Last Saturday, this year’s only successful polar traverse team struck the Norwegian islands of Svalbard—completing their unassisted and unsupported reverse-polar trek in 54 days.
Explorers Timo Palo (Estonia) and Audun Tholfsen (Norway) were dropped off at the North Pole on April 22 with the goal of skiing and kayaking across the Arctic to Norway, paying homage to Fridtjof Nansen’s legendary failed 1893-6 Arctic expedition. While the pair has officially made it to land at their intended destination, they'll continue south to the city of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen island before calling it quits.
As would be expected, the expedition encountered a series of setbacks, including freezing temperatures (who’d-a thunk), strong winds that pushed them off course and a polar bear attack.
“Suddenly he [the likely-starving bear] attacked them, jumping out of the water on the ice block where Timo-Audun were standing,” according to the blog documenting their journey. “Distance between them was only 3 meters. It was huge luck that they were able to react so quickly. Revolver shot scared the bear away. It was pretty shocking situation; they felt how it is to be a prey and how unexpectedly polar bear may act.”
Keep up with the team’s final days and read more about what it's like to trudge and paddle for 54 days across the Arctic on the team’s website.