The Director of the Board of Arctic Portal and former Senior Arctic Official for Iceland at the Arctic Council, Ragnar Baldursson is now heading for the North Pole in a Chinese-Icelandic group of six, called "Arctic Fox Last Degree Ski Expedition".
The expedition is headed by Mr. Huang Nubo, a Chinese businessman, who studied together with Ragnar at Beijing University in the seventies. Mr. Hjorlefur Sveinbjornsson, an employee of Iceland's Foreign Ministry, who was the room mate of Mr. Huan at Beijing University, also participates in this venture, which is guided by the PolarExplorers, an American company located near Chicago. The PolarExplorers operates a specific blog for the expedition where each day's events are described. The Arctic Portal will also be reporting from the expedition, publishing here intermittent greetings from Ragnar from the North Pole.
March 30, 2011
The journey begins at Svalbard where the group will spend few days taking care of last minute preparations and practicing for the coming challenge.The team members will participate in a pre-expedition Polar Shakedown Training program, in which the guides prepare the team for the trip by going through clothing and equipment systems, cooking, packing a dogsled and pulk, safety systems, and traveling over the ice by dogsled or ski. Here in the pictures the group is practicing for the polar expedition in Svalbard (2 pics on right) and thanking Buddy the dog for keeping Polar Bears away during a night in a tent on Svalbard (below).
April 4, 2011 - Ragnar
We have a saying in Icelandic which can be translated, "Nobody knows where his life will lead until it's over."
Until recently, I would not have thought even in my wildest dreams that I would be skiing to the North Pole. In fact, I don't even really know how to ski. But then again, I had never imagined that I would spend half my life in Asia, when I was a young boy tending to the sheep at my uncle´s farm in Northern Iceland.
That's destiny. Skiing can be learned, and here I am in Svalbard together with my old schoolmates from Beijing University, where we studied at the end of Mao's era in the seventies, Huang Nubo from China and Hjörleifur Sveinbjörnsson from Iceland. Together with us are theirs sons Huang Sicheng (23) and Hrafnkell Hjörleifsson (25) and Chris Salter from Australia, who Huang Nubo met when he was traveling in Antarctica last year.
The decision to go on this trip was taken in October 2010 when Huang Nubo, who is a successful businessman and a poet, visited Iceland on the occasion of a poetry festival which he sponsored. Huang Nubo was telling us about his plans for going to the North Pole. He had already conquered the "Seven Summits on Seven Continents" and been to the South Pole so "now he had only the North Pole left for finishing the challenge of "7 + 2", he told us.
Well, this sounded interesting we thought, why not all go together. The North Pole can be seen as kind of a midway meeting point between Iceland and China and would therefore be a highly proper place for renewing old friendship. Or so we thought while toasting in the spirit of "Black Death", which is the traditional drink for Icelanders. Besides, in 2011 would be the 40 years anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iceland and China. Probably we will be seeing new shipping routes connecting Iceland and China straight over the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole in the not so distant future. Highly appropriate indeed to visit the Pole we thought. Huang Nubo agreed. He decided to invite us to join him, if we could make it to Svalbard he would sponsor the rest of the trip. Just as well because poor civil servants in Iceland don't really have too much money to travel anymore after the international financial crises of 2008, which hit Iceland with full force.
By including the two young men in our group, Huang Nubo gave the whole venture a forward looking aspect. The future belongs to the young generation. The additional member from Australia gives the team additional ballast from down under to ensure we don't swing off the globe when we enter its top.
So, now we have arrived in Svalbard preparing for the flight to the Russian Ice Station Barneo at 89°, which now has been scheduled for April 6. From there we will be skiing the remaining degree on the ice to the North Pole.
I will try to keep a diary on the way, noting down some points, which I can use for writing a more complete account of our travel after our return.
April 5, 2011 - Ragnar
These poems crawled into existance while we were training on Svalbard waiting for the plain to take us to the Russian Ice Station, Barneo, from where we will be starting our journey.
Flying towards Svalbard
As we fly over the ocean
We witness the waves
Giving way to floating ice;
and then suddenly,
shining peaks rise tall
out of frosen fields
covering the ocean.
Flowing into the valleys
from mountains sharpened by storms,
reaching up into the shifting mist
in the blue background
of an endless sky,
casting blue shadows
into the valleys below.
