Archive for the ‘North Pole 2009 Peary-Henson Centennial’ Category

“Into The Cold” Named Top 25 Documentaries List for 2013

July 25, 2014 10:46am

Video Librarian Lists Into The Cold one of 2013’s Top Documentaries.

Sebastian Copeland’s North Pole documentary made the coveted Video Librarian’s Top 25 Documentaries List for 2013 alongside Searching For Sugarman and We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks. 

Into The Cold–A Journey Of The Soul (2011) retraces two men’s journey on foot to the North Pole to commemorate Admiral’s Peary’s centennial reach in 1909. Directed by Sebastian Copeland, the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is now playing on Netfilx in the US, and is available with a special limited edition DVD on this website.

Order it now and get a blanket!

Into_The_Cold_SCPoster copy


Into The Cold at The Annenberg Space for Photography

May 13, 2014 12:05am


On May 8th, The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles screened Sebastian’s North Pole epic documentary about his 2009 mission. The screening, a part of the Annenberg’s Iris Nights,  played to a sold out audience at the Skylight studio. The screening was followed by a Q&A and was reported in this article posted by Liz Kelly for This was Sebastian’s second presentation at the Annenberg this year. In February, a full presentation of his photographic and advocacy work in the polar regions was attended also by a sold out audience, and can be viewed here.


Sebastian’s Q&A at the Annenberg Space for Photography on May 8, 2014


Sebastian Profiled in the LA Review of Books

April 10, 2014 7:03pm

Michael Kurcfeld profiled Sebastian for the latest LA Review of Books (March 2014). The interview was conducted during Sebastian’s solo Antarctica: A Million Faces Of Ice at the Munich Bernheimer Gallery last year. The profile also features a filmed segment which can be seen here.

“Following in the footsteps of Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, Sebastian Copeland ventures into the blinding white expanses of both poles, often for weeks at a time, to seek out the wild sculpted beauty of places no human has seen before.” Michael Kurcfeld — LA Review of Books




Sebastian in the March 2014 Issue of Red Bulletin

March 1, 2014 7:02pm

Red Bulletin March 2014_1Red Bulletin March 2014_2 1Red Bulletin March 2014_3


Into The Cold now available on Netflix

November 21, 2013 5:21pm

As of November, Sebastian’s North Pole adventure film, Into The Cold–A Journey of the Soulcan be seen on demand on Netflix. The film chronicles Sebastian and partner Keith Heger’s centennial reach of the North Pole to commemorate Admiral Peary and team’s 1909 mission. The film premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and went on to win multiple awards internationally. The Hollywood Reporter called it one of the five Must-See-Films of the festival. It has been released internationally since.

Into_The_Cold_SCPoster copy


Off the Ice (Part II)

May 3, 2009 3:55am

Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway)–N77º 47.400 E 014º53.856

One thing that did come up (and was confirmed to me in Lonyearbyen by two unemployed Reindeers) is that Santa was not to be seen at the pole because he was let go–on account of the AIG Christmas bonus scandal, I assume; and the economic downturn. (I had to recycle all those lists my friends had asked me to give him while there!) I will assume the position is now open. But a fair warning to applicants: it’s not as glorious as it looks on the brochure: very cold up here, and the accommodations leave some to be desired…!

While Keith and I had conservatively projected that the drift might have added sixty nautical miles to our travel, a consensus off the ice with the other teams, and a closer examination of our stats, revealed that we have actually traveled in excess of one hundred nautical miles additional due to the drift!  Our total distance traveled was thus in the order of four hundred and thirty seven statue miles or over seven hundred kilometers, at an average of twenty kilometers a day over thirty five days.

Tired and hungry though we were on the ice, I felt strongly that with adequate food supplies, my reserves could have carried me twenty or more days if called upon. However, once we got off, I was shocked beyond expectations to experience a complete physical collapse. Once removed from the ice, and the mental focus, my body essentially shut down. Not only was it challenging to talk to people; it was tough to walk! Getting off the Antonov in Longyearbyen–on the island of Svalbard in the Norwegian arctic—set off a personal mental countdown to the moment I would drop into a hot bath and soak! This ranks as one of the more blissful moments of my life! A note on hygiene on the trail: while we used hand sanitizer and I indulged in a “shower” consisting of one biodegradable baby wipe every five days, bacteria does not live well in very cold environments and we simply don’t sweat there. It might come as a surprise but odors were virtually non-existent in the tent. Still, I would not advocate for regular abstinence of such durations as a matter of habit!

