How North Pole Expeditions Work

Planning a North Pole Expedition
A Russian nuclear icebreaker carries tourists to the North Pole.
A Russian nuclear icebreaker carries tourists to the North Pole.
Per Breiehagen/Stone/Getty Images

You also need to know when to go. The two-month window between March and May is your best bet. If you make the trip before March, don't expect a lot of sightseeing, because it will be dark the entire time -- not to mention a lot colder. But if you go much later than May, you'll encounter melting conditions. There isn't any actual land underneath the North Pole, so you probably shouldn't attempt that unless you feel like swimming in the Arctic Ocean.

Now that you have the time, you'll need a place to begin your journey. If you're coming from the Canadian side, Resolute Bay is where you'll start. From there, you'll take a four-hour ride in a small plane, after which you'll refuel and fly the rest of the way to your jumping-off place, Ward Hunt Island. (If you're starting from Russia, you'll leave from Severnaya Zemlya, Siberia.)

National Geographic describes a land-based journey from Ward Hunt Island:

"From there, it's just 450 frozen miles to the Pole. To complicate matters, some of the ice is in the form of pressure ridges -- small mountains formed by shifting ice plates. As the season progresses and the ice continues to break up, travelers also encounter 'leads' (pronounced LEEDS) -- open stretches of seawater that either must be bridged or traveled around [source: Smith]."

Time frames for North Pole trips vary, depending on your mode of transportation. If you take a dog-sledding or skiing trip to the North Pole with Polar Adventures, for example, expect a weeklong training camp and a two- to three-week trek. (There are also three-day excursions, which basically deliver you to the Pole for skiing or sledding.) The cost for a dogsled trek can top $50,000 [source: Polar Adventures].

And don't forget, when you finally reach the Pole, you'll probably want a ride home instead of turning around to make the trek back. Many packages include a ride back to your jumping-off point.

For more information about expeditions to the North Pole, take a look at the links on the next page.

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