March 29, 2011
Skiing on Svalbard
Skiing between mountains
In the whitness of snow
we listen to the stillness
of the frost in the air,
and in the distance beyond,
white bolsters are rising
from the storm breweries
of the local gods.
April, 2, 2011
Prince Harry on Svalbard
A smiling boy on a journey
In a remote restaurant
with a remote cellar of remote wines
In a remote town in the Arctic
With a crowd of smiling shadows
Dressed for the freezing cold
Of the frosen island on an frosen ocean
In an frosen world of vastness
where lost empires send their princes
For training for dreams of glory
Which they will never recapture.
2. apríl, 2011
April 6, 2011 - Ragnar
So, finally on the way to the North Pole! After endless meetings, workshops, seminars and panels at the Arctic Council on changes in the Arctic, I finally get to go there myself. It is really strange how people can talk and discuss issues they have not experienced themselves. Just like when I was participating in the negotiations for Iceland on fishing quotas at NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fishing Commission) meetings. Sure, I know the taste and look of herring and red fish, but I really don't know about "blue whiting", I don't think I have seen or tasted that fish. But still we managed to make an acceptable deal on the quota for blue whiting ensuring sustainable fishing in the future.
All those meetings on things we have not experienced ourselves. Actually, I think that all the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Countries to the Arctic Council, should be sent to North Pole. To get a good and solid (cold) feeling for what is being discussed. In fact, this pole is the "upper end" of the "axis" which the whole globe is revolving around, so maybe all the UN diplomats should pay it a visit. Or maybe they could go to the South Pole, which might also be seen as "the top". But in my mind I still feel that the North Pole is "real top". One might say, it depends on your mindset what is "up" and what is "down", but no one can doubt that these are the centers around which the world revolves. Whatever we call us, Russians, Chinese, Icelanders, Australians, Americans or Europeans, we all live on this globe, and we all revolve around the same axis.
It will be interesting to see how the ice conditions really are at the North Pole, to feel the ice which separates us from the ocean under our feet. It is reported that the hard and thick multi-year ice has all but disappeared from the central region of the Arctic ocean, so the average thickness should just be around 3 meters of ice, maybe less.
I have been arguing for years that it should be possible to sail through these ice conditions on specially designed double acting cargo-ships that would go straight through the ice. Three meter thick ice is not much of a hindrance for a huge cargoship, which would be up to 4 - 500 meter long, ice strengthened with ice breaking capacity. It would slow down when going through the ice ridges, but not too much because of its size and momentum. Double acting icebreaking mega containerships carrying freight between Chinese harbours and Iceland would transform the transportation patterns of the world and open up a new era of economic development for the old economies around the North Atlantic Ocean, which are becoming old and tired just like myself after too many meetings and too much talk.
Now, this is what I will be thinking about when my fingers will stiffen and my feet will get cold on the way to the North Pole. And when I get too cold, I will think about my wife, drink some hot water with my fellow foxes on the team. I don't think we will talk too much. They are not really a talkative bunch and talking is not easy when you are skiing one after another in a single row. I guess Huang Nubo will be thinking about his next trip up Mount Evrest, which will be directly after this trip. He will approach the mountain from the Chinese side this time, which is more difficult. He has already been all the way up from the other site and also most of the way from the Chinese side, until he had to return because of weather conditions. Most of his friends have advised him against going directly from the North Pole to the Mount Evrest. But he insists that the trip to the North Pole will be the perfect preparation for climbing Mount Evrest. I have my doubts. But surely he will be thinking about this while he is draggprepareing his sled over the ice. And then he will be thinking about his son, Sichen, who will be skiing in front of him. Huang Sichen will be thinking about his girlfriend back in China, I guess. He talks a lot about her. And then he will be thinking about the books on economics he brought along for preparing for some exeminations he is going to take.
Hjörleifur Sveinbjörnsson, will propably ponder on the meaning of life if I know him right and the sorry state of Icelandic politics. Or maybe he will just try to forget about these issues and focus on how to get over the next ice ridge. And when the cold gets to him he will think about his wife in Iceland who is waiting anxiously for the return of her husband and her son, Hrafnkell, who should be preparing for exams at the University of Iceland these days, but decided to go on a trip into the Arctic with his father and friends instead. Still, I think that skiing over the Arctic Ocean can be seen as the perfect preparation for whatever the University wants him to learn.