In the final tally, I lost twenty two pounds, as did Keith; I got frostbites on all fingers; cold injuries around both eyes, and on my tongue (from sucking in cold air all day long!); lost a tip of my nose to frost and ice scrapes from my face system (it will grow back…); I have joint pains in both hands from gripping the poles fourteen hours-plus a day; my feet are swollen like cantaloupes; and my legs have as much spring as marshmallow. I am down to 7-8% body fat, and I have taken to eating five breakfasts in one sitting and doubling up on each meal. (I have never eaten so much, a concept which surprises me as much as it does the manager of the buffet style breakfast of the hotel!)

I spent the first few days following our pick-up mostly in my room sleeping, eating, recovering and organizing my images and film files. During that first week, I could not communicate with anyone; I did not even open my email until day five. Most of me wanted to hold on to the feeling I had on the ice, and communication from the outside, I felt, would shatter that suspended reality. Yet I recognized that to perpetuate a cycle of isolation would prevent me from psychological re-acclimation–always an issue after a long expedition. And I felt conflicted. My mind would fluctuate between a deep sense of personal satisfaction for this accomplishment; a feeling of anxiety from not being able to relate to a world that would race at me intent on claiming back the slack from months of preparation and almost two months away in the arctic; and the desire to be back on the ice, and re-united with the wild. I even felt emotional and inexplicably wept upon reading a congratulatory message from a peer! Clearly, my head needed a re-boot. I had plans for another (short) expedition in Svalbard to photograph polar bears and complete work for my next book. But I couldn’t get myself motivated. In fact my legs were all but buckling from under me!  Under those circumstances, I thought the best strategy would be to wait. And wait. Which is what I did for seven days, until I forced myself to hit the trail again. I had spent time researching a local outfitter. In the end, this proved to be the best thing I could have done: I hired a skidoo, locked in a guide, and took off for a few days, on the track for bear…


Barneo– Off the Ice (Part I)

May 1, 2009 3:58am

April 26th, 2009 Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway) N77º 47.400 E 014º53.856

What happened immediately following the pole, I’ll admit is a little hazy in memory. There was a touch of hysteria and excitement coming from a motley crew of characters worthy of an adventure-themed Fellini movie. Due, at least in part, to the Peary Centennial, there were multiple teams who accomplished various degrees of travel on the ice this year, most of whom scrambled, as we did, to make their exit with the last plane out of Barneo. Two of those, Huston and Fish’s (whom had we ran into two weeks back), and Lonnie’s shared the same glazed look we had on our faces. The other teams were on the ice anywhere from a few days to two weeks; some with and without dogs. Many gave us various thumbs up and good ‘ol taps on the back. I am sure we would have exchanged notes and shared battles stories, and perhaps we did. But by then, I was so engrossed in the box of cookies that the combined sugar rush and culture shock made for a messy, disorienting blur. That blur was in fact not just figurative: on that final day of travel, my eyes were watery, and as the wind froze the tears on and around my eyes, my vision was impaired for much of that day. It also worsened a cold injury on one eye, and developed one on the other, making me look as if I’d gone a round in the ring—or a few seconds—with Tyson!

In all we were perhaps 15 people on the pole that day. But because of the drift and the staggered arrivals, camps were scattered by as much as a mile apart. This gave us all our private, albeit brief, moment on the actual pole. There is only one, relatively narrow spot that has legitimate claims to be the top of the world; one of two points around which the rest of the world rotates. For whatever reason, and there is no denying it: it feels good to stand on it! When the helicopter finally got all the teams together, I know that some were keen on taking group shots and downing a symbolic swig of alcohol. But my focus was on two things: making sure not to forget any sponsor flag shots, and keeping track of those aforementioned cookies! Seriously, it was so chaotic that it would have been easy to forget what I had thought so long and hard I would do when I got there. Keith helped me focus and took the snaps. I had a moment to acknowledge my friends and associates at HP, Napapijri, Global Green USA, MySpace, Climate Partner, Lawrence Benenson and Lexar for their critical and varied support through the course of this mission. I also got to fly the Union Jack and the French at the pole, representing both my cultures. A friend had asked me to leave a small satchel containing a photo of their recently perished sibling. That, too, was done. As well, I got to take some personal moments; and make a couple of rapid and frigid phone calls from the last battery leg of our satellite phone. The people who mean the most to me got a call each: my parents. One went to my friend and business partner who put so much heart and hard work to develop and maintain this site: Mikhail Lapushner. Thank you, brother!

