Abrupt end to North Pole expedition on a yacht

22nd September 2017 By: Kelvin Kemm

I told the story of British explorer Pen Hadrow (Engineering News, September 1, 2017) setting out in two sailing ships in an attempt to sail all the way to the North Pole on open water to prove how horrible mankind has produced horrible climate change, which is melting the Arctic ice.

I said I would write about what happens to Hadrow’s trip. Well, the end has come much faster than I expected. Hadrow has packed in the project. He was brought to an abrupt halt by solid sea ice.

The furthest north he got was 80º 10' north, on August 29. He tried to save face by making various claims, many of which are just nonsense. He claimed to have sailed further north in wooden sailing ships than anyone else. But, firstly, other smarter people do not sail into Arctic ice in wooden sailing ships, although Hadrow did have diesel engines so that he could use fossil fuels to get out in a hurry.

In 2013, two other fellows tried to sail to the North Pole; they were Sebastian Roubinet and Vincent Berthet. But they became frozen in and had to be rescued by the Russian icebreaker, the Admiral Makarov. Hadrow’s two boats, Bagheera and Snow Dragon II, at least, both had engines to help avoid the embarrassment of Roubinet and Berthet. The Admiral Makarov, by the way, is Russia’s oldest icebreaker and is diesel powered. The Russians’ new icebreakers are nuclear powered.

The Admiral Makarov also made a name for itself when, in 1988, it freed trapped grey whales from pack ice in the Beaufort Sea, near Point Barrow, in the US state of Alaska.

Let us get back to Hadrow. He was sponsored by the BBC. It does not seem that the BBC has given any publicity to the fact that Hadrow has turned back . . . because he met too much ice.

In fact, Hadrow’s boats did not even get past bits of Greenland land. Also, way back in 1596, the Dutch explorer, Willem Barentsz, and his crew discovered Spitsbergen at a point 80º 6' north.

So, Hadrow beat Barentsz by 4' of arc. In 1596, Barentsz had no diesel engines or Russian icebreakers to get him out of trouble.

Interestingly, it was also the BBC that sponsored the Top Gear motor vehicle team to drive to the North Pole in a Toyota Hilux sports utility vehicle, which was modified for Arctic conditions. The film crew followed in a Toyota Landcruiser. Jeremy Clarkson was reluctantly joined by James May, who would rather have been at home in his lounge. They raced Richard Hammond, who went by traditional dog sled. The vehicles won, on May 2, 2007.

During the driving, Clarkson and May were both shown drinking a gin and tonic. People then said that they should not be drinking alcohol and driving. Clarkson said that, firstly, they were beyond British drinking and driving jurisdiction; what’s more, they were not driving on a road but on frozen water “in international waters”.

But back to Hadrow. Another point I found odd was that, on August 27, the Bagheera skipper, Erik de Jang, com- plained that it was pretty cold out there (what did he expect?) and said that the bottom of the fresh water tank was frozen, so they could not get drinking water. For starters, physics dictates that frozen water, called ice for those whose attention is not totally in place, floats. So, how can the bottom of the fresh water tank freeze? Secondly, why was there no plan for that possibility. How could intrepid explorers admit to secure their water supply?

Okay, so they were beaten by the ice. Climate change and global warming did not play ball. Newspapers will not carry the story.