And the last member of our group, Chris Salter from Australia, will be focusing on his fingers for sure. He almost lost them on Antartica some time ago on his way up to Mount Vinson. That made him realise the importance of fingers, he tells us. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that he still insists to take his fingers into the Arctic cold. But I guess he knows what he is doing, just like we do ;-)
So here we are, three rams from the Island of Ice and Fire, a kengaroo from Down Under following the lead of the Monkey King from China and his little monkey son. And through some mystical change we are being transformed into Arctic Foxes who will travel the ice over the Arctic Ocean in a search for our center, the Arctic Center of the Globe.
You are the flower in my heart
Which follows me where ever I go
Keeping me warm in the Arctic
During the day and throughout the night.
When the wind is plowing
And the cold bites at my fingers
I look into my heart
To watch the flower bloom,
Bringing warmth back into my body
And back into my soul.
April 6, 2011 - evening - Ragnar
Kind of a deja vu; somewhat like when the financial crises hit Iceland in 2008. Sure, I new that Iceland's economy was going to a hit a wall. No way that we could continue the way we lived with a micro currency, completely open to the world economy and dependant of trade, I used to argue with friends, some of them bankers or politicians. But when the crises hit, I was caught by surprise just like anybody else. It seems that I hadn't really expected that I was in fact completely right.
The same thing with the Arctic; sure I knew that the ice is breaking up. Most of the multi year ice disappeared from the central Arctic Ocean last summer. The ice is thinner and it is moving faster. The circulation of the ice in this region is probably 8 – 10 months, I would guess. So it is difficult to build runways even at the end of a long and cold winter. I should not be surprised, but still I was. Deja vu. Just let´s hope the Russians will rebuild the runway so we can continue our journey to the "center of the globe". And let's hope the runway will still be intact when we return. There is some royalty out there on the ice, a prince from Britain I believe. The Arctic gods are sure to make it possible for him to return won't they? Or maybe they are smitten by the republican virus. Who knows?
Maybe this will be the year of the Arctic meltdown, when the North Pole becomes ice free. Could happen any year now, you know. Just like in the year of IPY in 2007, when I organized this "Breaking the Ice" conference in Akureyri, Iceland in the spring, proposing the idea of new sailing routes straight over north pole. Little did I know that during the following summer the Arctic Ice would shrink by additional 2 million square kilometers bringing the prediction of trans-arctic transportation closer in time. Guess the same thing is happening now.
Anyway, it seems unlikely that people will be able to ski to the North Pole for many more years. SO, I do hope we will get the chance to continue our journey skiing to the floating center of the globe in spite of this initial setback.
Longyearbyen April 8, 2011 -Ragnar
It seems that a new runway will soon be finished at the Barneo Ice Station. We were hoping that it would be finished today and that we might even be able to fly there tonight. But now it seems that we will fly tomorrow. I do hope it will be in the morning. But being at the periphery of the civilized world, we cannot be certain about the flying schedules. So, some of us went driving on snow scooters today. It turned out that in this town of two thousand people, there are over seemingly four thousand snow scooters. This probably means that Longyearbyen is a civilized place, even though it is in the Arctic, that if civilization means having a lot of machinery lying around. But I have to admit it was fun, driving at up to 80 km speed between snowy mountains, slight gasoline smell in the cold air, but it is sooo beautiful. And the weather was great, shining sun, reindeers but no polar bears. All the hotels are overbooked, so every room is packed. I do hope we will be able to fly out onto the Barneo Ice Station tomorrow and start our skiing towards the pole.
Longyearbyen, April 8, 2011 - Ragnar
It is a strange town, Longyearbyen, freezing cold but full with people, tourists milling around in the hotel lobbies, in the shops and bars that could be almost anywhere in the world, except the customers are dressed in multiple layers of warm clothes.
The fashion in this town is definitely different. Just as well that I can be proud of own outfit, Cintamani from Iceland. Strange that the shops in Longyearbyen have not caught on yet that this is the coolest hot outfit for the Arctic.
And everyone is waiting, waiting for the chance to get to even colder places, ski trips into the mountains, or a flight to a floating airfield on the Arctic made of ice and more ice. Barneo, the Russian gateway to the North Pole. Yes, we are still stuck here in the town. The Russians are still repairing the runway which cracked two days ago. They started flying again this morning with a half empty plane - or half full, depending on your viewpoint. The runway is not long enough to take fully loaded planes, we are told.