Soon we were rushed into the MI8, piled up on top of the dog sleds, the dogs, the long trip sledges, the short trip sledges and one another. The circus that had descended on the pole on April 26th, 2009 was leaving town. The timing was probably right because even though the game was up, and in spite of all the excitement, the temperature was still very cold! I stared out of the port hole of the helicopter as we lifted off to Barneo, feeling real fondness and nostalgia for this tough and unforgiving environment.

Barneo was a forty five-minute flight. Most of the base had already been dismantled. What was left were two forty people tents, with heating stoves, and more importantly: some bread, cheese and sausage! We waited there for half an hour while the Antonov 74 was being loaded. And in no time, it’s powerful engines roared across the smoothed-out makeshift ice runway and shot this heavy military-style cargo plane—and us with it—into the Arctic sky. This time, it was final. We were leaving the pack ice, its ridges, rubble fields and open leads; its frigid humidity and freezing winds; its cloud cover and zero visibility; and its canvas to challenge the human spirit and push the limits of its physical potential. And the thought troubled me as it slowly sank in that I would likely not be back here. At least not like that…

Intense and epic, the North Pole is one tough, tough mission. People a lot more qualified than I claim this to be the toughest expedition on Earth. The legendary Reinhold Messner said:”Everest is very dangerous, but crossing the North Pole, which I attempted to do… is ten times more dangerous.” Maxime Chaya, with whom I sympathized and who was on Lonnie’s team, laughed when I asked him how this compared to Everest. He said that any one day here is tougher than all of Everest! Whether that is fair or not (and whether it even matters), I knew flying away that what I brought back with me was an experience that has marked me, and perhaps changed me for life. But the days following my re-entry would be met with a wild gamut of emotions…

(End of Part I)


We made it!

April 26, 2009 4:03am

The end came abruptly; systematic and unapologetic, as can be expected from such a momentous and prolonged experience. For a while I stared in silence at the field in front of me, taking in the open, unrestricted ice kingdom; committing to memory its vastness and the contours of the mounds and ridges framing it; noting the way the sun defined the terrain; feeling the wind biting my left side; and for once relishing the chill that sneaked past the steam out of my base layer. I heard my heart pounding, fresh from the effort, tugging at me with undecided trepidation, not sure whether to weep in relief or beg for more. Any moment now, this solemn and suspended reality would be broken by the distant flapping of the helicopter’s rotors. And the dream would end.

Last night in the tent was to be our last. We gathered all the food we had left, including our emergency bag, combined it, and fed ourselves a copious dinner. We slept short and cooked our final breakfast of warm granola with goat milk powder, dried fruits and nuts. We even found an emergency protein mix! Cramped in the tent as we have been everyday for the last thirty five getting dressed, I noted one more time how a program based on tent activities would make for a great core workout! (Note to Yumi and Ron–my trainers!) This was going to be a long day, and for the first time in weeks, thanks to the emergency food bags, we both had extra bars for the road. Six each, in total. A real feast! The day was sunny with a ten knot breeze out of the north west; it would hit us in the face from the left. But the terrain was well defined, and the flat pan we had ended on yesterday stretched in front of us for another long haul. That pan was unreal: it must have gone for over fifteen miles! We’ve not seen anything like that for the entire trip. In fact, it has been shocking how little multi-year pans we saw; mostly one to two year old sections, which tend to be a lot more jagged and fractured. And a lot of one year old, messy rubble zones—as we know!

