In 1968, just one year before Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon, the first confirmed surface conquest of the North Pole was achieved by Ralph Plaisted using snowmobiles. It had already been 50 years since Roald Amundsen walked upon the land-locked South Pole.
Today, the Arctic has become site of the most controversial—and potentially profitable—land issues amongst the world’s superpowers, and Russia is undeniably leading that charge. This August, Russia submitted a bid to the UN claiming more than 450,000 square miles of the Arctic and all its economic profits. New reports also highlight the Russian’s plans to install anti-aircraft missiles that can withstand harsh conditions in select locations along its border with the region.
As a destination, the North Pole has been visited by thousands—researchers, military personnel, explorers, and a few tourists. They arrive by submarine, aircraft, and icebreaker. It’s estimated that there have only been 119 visits to the North Pole by a surface vessel. This July, I was invited to go on the 115th.