Rowing, Yes, Rowing, to the North Pole

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Polar explorer Jock Wishart and a crew of five are closing in on their attempt to row 450 miles to the north magnetic pole. It's probably worth getting this out of the way up front. The journey is to the north magnetic pole as measured in 1996, on Ellef Ringes Island. The north magnetic pole moves every year due to changes in the earth's core, and since 2009 has moved roughly 35 miles a year towards Russia. It's the point your compass references, and it can move over land. The geographic North Pole is the set point where all lines of longitude converge over the ice or water of the Arctic Ocean, or, for some of you, where Santa Claus lives.

Jock, a Scot, gathered a crew of five men that includes countryman Mark Beaumont, who completed a 195-day, 18,296 mile cycling trip around the world in February of 2008. Another member, Mark Sans, is an oceanographer who will collect data on water temperature and salinity. The six-member team takes turns rowing a specially designed boat outfitted with weather computers and GPS. The hull is painted bright gold in case of tipping, and tricked out with sledge runners for pulling over the ice.

The crew is not the first group to row in the Arctic. Native tribes still row for whale hunts and early explorers left their larger boats on expeditions to row. Wishart's mission is to raise awareness of the melting sea ice by undertaking an endurance row. Since satellite measurements began in the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest levels in the last four years.

Picture from the BBC, Rowing the Arctic

The crew left Resolute Bay on July 28th and expects to make the pole in the next couple days. Currently, they're having trouble navigating icebergs and getting through sea ice. Like any good Scots, they've made time to stop along the way for some golf. And like the early explorers, they've given whisky a place on their mission.

–Joe Spring

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