We broke up camp for the lat time, packed our sledges and shot out of the gate. The combination of extra food, and our last chance to reduce the miles separating us from the pole gave our legs new springs, and put jetpacks on our backs. Except for two slightly messy and powdery bits, we had open terrain all day and traveled at an average of 1.4 miles per hour–twenty percent over our daily average! (As well today, ironically, the drift finally slowed down!) Victor had asked me to call him with our position at eight thirty AM, Longyearbyen time (this close to the pole, you can basically chose the time zone you wish to align yourself with—it makes no difference.) We would call from the trail. He would then take off from Barneo shortly after nine, and planned to pick us up between 10 and 10:30 AM (Barneo, the temporary floating station, is on the east side of the pole, drifting around N88°17.066′ and E 3°34.270′). This gave us a solid twelve hours, uninterrupted. With nothing but open space in front of me, I motored and skied hard. My legs got sucked into the rhythm, and never complained. Nor did Keith, though I knew his hip bothered him. But the day was set to put a mark on our vanishing legacy. Each hour that passed was punctuated by the pleasing speed that would define our last travel day, and the looming and steady creep of a countdown that brought a mix of relief and sadness. The last few days have been the toughest, but today, in spite of the wind’s chill, we are eating miles and feel unstoppable. Besides, we have fuel, and those bars make all the difference. Still, I find my mind wandering seamlessly from the chanting meditation to food fantasies!

By 8:30 we had covered 17 nautical miles. I communicated that to Victor over our brief conversation, and told him that I would stay on the same longitudinal line, but push north until he showed.  As if to teach us one more time the meaning of the word respect, the pack ice threw a field of junky, powdery blocks at us, and the clouds overtook the sun to flatten out detail in the terrain. I was anxiously pushing forward, intent in reaching our farthest north. Then it all cleared: the sky, the wind, the rubble. Ahead laid a flat pan framed by pressure ridges on either side. I raced to it; and stopped. It would make for a good landing area, and was open enough to clear our minds. I scanned the landscape, and leaned on my poles. Beneath the frosty facemask and under my icy ruffed hood, the breath I took filled my heart with the essence of purpose, and a mission accomplished. And I smiled. As Keith and I stood there in the silence that had come to characterized our solitary travel, I knew that this image would define my experience up here. And I relished it. The North Pole is so ephemeral; so fleeting that it can feel like an illusion. While the Pole itself is a static geographical point at the bottom of the ocean, up here, on a sea ice constantly drifting, nothing is. In fact sometimes, as happened to me then, the dream feels more real. And as the ice shifts, unmoved by the human desire to pierce its crust with a marquee post, what is left is the image that we chose to retain. And to me, it will be that open field staring me in the eye, as if to say: “I’m leaving too. Soon.”

In the distance, the wind carried the unmistakable flapping of the MI8’s rotors. Invisible at first, the heavy craft appeared south of us, first a dot growing to dominate its surroundings by its alien form, and loud engine.

Keith an I unhooked our sledges, as the bird lowered its frame in a white dust storm near us. The door opened and Victor jumped out, hugging us both. Nancy was on board, too, with a box of cookies (gone in a nanosecond!) The sledges were hauled inside the chopper, and we floated above the ice to reach the pole a few miles north of us. Below, the leads, rubble and pressure ridges had lost their power. The machine had neutralized them, and the match was no longer fair. But so it goes…

In no time we were dropped on the ice. A quarter of a mile from us laid the North Pole. Symbolically, we pulled our sledges off the craft, got in to our harnesses and skis, and marched to it. A point that does not give itself up easily–the drift makes for a fierce defender of the pole–one moment right, the next left, you think you are about to have it and then, no: you’re headed the wrong way! I walked in circles with my GPS for ten minutes until it read N89.59.996; then 997; then 998… 999… Finally, my unit read: North Pole N90.00.000! I shot it with my camera, locked it in the unit to record it. And in seconds, just like that, it was gone. That point from which any step heads south, the top of the world, where all longitudinal lines blend and all time zones meet, was mine for one brief, ethereal instant. And then no more.

But then you’ve heard the saying, haven’t you?  “It’s the journey—not the destination…”


T-minus one.

