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Book review

The Last Great Journey on Earth
By Wally Herbert
The Dramatic Story of the Longest Journey, In Time and Distance, in the History of Polar Exploration.

published by Putnam in 1971

This is the story of 4 men who treked from Point Barrow, Alaska, over frozen Arctic Ocean, by way of the North Pole to Spitsbergen.  A distance of 3,800 miles in 476 days with 4 sleds and 34 huskies.
The year(s), 1968 to 1969.

There is a brief review of earlier polar expeditions.

A few interesting facts among many:

To get funding and official British approval, they did a test run with Polar Eskimos.  The Eskimos were laughing at their feeble attempts.  Many came to visit just like going to a zoo.

The artic ice is constantly moving, mostly from the "top" of the Pacific Ocean, over the north pole, to come out in the North Atlantic.  Their trek was a combination of sled dogging and camping out on the drifting ice to make progress.

The author studied previous attempts to reach the north pole and figured out going with the flow was the better way. 

Earlier expeditions had spent many months trying to get to the North Pole from the Atlantic only to make little headway against the ice flow.

Earlier attempts to hunt for food along the way were doomed. Herbert kept detailed records of everything including all fox, seal and polar bear tracks and spottings.  No way that was going to work. The dogs needed 60 pounds of pemmican daily and simply could not pull enough food on the sleds to make the distance.  By 1968, Herbert was able to arrange for numerous air drops of food and supplies.  One drop alone was 32,000 pounds for their winter drift camp out.

The masses of ice are constantly moving and constantly crashing into each other or pulling apart.  Ridges at the meeting lines meant endless chopping through the ice so they could proceed.  Gaps would leave them stranded on slabs of ice surrounded by water.

"Ice Bergs" come from glaciers, not the polar ice cap.

The coldest recorded temperature was -47F. They went for 7 full months with the temp below 0F.  +20F was considered summer and was a very dangerous time as the ice would melt pretty fast due to the salt in the ocean water below.

Spoiler. The dogs survived and were rescued with the men.  I was really dreading their outcome but the book has a happy ending.

So are you  interested in reading this book?  I think it would be interesting reading for winter ultra participants.  You can have my copy if you agree to pass it to someone else when done.

email Lisa at Iowa_ultra_queen@juno.com with your snail mail address. first email gets it mailed to them

Rick Paulos
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