Map Of The Arctic Ocean

Flowers at Camp Hazen

Andy asks us to sign eight, small, white cards as mementoes of the occasion and for his use. We are happy and honoured to do so. I have my own Goldsworthy drawing and message. As if reading my thoughts, perhaps realising it for the first time, Andy says to me, ‘Neville, do you realise you have the only art work that has been created at the North Pole?’ Until then I hadn’t realised the implication myself of what had occurred.

It was, and probably is always likely to be, the only work of art actually created at the North Pole by an artist of international standing. What a gift to receive! I feel humbled by what I hold in my hands. It is something that will certainly stand the test of time and will be a constant reminder of this incredible event. For evermore I will only have to take the catalogue down from my bookshelf, hold it and glance at the drawing and inscribed message to be instantly transported back to the North Pole.

Map Of The Arctic Ocean Photo Gallery

We all fall silent as each of us remember those precious moments and draw them down into a private and personal sanctum. There they will always remain, ready to be unlocked at a moment’s recall. We are in a strange way, although perhaps it is not so strange, emotionally as well as physically drained and exhausted.

I look out of the aircraft’s windows to try and catch a glimpse of Robert Swan and his valiant team, but no such luck. It’s like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. How lucky to see them on the way in. I’m convinced they are still battling on. That’s their special spirit.

Some days later, after I’ve returned to London, I obtain the newspapers for 24 April and read Robert Swan’s reported journal at that time, ‘I had lost my spoon. Misha his balaclava. Minor incidents in the explorer’s almanac of calamities, but inconvenient nevertheless. Misha eventually found the balaclava on his head and, at the end of a day’s uncomfortable travel, I found the spoon in my boot. I knew then, we were exhausted.’ If only I had known and could have given Swan my spoon! They were only halfway to the Pole and must have been feeling desperate. Swan goes on to record, ‘We heard tonight that Pam Flowers with her dog team (attempting to be the first woman to claim the Pole alone) has now pulled back.’ Perhaps this very sad news helped to inspire him onwards to eventual success.

I can’t help thinking about the brave men and women of so many different nationalities who have attempted to struggle, against overwhelming odds, across this harshest of all terrains. I doze for a while then wake suddenly to stare intently out of the tiny windows. There’s just whiteness in every direction. We all sleep off and on, as we fly back for several more hours across the plains of snow and ice to reach again the mountain ridges, themselves full of wild, wonderful and colourful shapes and designs. We reach Lake Hazen, one of the largest fresh water lakes north of the Arctic Circle, and start our approach to Camp Hazen. I understand ‘hazen’ translates as ‘fear’ and can well understand within this totally isolated and desolate landscape why it is so named. There are scores of seals along the edges of the lake. They pay us no attention whatsoever as we fly slowly but triumphantly to land.

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