As jolly old St. Nick ascends into the limelight again
this holiday season, we, your devoted Weather Club
Editorial Staff, thought it key to report first-hand on
local, i.e. North Pole, conditions. We sent station
after station to sniff out the story this past month
only to discover them weeks later sloshing aimlessly
around in the dark, polar cap-melting terrain, not a
Santa or WeatherLink upload in sight.
Just as we were about to lose faith, what to our
wondering eyes should appear, but one small off-hand
response to an innocuous customer survey: the station
"performed well on all my North Pole expeditions. It
packs small and light."
Curtis Lieber, Lead Guide for Global
Expedition Adventures, Inc., and a physician in
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and the owner of that remark,
fleshed out the story at our request: A few years ago a
patient of his, Earl Miller of South Carolina, invited
him on a hot-air balloon flight over the North Pole.
Curtis, oddly enough, accepted.
April 1997 found Curtis traipsing through the streets
of Moscow, chatting with Inuits and mammoth relics in
Khatanga, Siberia, joining the Russian National Air
Force on a relatively routine mission to establish their
annual base camp in the North Pole, and then launching
from the base camp in a balloon to gust over the Pole
itself. Four balloons launched that year, one American,
one British, one Swedish, and one Austrian (piloted by
former Mir Cosmonaut, Ivan Trifonov). They were
accompanied by 40 parachutists.
Curtis says explorers have a three month window in
which the Pole is both receiving sunlight and is not
made unduly hazardous by melting polar ice caps. Even
so, a blizzard on the end date of the expedition
prevented their return plane from landing for 3
additional days. And when it finally did, says Curtis,
they had to shoot flares at the end of the runway and
rely heftily on GPS to navigate.
Nevertheless, the following year found the doctor
again at the Pole, but this time he was accompanied by a
young journeyman, the wanderlust Weather Wizard III. The
errant station, not daunted by the -1 to -40 degree F
temperatures, close to 0% humidity, and 40 mile per hour
winds, operated on 6 size D batteries and steadfastly
logged the mind-blowing data to a WeatherLink. The
station performed excellently, reports Curtis, although
the anemometer had to be recalibrated almost daily due
to the constant floating of the base camp - 12 to 20
miles through the night - which posed a particularly
tricky prospect, given the uselessness of magnetic
compasses near the Pole. On the up side, by keeping the
console inside the heated tent, Curtis thinks the LED
display emerged from the Pole without freezing even
Curtis and the Wizard are now 2 of the 0.00004% of
the present world's population who have ever visited the
North Pole. Curtis says that, while camping out on that
"frozen corpse on top of the world," 1500 miles away
from any life, he's "never felt so far away from loved
ones." Yet, fighting fatigue, dehydration and the
disruption of the 24 hour circadian rhythm, Curtis says
he never felt more alive.
The doctor's planning another trip for next April, as
well as one to the Amazon later in the year, and is
looking for folks who'd like to either go along or help
sponsor the trip. Because of the expensive equipment
(amazingly, he was never cold!), the North Pole trip
costs $8000 per participant. He invites all interested
parties to contact him at
curtisLieber@prodigy.net for more information.
Thanks for the Santaland report, Curtis, and please
keep us informed (especially about any elf sightings)!