wear uniforms).

The Louis (icebreaker Louis S. St.-Laurent/LSSL), properly dressed for the occasion with at least ten Canadian flags, had taken the lead. They wanted to be the first ship to the pole on this expedition. I think that is fair enough; after all, the Canadians are the ones paying for the trip (more on the reason for the expedition later). We on the Oden were following right after the LSSL.

Actually finding the pole is more difficult than you may think at 90° north. Many of the ship’s systems does not work properly at this latitude, because there are many issues with i.e. the map and the Earth’s rotational field (more on this later also). Fortunately, the GPS worked. However, no one knew if the GPS could even display 90°N! So we were sailing around and around, trying to pinpoint the exact location of the fictional point which we call the North Pole. It is not as if you can see the pole, so everyone was focusing on the coordinates, watching it tick closer and closer to 90°N. 89°N 58’… 89°N 59’… 89°N 59.5’… 89°N 59.8’… 89°N 59.9’…! (For those of you not used to calculating distances in degrees and minutes, there is a short explanation at the end of this post). The suspense was getting higher and higher. It almost felt like counting down to New Year’s Eve, with a champagne glass in one hand, watching numbers tick closer, but even more exciting because we did not know when (or even if) we would find the exact point of 90°N.

When we reached 89°N 59.995…’, meaning that the antenna is less than ten metres from the real point (which means that the North Pole was definitely inside the ship), we called it. The Louis honked its foghorn cheerfully, and the Oden did as well. The atmosphere on the bridge was ecstatic, and everyone was cheering with their champagne glasses and hugging each other with big smiles. The captain held a speech, appropriate for the occasion. Actually, the occasion was extra special because it was 25 years ago that the Oden, as the first non-nuclear icebreaker and the fifth ship in the world, reached the North Pole for the first time.

After we had found the pole, we found an appropriate ice floe to moor to so we could go out on the ice. The crew drilled huge mooring pins into the thick ice, to which the ship was moored to with ropes. So Oden was moored as you normally would do to a quay, only to an ice floe instead. The gangway was lowered, and everyone was allowed to go on the ice.

Again, the mood was cheerful; nobody could stop smiling and fooling around. Everyone wanted their picture taken with the pole of the North Pole (as in the picture), with all the signs with distances to different cities. The distance from the North Pole to Oslo, my hometown, was 3345 km. Not really that far! We took a group photo with all participants, and all the national flags. Oden has many flags on the bridge, which they use when they are visiting other countries. Jon and me had the honour of holding the Norwegian flag proudly in the picture.

After the group photo, we had a barbecue with (really good) hot dogs and cocoa. Some played curling with an inflatable penguin (his name is “Guin” and is the brother of the penguin “Ping”, the mascot of the multibeam team which lives on their desk*). Others had brought a badminton net and played a round of badminton. There was handstands, human pyramids and other acrobatics going on. Sofi wrote her daughter’s name in the snow for a picture. Some people brought snow and water home as souvenirs. We even had a pool party in “Nord-poolen” (look to my Instagram for a photo). So much fun going on, I wish I could post more pictures! I think there will be more to come in the coming days, so stay tuned.

We stayed moored to the ice floe until around 19:00 before we took off. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet the people on the LSSL. They did not moor to the ice, so they could not let people stay on the ice too long. Additionally, their ship was a bit far away to walk. However, I hear rumours that we will try to do a “meet and greet” later. Looking forwards to that!

(A short explanation of distances in degrees and minutes: One degree (°) on the map is equal to 60 minutes (‘), and one minute is equal to 60 seconds (“). They can be written as decimals or with minutes, so i.e. 20 and a half minute can be written either as 20.5′ (20 and a half) or 20’30” (20 min and 30 sec), same as with time. Are you with me? Now, the tricky part is that the degrees, minutes and seconds are actually measures of distances. One minute is equal to one nautical mile (or 1852 metres). Therefore, at 89°N 59.995’ we were 0.005 * 1852 metres = 9.26 metres from the pole point (not including margin of error in GPS measurement). Hope that was understandable!) * If anyone gets the joke, I want to hear it in the comments!

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12 thoughts on “90° North: We have reached the North Pole!

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  4. Thanks for the inspiration Runa!

    I hope you find my picture plagiarism amusing, in a bitter-sweet sort of a way?

    “Santa Extends His Secret Summer Swimming Pool”

    Santa’s secret summer swimming pool is obviously big enough this year to accommodate all the icebreakers and nuclear submarines on the planet. All his little helpers have a giant pool of their very own too

    Like

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  8. Great job, congratulations. This is exciting! I can see that exploration and other operations at the poles are not easy to do even with todays’ technologies. I wonder how would drilling operation around the poles will be performed and managed considering the conditions and logistics! Challenging I would guess!

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    • It is very exciting, indeed. Exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic is very challenging for a number of reasons. This is exactly what my research is about; to make sure that marine operations in these areas can happen in a safe and sustainable way. I will soon write more about the work of myself and our work package in “ice management” on board.

      \Runa

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