Prince Harry from Britain is being flown out of Barneo today, and our sleds will be transported there this evening. But we will have to wait until tomorrow morning; too heavy we are being told. The marathon runners took our seats instead. Guess they are not as heavy.
"Marathon runners"? Yes, there are all kinds of crazy people gathered in this town. These particular nuts get a kick out of running a full marathon around a Russian Ice Station floating on the Arctic Ocean at the 89°N in "cool arctic breeze" of around -30°C or so. Talked to a Irish guy who makes a living by organizing super marathons here and there all over the world. Tried to tell him that Iceland was the place to go, he could start at the volcano that played havoc on Europe's Aviation last year. They could pass through Europe's largest desert in central Iceland continue over Europe's largest glacier. He promised to consider it. He had already done one super volcanic marathon in New Zealand some time ago, he said.
And then there are the Scuba Divers. They go straight for the North Pole on helicopters and sky dive into the ocean where the find rifts in the ice. Seemingly, they love taking pictures of the Arctic Ocean ice seen from below. Well, this is not my particular kind of craziness. I think I will stick to skiing on the surface towards the North Pole, pretending to by an Arctic Fox together with my Icelandic, Chinese and Australian buddies.
So we cross our fingers around a glass of beer cheering for the hope of an early flight towards Barneo tomorrow.
North Pole, April 14, 2011 - Ragnar
The Monkey King
From the Middle Kingdom
Leading a team into the cold
Looking for the center of the globe
At the top of a revolving world
Where the ocean is solid
And the sun never sets.
In his team he brings another monkey,
Three rams from a volcanic island
And a kengaroo from below.
At the start of their journey
On skiis over ice
Every one gets transformed
Into the shape of Arctic Fox.
And together they toil
Towards their distant goal
Circled by the sun
With three grey wolfs at the lead.
Until finally they stand there
At the center of the world
Wondering why they came
And where they should no go.
April 14, 2011
The Arctic Fox Mission reached the North Pole today. The group is now at the top of the world, where all time zones converge and all lines of longitude meet.
According to the Arctic Fox Mission website, the weather was good when they arrived at the North Pole or as the state on their blog "It was another beautiful day with a bright blue sky that made the snow sparkle like diamonds in the sun". When the explores reached the North Pole, the team celebrated with hugs, handshakes, laughter, tears, and plenty of photos to document the occasion.
After celebrating their achievement and internalizing the moment, the team set up camp and prepared for a continuation of the festivities. A green dining tent was converted into a special salon for the first-ever official North Pole Poetry Slam in honour of the Arctic Fox Mission team leader and acclaimed poet Mr. Nubo Huang. Each team member shared a special poem (or two, or three...) and together the team celebrated friendship, poetry, family, adventure, and the Arctic, whose 24 hour sun was circling overhead.
The group encountered some problems finding the exact North Pole and described it as a challenge:
"Strange as it may sound finding the exact North Pole can be a challenge, even with a GPS. Sometimes it is possible to look for 5 or 10 minutes within a 20 square foot area! There is no sign or post marking the spot (it would drift away in a few minutes) and all the while that a person is looking for 90.00.000 N to appear on their GPS the ice beneath them is in constant motion. Thus, it is like searching for a precise location while on a moving treadmill. It makes it all the more special when the GPS flashes that special number 90.00.000. The North Pole".
The Arctic Portal congratulates the Arctic explorers with this great milestone and wishes the group a safe journey back home.
April 15, 2011 - Ragnar
We made it. We did indeed get to the North Pole, running around like enthusiastic boys with a GPS looking for the exact point, taking pictures and putting up tents. It is as I imagined, incredible feeling after all this effort, skiing day after day through the bitter cold, dragging our sleds over snow covered ice fields, over ice ridges and rifts, finally getting to our destination at the North Pole, the "nexus" of the globe, where everything comes together on the frozen ice.
We celebrated the first night with old Whiskey, pieces of Icelandic Shark Meat and Icelandic "Black Death" Aquavit, reading poems about our thoughts in the Arctic. The next day the Russians came on an old army helicopter bringing us back to "civilisation" at the Barneo Ice Station at 88°N from where we flew on an even older Russian airplane to Longyearbyen. There were new cracks on the airfield and somehow I don't think the runway is going to last many weeks this year. I am just happy that we made it back.
