Anyone who has ever willingly participated in an endurance event understands both the physical and mental struggle associated with working towards your goal. But throw in stalking polar bears, ice disappearing beneath your feet, and continually drifting away from your destination as food and fuel supplies dwindle, then you have Eric Larsen’s and Ryan Waters’ race to travel to the North Pole.
Animal Planet’s upcoming show “Melting: Last Race to the Pole” covers Eric and Ryan’s quest to travel from the edge of Canada at Cape Discovery the 481 miles to the North Pole across the top of the Arctic Ocean. And by the way, they are doing this completely unsupported and unassisted–this means no food drops, no dog sleds, and no camera crew. Over the course of two months, watch as the duo ski or snowshoe across the harshest climate on earth, all while pulling a 320 pound sled each behind them. It’s no surprise that less than 50 people have ever achieved this feat.
As a mountaineer, I can relate to their struggle–trying to block out what waits for you at home in order to completely focus on the task at hand even though you are physically and mentally exhausted. All you want is a cup of coffee and a nap in a warm bed. And maybe a cheeseburger or two. But the difference between most adventures and polar exploration is that the line between life and death is incredibly thin, day after unrelenting day. As Ryan says in the show, “You feel like the environment is constantly trying to kill you.” While this may be true, the reward is knowing you can completely rely on yourself for survival–not something many of us can say.
Eric and Ryan were hoping to beat the speed record of 49 days set by the Norwegians in 2006. Don’t worry–no spoilers here. You will have to tune in December 9th at 9 p.m. ET/PT to see if the duo break the record or even make it to the North Pole at all. If you want a brutally honest look at the emotional rollercoaster of polar exploration and a glimpse into what climate change is doing to our planet, you won’t want to miss this show.
In a very honest moment, as the pair struggle another day making little progress through the unforgiving terrain, Eric wonders, “What am I even doing this for?” As the world’s eyes rest on the climate talks in Paris this week, the show, and Eric and Ryan’s quest to document the conditions in the Arctic, couldn’t be more relevant. The Arctic Ocean is warming faster than any other place on earth. The once 6-foot thick multi-year ice has turned into wide open ledes or endless ridges of pressure ice created from thin pans crashing together. Eric and Ryan may well be the last to set out on this journey–with the changing ice conditions, there is no longer a way to drop off, pick up, or rescue any team on the Arctic Ocean.
While “Melting: Last Race to the Pole” might be a climate change story, it’s also one of human potential. Life isn’t easy. But it’s all in your attitude and how you keep pushing ahead, little by little, towards your goal that ultimately determines your success.
For those of you that live in Boulder, head to West End Tavern on Pearl Street on the night of December 9th for a viewing party.