Ely, Minnesota

February 9, 2009 9:26pm

This morning Keith picks me up on his way to the airport to get two
more confused souls also intent on self-abuse on the ice. They will be
joining us on the “shakedown” trip, as they are called. After a two
hour drive north, we stop in the small town of Ely to pick up a few
specialty items. This includes such items as over glove mittens that
can only have been designed by people who are sick of losing to very
cold temperatures.

Minnesota, it turns out, can produce conditions that approximate the
Arctic environment. The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is ideally suited–within
the continental United States–to train for polar expeditions. Rick,
the owner of Polar Explorers later tells me that the “shakedown” is
designed to dissuade all but the most committed adventurers to embark
on this mission in self punishment. In a flat matter of fact tone, he
announces that the week had been designed to “shakedown” the less than
super fit. Of the five others participating in this week’s training,
three will engage to travel for the last degree to the Pole (or 60
miles). The weight of the sledge is proportional to the distance
traveled. I am the only one here to plan for the five to six weeks
needed to cover over 300 nautical miles or the last five degrees North.
In the years since Peary, less than 200 people have traveled that
distance. Within the next few years, no one will likely be able to
travel that distance–any longer–unless they are willing to travel partly by night…

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