Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition route

If the Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition succeeds, it will be the first time a Spanish team has reached the Geomagnetic Pole. But the most interesting is the territory where the bet will be developed. Authentic “door of the white hell” the Strait of Nares (which the expedition intends to cross) was the passage chosen by numerous expeditions throughout history to reach by sea the North Pole, because it was mistakenly thought that behind the ice barrier, a warm sea existed.

What caused great tragedies and epics worthy of remembrance. This belief began in the sixteenth century, when it was suggested by some scholars; Mariners as British as Barents and Hudson seized it

as they thought that if they could break through this temperate sea located in the Pole, they could open new trade routes to the Pacific by mocking the Portuguese and Spanish monopoly.

The atlas of the Dutch geographer Mercator collects the late medieval popular belief about the North Pole that would extend until the 20th century: a huge mountain of magnetized metal – the legendary Rupes Nigra – would act as the North Geographical Pole; And around the huge magnet would open a liquid sea whipped by the storm and surrounded by four huge icy islands.

During the nineteenth century the most daring attempts to reach this legendary place were produced; With the excuse of searching for the ships of Franklin’s departure, disappeared in the great north, the most daring Anglo-Saxon captains, such as Kane, Hayes, Hall, or Nares, set off toward the north; The rescue was only an excuse.

. In fact, they sought to open new routes through a scenario they believed to be navigable. But it was not, and many left the bones in the attempt. We had to wait for the brilliant Fritjof Nansen, who proved that the Open Polar Sea theory was false.

In a few decades, especially after Peary claimed his victory at the Pole, the expeditions failed to cross this pass between Canada and Greenland in search of the mythical sea and its black rock.


Elisha Kane

The choice of experts

The Mars Gaming Expedition is an all-or-nothing bet, as is the case with the mounds of eight meters. If the ice prevents it, we will not be able to beat records; But to do the work of video documentation that we want to carry out, between the inhabitants of the place and their wild life. Each year is different and we will be at the expense of the gods who regulate the storms we are propitious.

The next step we took after our visit to England was the team’s choice; As doctor of expedition would come the doctor Maria Valencia; The crew – on whom much of the challenge lies – would be made up of Mike Stewart, the captain, the Russian ice master Nikolai Litau and the rocky Aitor Basarrate, who is also a key man on the land expedition. As an expert in traveling by frozen territory would come the retired engineer Manuel Mallo, professor of extreme cold survival courses. Finally, there would be the audiovisual equipment, made up of journalists Rafa Gutiérrez and Javier Zardoya, both well-known travelers. My role would be the director of the company as a whole, along with Laura Hernandez, the main sponsor.

When we got other leading firms such as the 5 + 11 Foundation and the BTI Institute to join the company, it was time to prepare and train. We tested the ship in the Irish Sea, in a journey between Westport and Belfast, where the Northabout was under repair.

The Irish Sea


Boat in the middle of a storm

“Wake up, wake up!! Warship at twelve o’clock,” I said. It was six o’clock in the morning, and an old gray ship sent light signals to two escorts flanking it.

“Boy, it’s true,” said Aitor, “it’s a fleet. Wake up Mike!!.

The huboo was general when we discovered that our formation of ships of the Royal Navi were but two agricados Islotes provided with Lighthouses. It was the sympathetic point of the trip and mockery by the British captain, who recorded in the log:

“7.00 AM: the Basque crew is preparing for a possible approach against the Royal Navy, turning out to be in fact the islet and lighthouse Of Castle Rocks.


It was a placid and somewhat contrasted navigation between the morning light that watered the white-walled villages and the untimely mists that gave the whole a certain lugubrious aspect; Crumbling fortresses of Cromwell’s time served as a refuge for the screaming seagulls as the seals plunged into the indigo waters.

Before the festival we watered the gaznats as good sailors in the taverns of Westport, especially in the famous bar of Mat Molloi’s, flutist of the group The Chieftains. Then we visited the silent builder of the Northabout, Jarlath Cunanne; A large, lumpy torso, and a glimpse of ice that peeked out at the bottom of a grim face covered with white hair. The Irishman showed us his new design, a younger brother of the legendary Northabout who was busy building in his garage. He also put a video of the vicissitudes of the mythical Irish expedition to the Strait of the Northwest, which he himself had commanded in 2001.

It says a legend of Ireland that the fairy Banshee sings when someone is going to die; And an unhappy morning of fog must have done so, for we were ordered to search for the remains of a rescue helicopter and its occupants on the northbound route.

“The pilot was the only survivor; They found it floating badly, and died on the way to the hospital.

The other four occupants disappeared in the bubbling waters, next to an enormous ominous reef called “Black Rock” that is at the entrance of the bay of Donegal. But we did not get to see anything and day by day, we were approaching until Belfast.


Aitor Basarrate climbed to the Northabout mast

It must be said that we took the boat; Aitor was described by Mike as “a guy who is an eleven out of ten.

