The Row To The Pole – Reaching the ice
On the Row To The Pole in 2011 we knew the ice would soon show itself, but our early days of the expedition could not have been more favourable. The seas were calm and we had a support boat shadowing us carrying a BBC crew to film us for a few days before returning to Resolute. We made impressive progress and in a marathon all-day and overnight row made it across the dangerous Wellington Channel to the west coast of Devon Island. This enabled us to make safe rows up through entirely open waters all the way north until the first significant ice loomed. Once we moved north we were in uncharted waters.
Tony Woodford, a veteran of many polar expeditions and a hugely able ‘fixer’ was on the BBC boat and shot his own video for us crossing the Wellington Channel. You can just tell everyone was thinking this was looking easy. Little did they know!
Once the support boat left, we were entirely on our own. Even the local people told us this was a voyage too far. In short, they considered us mad. But here’s a taste of the spirit amongst the crew as the last link with civilisation set to depart.
On the staged progress up Devon Island the cramped conditions on the boat were proving tough for our two tallest oarsmen David Mans and Mark Beaumont. They opted, against my advice, to sleep in a tent on the shore. But not for long! You see, polar bears can smell a meal from miles away and a hungry one soon appeared. It was lucky that Rob Sleep woke when he did to raise the alarm.
The early high spirits were severely test however at the top of Devon Island when we were trying to get round the Shiells Peninsula. It was only the 8th August, but we had made excellent progress, but I knew that much sterner tests lay ahead. Fast moving ice was streaming down from the north and we had to assess the best time to go. Our first attempt was not successful! But our investment in team building really paid off.