Now I am sitting in a warm hotel room at Spitspergen Hotel in Longyearbyen with a snowstorm outside the window. I wonder if the flight will be delayed. I have to go and check because I am leaving the hotel in 10 minutes for the airport. I will be writing more about my thoughts later after flying out of the Arctic. Actually, we intend to publish a book about the travel.
April 17, 2011 - Ragnar
Arriving at the North Pole
The world did change when we arrived at the Pole, or at least our perception of it changed. Suddenly the North Pole was under our feet, and the world was turning around us with us as its center. We were no longer being moved in a sliding arch around the earth center. We were at the center; we were the center.
Most people tend to see themselves as a center and for their tiny private perspective they are right in a restricted and relative manner within their limited horizon. But standing at the very center were the revolving spokes of the global wheel are fused into one point is different. This is the very center of Mother Earth.
Sure, the Earth travels around the sun and the Sun is hurtled through the Milky Way which as a whole is in motion as well. But seen from the human perspective focusing on the Earth as the home of human kind and earthly life in general we were at the very center.
Here at the center the time the relativity of time had a different meaning. What was the time? Morning, evening, 10 AM, 3 PM, 03 AM, whatever; we could choose as we liked. Every direction went towards the south and the time depended on the direction of our gaze. Were we hungry? Sleepy? We could decide our self without looking at the watch for a mechanic confirmation of an artificial time contraption.
Most of us did not exactly kiss the ice beneath our feet, it is true, afraid that our lips would freeze, and anyway the ice and the ocean below were traversing through the region just like us. We kissed and embraced each other basking in the glory of the "coolness" of the moment. And the youngest member of our team, Huang Sichen (23) became so emotional that he did in fact kneel down and kiss the frozen snow below our feet. Then we took some photos and we jumped quite a bit, mainly to keep warm in freezing cold.
A morning on ice
After a night of tossing
With frost on our face,
We wake up to the coldness,
of drifting ocean ice.
With fingers that are frozen
We wrap up our things
And find fuel for our stomachs
Before skiing north again.
The leader of the Mission, Huang Nubo, had tears in his eyes. They froze and turned into shining crystals as they fell, Arriving at the North Pole had a special meaning for him because it concluded his quest of conquering the "7 + 2", Seven Peaks on Seven Continents and the Two Poles. In the evening he told us that he had become the 17th person in the world to accomplish this feat. So what is he going to do now?
Yes indeed, what will we now do? Chris Salter from Australia will surely continue his quest for finishing the remaining peaks of the Seven + Two Challenge. The son of our Monkey King leader, Huang Sichen will return to his work at Zhongkun Group where he is learning business under the supervision of his father. No mountain climbing for him, he says. Hjorleifur Sveinbjornsson will return to the translation of the EU documents into Icelandic and his son will go back to his studies at the University of Iceland
Myself, I will return to Iceland's embassy in Beijing striving to guard Iceland's interests in a changing world, at least as I conceive these interests hoping that my understanding is in accordance with the actual reality of Iceland's ever changing political situation.
The Monkey King and Mount Everest
Huang Nubo is not going to climb any more mountains or make more polar trips, he tells us. This is it. The Polar Explorer did a feeble attempt at convincing him that traveling over the Greenland Glacier would still be necessary to make a 7 + 3 feat. But it would be different; traveling between places is not the same as traveling to set destinations.
The wolves of the Tundra
and the frozen Arctic
love the smell of coldness
and the taste of freezing snow.
on Summer nights in Chicago
they dream about the cold
and prey on unsuspecting tourists
who can bring them back
into the snow.
But yet, Huang Nubo admitted that he still has some more climbing to do. He is going to go back to Mount Everest and climb it again from the Chinese side, from the north.
He has already been to the top from Nepal, which is easier. But that does not count quite as much as climbing from the north. Actually, he already climbed up the north side last year, but he did not quite make it. A team member passed away when they were just about to reach the top. Nubo tried to help but got frostbite in the face as a result and had to return to base to survive. Now he is going to make another go for it. If he doesn't make it this time, he will desist, because by then the gods will have made their will clear on the issue.
Then, there is only one last mountain he is going to climb, he says, Mustagata in Xinjiang. According to him it is not going to be too difficult at all, it's "only" about 7500 meters high. Huang Nubo says he has to climb this mountain too because his company, Zhongkun, is running the resort at the roots of the mountain from where the climbers start the ascent.
