Alpina Ice Legacy project
Borge Ousland and Vincent Colliard successfully crossed their third glacier, the St. Elias-Wrangler Ice Field, after 19 days of intense adventures.
As part of the Alpina & Icelegacy project, Borge Ousland and Vincent Colliard will be crossing the world’s 20 largest icecaps on earth over the course of next 10 to 15 years. Pushing themselves to their physical limits and amid some of the harshest landscapes on Earth. These glaciers are located in 10 countries in both northern and southern hemispheres, the majority being found at high latitudes. The overall goal of the project is to raise awareness about the ice melt and initiate long-term activism. This project was born in 2010, after Borge and Vincent sailed around the North Pole, through the North West passage, during 25 days. This expedition made them realise the pace at which the ice was disappearing, as the same trip took three years for the explorer Amundsen a century ago. After, this eye opening experience, Borge and Vincent created the Ice Legacy project.
Last May, Vincent Colliard and Borge Ousland skied across the 430km of the St Elias-Wrangell icecap in Alaska. The Saint-Elias Mountains extend southeastwards from the Wrangell Mountains to cross South along the border between Canada and the United States – an area of exceptional natural beauty. This expedition marked the third journey of Icelegacy. In supporting this expedition, Alpina watches are helping to raise awareness about the retreat of the polar glacier and the dwindling of fresh water resources.
The expedition started on April 21st, when Borge Ousland and Vincent Colliard landed on the Novatak glacier Alaska, after months of preparation. From there onwards, they pulled their sledges on skis for about 400km. In 19 days, the explorers managed to cover more than 20km each day, struggling to carry their equipment onwards in the ice and steep terrain. The navigation on the ice was very challenging and dangerous due to cracks in the ice that formed unexpectedly, and the pools of water that surrounded them. The surface of the ice is not smooth and slick like an ice-skating rink, as you might expect. Instead, it is uneven and undulating. These uneven sun cups make it difficult to walk, for this reason both explorers were equipped with crampons on their boots. To keep up with the extreme physical demands on their bodies, the men had to eat a high-calorie diet, mostly composed of crisps, beef jerky, nuts, chocolate, dried fruits and cereal biscuits.
Both adventurers wore the Alpina Horological Smartwatch to measure their activity and sleep during the crossing. Powered by the latest technology, the Alpina Horological Smartwatch is capable of bi-directional communication with the Iphone and Android app. The patented sensor-fusion engine tracks activity and sleep patterns with high accuracy. The Alpina smartwatch was designed to withstand rain and shock. Vincent and Borge could follow in real-time during the expedition their activity and sleep information, which were presented, on the traditional analog dials of their watches. On average, both explorers walked 30 000 to 45 000 steps per day.
Despite the rain, the explorers successfully crossed the Copper River on May 10th to arrive at the pick-up point. The Copper River is a 290-mile river in south-central Alaska known for its extensive delta ecosystem, and for its variety of different species of fish.
During the whole expedition, the explorers collected samples of ice every night for future water analysis, as they had just begun to collaborate with Jeffrey Welker, and scientists from the University of Anchorage. It makes sense for them to collaborate with the scientific community because they don’t want Icelegacy to be only an adventure project, they want it to serve to provide scientists with data, which could help in educating the public in a more profound way.
These ice caps are a huge source of fresh water and represent an integral part of our ecosystem. Understanding these glaciers better means that we will be able to act efficiently towards their protection. For this reason, Vincent and Borge believe truly that sharing their love for ice can make a difference for future generations. Through this expedition, they hope to provide enough information to generate a visual understanding of the disappearing icecaps.
Their next Ice Legacy challenge?
Borge and Vincent will cross the Chugach icecap, where they will sample the ice for water isotopes and black carbon. After Alaska, they will focus on Canada where there are 7 of the 20 largest icecaps.