The dramatic “not a rescue” retrieval of polar explorers Børge Ousland and Mike Horn may finally be nearing an end as the Lance research ship has freed itself from the sea ice north of Svalbard, where it was stuck for two weeks after the pickup of the men itself was long delayed by ice blockage.
The Lance freed itself at about 1 a.m. Friday and is now heading toward Longyearbyen, a journey expected to take at least a day because of additional ice in the vicinity, Lars Ebbesen, the expedition’s leader, told NRK. The ship, for instance, got stuck again only hours after freeing itself, but broke loose again in a relatively short period of time.
“It’s been an incredibly exciting night,” he said. “It has been absolutely crazy, says Expedition Leader Lars Ebbesen. “There is a completely electric mood on the ship right now. There is both cheering and crying.”
Horn and Ousland set out from the ice north of Alaska in late September, intending to ski over the North Pole and reach a ship at the ice edge north of Svalbard and arrive in Longyearbyen in mid-November. But difficulties during the last stretch of the trip left them frostbitten and dangerously low on food, and in a decision criticized by some due to the resources involved, opted for a chartered “non-emergency” pickup by the Lance instead of an official rescue by one of The Governor of Svalbard’s rescue helicopter.
While the struggles to reach the men were published as a real-time drama by Norwegian media, the hardships didn’t end when Horn and Ousland finally boarded the ship after they were down to their last day of food. The Lance became stuck in the ice and on Dec. 20 three people were taken off the ship by helicopter, one for medical reasons. There are now 18 men and a woman on the ship.