Too late for pessimism

A world record was broken in 2010 when an explorer circumnavigated the Arctic Circle in a mere 80 days. Thorleif Thorleifsson visited Concordia’s Campus on Tuesday, October 9 to discuss his adventure and to reflect on his first-hand experiences with the Arctic melting.

An environmental counselor from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Marit Saether, opened the lecture for Thorleifsson. Among listing his accomplishments and feats, she also explained the drastic changes that are occurring in the Arctic.

“The face of the Arctic is changing,” Saether said.

Roald Amundson, a famed Arctic explorer, took six years to circumnavigate the Arctic Circle in the early 1900’s. Thorleifsson, a graduate of the Norwegian Naval Academy, shattered this record in 2010 with an 80-day voyage. This meant more than simply breaking a record. It meant that the Arctic was shrinking drastically.

In 2007, Thorleifsson got the idea of traveling around the North Pole and promptly started planning and forming a team.

Thorleifsson explained that the ideas they came up with were new and could teach them a lot about the Arctic.

“Do you get good ideas from doing the same thing every day or doing something different?” Thorleifsson asked.

He and his crew decided to do something different, for which they would need to plan accordingly.

He thoroughly analyzed the challenges they would face during their record-breaking journey. These challenges included which direction they would sail around the Arctic, how to get through the ice, and how to get through closely guarded Russian waters.

Thorleifsson chose another Norwegian, Børge Ousland, as his crewmate for the journey. They also had a Russian for part of the trip to help translate, a French man to help with weather, and an Arab who wanted to go along for the adventure.

Thorleifsson also discussed the supplies they would need on their voyage—most importantly, a ship. The ship they chose was a trimaran, which is light enough to sail in a mere three feet of water.

They also had to plan strategically for food that would last extended periods of time and for lots of Norwegian wool, since they had no heating system aboard their ship.

When Thorleifsson said he and Ousland planned for everything, he meant everything.

“Every time I had an idea, he asked, ‘Well what could go wrong?’ and he expected me to have an answer to that as well,” Thorleifsson said.

For instance, in the chance that the team would not be able to make it through Russian waters and were forced to walk home through Siberia, they were prepared with morphine and a rifle that they hid in the mast.

Despite various hardships during their journey Thorleifsson and his crew managed very well. The men that went along all worked well together, were extremely prepared, used their skills and talent, and followed all the rules that they had set up.

Eighty days after they began their journey, Thorleifsson and his crew sailed large waves through the Norwegian Sea back to their starting point.

“It’s fun, exhausting, and a little bit dangerous,” Thorleifsson said.

Now that the expedition is complete, he is already planning for the future.

“My vision is to increase curiosity in the Arctic,” Thorleifsson said.

He did not want to comment further on his future plans, since his wife has not yet been filled in on the plans.

He did, however, comment on what humans can do to change the shrinking Arctic.

“’Just do it’ is the way we have to approach the future,” Thorleifsson said. “It is too late to be a pessimist. Be optimistic.”

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