And then, finally, he will not be climbing any more mountains, he says. I don't know if we should believe him. Mountain climbing has become such an important part of his life. But he insists, he is going to travel extensively around the world writing travelogues and poems about the landscape, the people, the culture and history of all the countries, he will visit. He intends to visit as many countries as he can, hopefully all of them, he insists.
By the frozen fjord
in a frozen valley
between frozen mountains
lies a frozen village
of bright soals of sveetness
who love the whitness of snow
and play with snowcats and dogs
when the sun leaves in winter.
April 18, 2011 - Ragnar
Arctic / North pole Portal
The Arctic Portal on the North Pole! I felt proud when I took up a banner with the Arctic Portal logo and paused for a picture.
When the Arctic Portal was officially launched in at a Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council 2006 in the city of Salekhard in Russia, the aim was to create a comprehensive and interactive tool for Arctic matters on the internet, a true gateway to the Arctic in Hyperspace. Admittedly this is quite an ambitious goal. But in the few years that have passed, the Arctic Portal has in fact established itself as a leading internet venue for the Arctic.
Bringing the Arctic Portal Banner to the North Pole was appropriate indeed. For a moment, the symbol of the virtual gateway to the Arctic was put at the North Pole, the geographic gateway to globe in the Arctic.
In my mind, I could feel how the virtual threads of the virtual world of hyperspace were woven into the fabric of the spinning globe beneath my feet.
The ice over the North Pole would shift with the currents in the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic Portal would be brought back to shore but the memory of this moment would bring strength to further development of the Arctic Portal as an interactive tool for sustainable development in the Arctic.
April 19, 2011 - Ragnar
McDonalds and Laozi
Pure nature, that's what it is. It is "cool" to know that here can be no buildings on the North Pole. Even our tents on the ice were floating away from the center as we put them up. The GPS meters told us that we were moving at a rate of 2 - 4 nautical miles in 24 hours.
It is good to know that there is at least one place in the world where there never will be built a McDonalds fast food restaurant. Not that I have anything against McDonalds as such. They are probably quite good and some people, including my daughters, like dining out at McDonalds. But it was still good to know that the shifting ice of Arctic would be spared the cultural onslaught of fast food establishments.
What a perfect example of the principle of "Dao", the ever changing "Process" described in the ancient Chinese text of Laozi. The sea ice at the North Pole, frozen and immobile in our eyes was in fact in a constant and ever changing motion as it interacted with natural forces, the ocean currents below and the wind above. What we conceive as unchanging is in fact in a permanent motion.
What a perfect example of the universal truth that whatever exists can only exist through change, or to put it in a more localised manner referring to the insignificant human souls who were celebrating their arrival at the North Pole on April 14, "We are and therefore we change".
"North Pole Changelings"
My wife, who is Chinese, did not like me to go the North Pole. She insisted that it was dangerous and it was cold. I admitted that it was going to be cold but not that dangerous, I told her. The ice was quite solid and the polar bears would not find any food at the North Pole. So why should they bother going there.
I have to admit that I was not quite honest in my description of the "not so dangerous North Pole". The cold can be fatal if you are not careful all the time to keep warm, the ice is not as solid as I claimed and polar bears do in fact travel the area in search for seals that surface when the ice shifts and breaks in the changing currents and wind.
However, I soon realised the main concern of my wife was that I might undergo some fundamental change at the North Pole, that my personality and outlook on life in general would be changed. She was afraid that I would return as a "changeling", who would be unknown to her.
To my wife
You are the flower in my heart
Which follows me were ever I go
Keeping me warm in the Arctic
During the day and throughout the night.
When the wind is blowing
And the cold bites at my fingers
I look into my heart
To watch the flower bloom,
Bringing warmth back into my body
And back into my soul.
The Chinese name for the North Pole, "beiji" can be translated as "Northern Extreme", but it can also be interpreted as the "northern point of extreme transition". Subconsciously, this gives the North Pole an added significance to the Chinese mind, which is propably the reason why my wife was afraid that I would undergo an extreme change at the North Pole. When I realised how worried she was about my mental state and her desire that I would return un-scattered to her side, I tried to assure her by writing a short poem expressing how she would stay with me in my mind throughout the North Pole trip.
Still, it is true that everyone that goes to the North Pole, the "Northern Point of Extreme Transition", is bound to undergo some change. But that is natural, nothing exists without changing. One might say "I change therefore I am. But the change that we underwent at the North Pole did not make our basic feelings reverse themselves, rather these feelings became more precious and went deeper into our soul.