Monaco Prince reaches Nth Pole

He has warned that the Arctic exploration offered a grim view of the effects of global warming.

Prince Albert said near the pole some open channels were hardly frozen and the ice was retreating north.

“We must try to find solutions, with scientists obviously, but also at the individual level,” said Prince Albert.

Prince Albert, the first head of state in office to reach the pole, undertook the trip to draw attention to global warming “accentuated by the impact of all human activity on nature.”

The 48-year-old prince was accompanied by his personal physician, Michael MacNamara, British mountaineer Annabelle Bond, Russian explorer Matvei Shparo and four other people.

He departed from a Russian weather station at Barneo on Thursday, traveling the 91-kilometre journey with sleds each drawn by six huskies.

But he said the team in fact made a 150-kilometre journey, given the need to skirt outcrops of ice.

He arrived at the pole at 5.45 pm local time on Sunday.

“When you see these landscapes, these landscapes of the sea of ice, it is astonishing to see how diverse our planet is,” he told AFP by phone an hour and a half after reaching the top of the world, where at this time of the year the sun never sets.

Consulted grandfather’s notes

He has paid tribute to his great grandfather, Prince Albert I, one of the pioneers of modern oceanography, who made four trips to Spitzbergen in Norway between 1898 and 1907.

“I think everyone by their behaviour can make their small contribution to a global and extraordinary effort.”

Albert II consulted the notes taken by his ancestor, who never reached the pole but explored the Arctic during the summer months.

“He used to say that he had come across ice very, very far south. The ice began much earlier, at the 81st or 82nd parallel.”

“Now you see it at the 86th, I think. The cracking of the ice and the break-up begin fairly early. For some years it has been noticed that spring arrives earlier and earlier,” he told AFP.

The temperature never fell below minus-20 degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit), he said.

From a wildlife point of view the trip was not especially rewarding. While Albert spotted two birds and another member of the team saw a seal, no polar bear was in sight.

Albert took notes and kept a diary but has not decided what to with them.

“It is a fantastic impression. It was a physically difficult journey because it isn’t a straight line. When you have blocks of ice that crash into each other they make pretty impressive little hills to climb,” he said, with some as high as 10 metres.

“The team was great and the dogs extraordinary, everything happened in a very good atmosphere,” said Albert, before being helicoptered off the ice.

Sources in Monaco said he would be in Moscow on Tuesday where he would meet President Vladimir Putin.

The palace in Monaco said Albert’s journey had been difficult, covering 20 kilometres on the first day, and the first three days had been especially hard because of cracks and compressions in the ice.

On the second day the team could only cover 17 kilometres because of reduced visibility and ice conditions.

On Saturday the weather improved and the expedition covered more than 35 kilometres.

The final 20 kilometre assault on the pole began on Sunday at 9.15am local time.


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