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Field Notes
Børge Ousland
Photograph by Mike Horn
Børge Ousland

Giving it everything he had, explorer Børge Ousland muscled gear over plains of snow during the expedition to the North Pole.

What was your best experience during this assignment?

After weeks of total darkness and relying on headlamps to see, it was a wonderful thing to finally experience the light of the full moon, which made an appearance twice during the expedition. I've never seen anything like it, the moonlight spreading over the pack ice. For the three or four days that it lasted, it was like witnessing day one on planet Earth. And it was totally different, by the way, from the midnight sun, which occurs at lower latitudes.

What was your worst experience during this assignment?

The overall worst thing for me was the cold—the unrelenting, bone-chilling cold—day in and day out. We could never escape it during our 12-hour days on skis. One spell lasted for more than a week, with winds from the north and temperatures of minus 31°F (-35°C) or colder. With that kind of cold and wind, it felt like a knife cutting through my body.

What was the oddest experience that you encountered during this assignment?

My partner, Mike Horn, accidentally pepper-sprayed us inside our tent. We'd brought an aerosol can of the stuff with us just in case we had to ward off polar bears. One morning after breakfast, Mike was moving the can from one backpack to another when he accidentally hit the button. Then he couldn't turn it off. Inside the confined space of our tent, it got pretty bad. I ended up with my head outside the tent gasping for air.