Iñaki Saratxo, a redheaded musician and traveller with whom I had the pleasure to talk, was also with us.

Physical training

Before finishing with honors at an Irish Rec in Belfast’s Morning Star pub, Aitor tested the dry suit, bought some life jackets, and planned courses and trainings that we thought we would follow on our way home. The adventure finally took on realities when we said goodbye to Iñaki, Mike Stewrt and Dave “the dangerous”. For them the adventure was imminent as they embarked for the Faroe Islands, and then, before crossing through Iceland, to Greenland.


Aitor Basarrate testing the equipment


Grise Fiord
23 AUGUST, 2017

12.- The Inuit: a people at the crossroads

Grise Fiord is a grain of human sand on an immense island the size of England. Only 140 people inhabit this village which is the only settlement of Ellesmere, the northernmost insular of the Canadian Arctic. The rest is unleashed nature and implacable severity.

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North York Land
16 AUGUST, 2017

11.- Towards the mountains without a name

On August 8 we marched up the glacier carrying the equipment on pulkas or sleds. We wanted to climb the highest peak in the area. We were in the mountains that surround the Manson polar cap, the so-called North York Land. It is a remote white territory on the map.

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Cape Norton Show Bay
14 AUGUST, 2017

10.- A lost world

There was a movie – an adaptation of a Jules Verne story – that marked my childhood. The movie was about explorers flying over unexplored Greenland in an airship. They discovered, among other wonders, a surviving Viking community, plus a bay lost in time and mist where the whales were going to breathe their last breath.

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13 AUGUST, 2017

9.- Weather is in charge

Everyone has a plan until it gets spoiled. I had a plan. I had been watching the ice charts, the satellite images of the Sentinel – sent and analyzed by the expert Íñigo Orue – and the charts and had observed the following: the Strait of Nares is like a bowling alley.

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Familia Inuit llegando al Northabout
9 AUGUST, 2017

8.- Soriapaluk, a village on the border of the cold

On day 1 a speed boat was presented in front of the Northabout. It was a visit. The hunter Pullaq Ulloriaq and his daughter Bebiane honored us with their presence on board.”The Inuit are tight and distrustful of foreigners. It’s hard to get in touch,” some experts had warned.

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Northabout entre el hielo
1 AUGUST, 2017

7.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 2)

The ice chart, an indispensable tool for anyone traveling on icy seas, gave rise to some hope: even Cape Alexander, the westernmost point of Greenland, only a third of the surface of the water was covered with ice. Enough for us. So we marched through a white maze dodging icebergs thanks to the skill as helmsman of Aitor Basarrate.

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Northabout atrapado en el hielo
1 AUGUST, 2017

6.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 1)

They say that any polar adventure involves some kind of suffering. On July 27 we started our first major battle against ice. And we lost it. I will never forget the crash of the ice against the helmet. Runs from the beds to deck. And the long hours of hopeful and nervous glances trying to peer out into the ice maze.

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iceberg en la niebla
28 JULY, 2017

5.- Ghosts of the Baffin Sea

There are few experiences in life more disturbing than seeing an iceberg appear in the fog. We saw it on the third day of navigation from Upernavik to the north by the bay of Melville; Of course, it was not the first floating block of ice we came across; But this was veiled in mystery by an oleaginous haze, typical in this area of ​​the Baffin Sea.

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boda inuit
26 JULY, 2017

4.- Shipwrecks and beluga carpaccio

An Inuit wedding is a strange mix between tradition and modernity. They emphasize the traditional costumes: The grooms dress old fashioned, he with white anorak and she with a colorful coat; And both in sealskin pants and boots. We were fortunate to be invited to his wedding by Nunarleq Mathaussen, a pure Inuit who married Ane, a local girl with Nordic features.

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Pájaros sobre iceberg
26 JULY, 2017

3.- Quixote things and other unforeseen

People come to the Arctic in the hope of seeing new and wonderful things; To bring in his pocket money to tell that really worth it.

The lucky ones attend a northern aurora, spot a formation of whales or discover the polar bear at the time of breakfast with a seal; But what is really unusual is to see is two Basques carrying on a dingui – a standard Zodiac – and with a poke in their hands fighting against an iceberg.

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12 JULY, 2017

2.- The Strait of Nares, the gates of the White Hell

If the Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition succeeds, it will be the first time a Spanish team has reached the Geomagnetic Pole. But the most interesting is the territory where the bet will be developed. Authentic “door of the white hell” the Strait of Nares (which the expedition intends to cross) was the passage chosen by numerous expeditions throughout history to reach by sea the North Pole, because it was mistakenly thought that behind the ice barrier, a warm sea existed.

Read More…

David Hempleman-Adams
7 MARCH, 2017

1.- Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition

Adventures begin in the most unlikely places. The Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition came to being one haunted night, in the middle of the countryside, somewhere between the English cities of Bath and Bristol.

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