April 25, 2009 4:04am

89.1313N, 36.6076W
Over the course of 14 to 15 hours of day in/day out pulling, there are many instances when the effort feels overwhelming; and endless. Your legs lose all power; your back and arms burns. You reach a physical barrier that screams for a break–generally a power bar or drink break. These tend to be short, as you must be cold at stoppage in order not to sweat during effort (for then you’d get dangerously cold during breaks as the sweat would freeze). Those short breaks, and any type of food, sometimes even just a candy, give enough mental seperation from the effort to bring fresh reserves until the next cycle. It occurred to me that life is like that, too. Sometimes if you are challenged and see no end to it, it is important to acknowledge that this time shall come to pass, that everything in life is transient, and therefore not to let it affect you.

This will be my last dispatch from the ice for this trip–tomorrow our last pulling day here. After five weeks of this epic adventure, I know that re-entry will be a challenge. But all things do come to an end–and I could really use a sandwich! The last few days have been the toughest. We pulled long days, with reduced food rations, and the conditions were especially tough. But today, perhaps a salutation to honor our effort, the sun was mostly out, the winds died down, and we traveled open pans with only a few pressure ridges to cross. The temperature fluxed between negative 15F and 20F degrees. This was perhaps our easiest travel day. We lost 2.5 nauticals overnight to the south drift, but managed 14.5 nauticals in 13.5 hours of travel, which means we likely did 2.5 on top of that.

In all, I have estimated that we have lost around 60 nautical miles to the drift on this trip. The winds have been especially strong, and we only once gained north drift, and only by a half a mile. Surely, the moment we leave the ice, the trend will reverse! Our ending position was N89°07.881 and W36°36.458. Tomorrow we will push long and hard for an anticipated 18 hours, to get us as close to the pole as possible. The helicopter will then lift us and and drop us within striking distance. Two extra days and we would have been there un-assisted…

As I sit here, typing in my iPAQ (great PDA by the way–amazing communications tool) I cannot help but think of Peary, Henson and the four Inuit on their team, and how after reaching the pole on Aril 6th 1909, they then had to face the un-assisted return to land, for another month of journeying. They were no satellite phones, no blogs, no power bars, no technology developed Napapijri fabrics, no nylon tents. Just six brave men facing the unknown with no safety net, and no back up. I would raise my protein drink to them in salutation–but i’m all out!
Good night. I will report back from Longyearbyen, from which we are making our exit. Until then!


Rumble in the Rubble

April 23, 2009 4:05am

88.930N, 37.1603W
The wind finally let up a bit today, though the conditions were generally mediocre with low visiibility for the most part, and the sun struggling at the losing end with cloud cover. Some nasty times were spent in two rubble fields, something that we hadn’t done in a few weeks. We hadn’t missed much, and the experience remains as unpleasant as ever–hard to find the selling points of pulling heavy sledges up and down large blocks of ice burried in thick powder, generally forcing us off our skis.
I had said, a while back, that the Arctic sea should be on the list of sunny destinations since we had had three straight weeks of sunshine; well, hold on to your bikinis as I may have to revise that opinion: we haven’t had much sun now for about a week. While it does not affect temperature out here, the sun still helps psychologically; more importantly it helps define the terrain for route finding and simplifies navigation as it rotates in the sky at the rate of 15 degrees every hour. I spent the day navigating using the wind instead for guidance, which hit us from the west with 10 to 15 knot gusts. (These alternatives save battery life from the GPS.)
While a definite improvement on yesterday, that wind gets right through you during the short breaks. We spend those chewing the most out of our rationed energy bars to make the experience last longer! Any mouthful of flavor is a treasured experience to both taste buds and our growling stomachs. Keith and I have come to sorely miss the Herbalife protein bars which we have ran out of ten days ago. If you haven’t had one of those, you should try them out: they’re really tasty!
The south drift robbed us of three miles last night and today we pushed hard for 15 hours and made 15 nautical miles. Given the loss ratio to the drift, we probably traveled 18 NM or more, so this was a big day, much of it spent–luckily–on large flat pans. Our stopping position was N88°55.802 and W37°09.620. We’ll be out of 89° tomorrow. Finally.
We have been told categorically that our flight off the ice will be no later than the 26th in the AM as Barneo closes then. (Barneo used to close later in may, but the rising temperatures have made this too precarious for this floating station servicing expeditions and scientific research on the ice for four weeks). We will therefore be air lifted to the pole for the last few miles lost to the race. In the end, the many leads, the drift and the blizzard hampered our progress this week. No honor lost; just another humble lesson from the great white desert. If only we had two more days!…