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An Arctic Survival Game in Minus 49-Degree Weather

Posted April. 04, 2005 23:35,   


Survival Game-

The North Pole expedition team led by Park Young-seok (42, Goldwin Korea executive, Dongkuk University Mountaineering Club OB), is advancing forward despite its numerous injuries. Park has frostbitten thighs and an injured left thumb. Hong Sung-taek (38) is experiencing symptoms of sprained ankles due to fatigue. Oh Hee-jun (35), another member of the expedition, has frostbitten hands and feet, and Jung Chan-il’s (25) face is frostbitten and his heels are injured.

As of April 4, the 27th day of their trip, the team’s location was 85 degrees 40 minutes, 789 north latitude, 72 degrees 5 minutes 241 west longitude. They have covered 38 percent of the route to the North Pole, which is 775km in a straight line. Now for an in-depth look at the expedition’s “North Pole Survival Game.”


The average temperature is minus 39 degrees Celsius. There are strong winds of 10mps everyday, which makes the sensible temperature 49 degrees below zero. One day when the thermometer read minus 55 degrees, the team experienced minus 63 degrees weather.

When the skin is exposed to temperatures of 45 degrees below zero or lower, it will be frostbitten in nine minutes. If the temperature drops to 60 degrees below zero, it will take two minutes to be frostbitten. The team armed themselves with nose and wristbands, but could not block out the cold.

Leads (Long, narrow openings or fractures in sea ice)-

When one falls into a lead, there is a great risk of hypothermia. The first thing to do is pitch a tent, turn on the burners, and dry off as fast as possible. If one falls in, the rest of the team takes his clothes off and massages him to warm him up. The tent warms up quickly if both of the burners are turned on, but they must ration their oil supply (2L a day).

Drinking Water and Bathroom Breaks-

North Pole glaciers are made of salty seawater, and are thus undrinkable. Also, it rarely snows at the North Pole. Therefore, the team collects their drinking water by carefully scraping off the few snowflakes that have latched onto the icy surfaces.

Going to the bathroom is literally a pain. It is extraordinarily difficult to go when it is difficult to even stand up straight because of the harsh wind. The team members use one hand to unzip their pants, and the other hand to block out the wind by wrapping a mattress around themselves, and go as fast as possible.

The expedition talks to its base camp in Resolute Bay everyday at 7:00 p.m. via satellite phone. They report their location and receive weather information.

The leader’s first words over the satellite phone are always the same: “We are dead tired, but we are gutting it out. We Korean people are strong.”

The North Pole expedition is still continuing towards the top of the world today.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com