How to Survive in the North Pole

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The North Pole poses one of earth's greatest challenges to human survival. Only the few brave souls joining expeditions to the North Pole, the few unfortunate souls finding themselves there by accident, and the native people whose ancestors have lived in the upper Arctic for centuries ever get to experience such conditions. Although the North Pole may seem devoid of life and the chance of survival, a closer look proves otherwise.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles or sun lasses
  • Waterproof fire starter
  • Several layers of loose winter clothing
  • Windproof outerwear
  • Weatherproof tent
  • VBL sleeping bag
  • Sunscreen 30+
  • Cooking knife
  • Insect repellant
  • Extreme balaclava
  • Down mittens
  • Snowshoes

Select your timing wisely. Most assume that winter runs pretty much year-round above the Arctic Circle, but the truth is that winter is only almost year-round. If there's a choice in the matter of timing, be aware that much of the Arctic Circle (about 80 percent) is snow-free by late August, and the months of June through September see temperatures reaching up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, melting snow and ice during this period make it very dangerous. The heaviest snows fall in early spring. March through May are deemed optimal for visiting.

Protect your eyes. Always wear snow goggles to protect from the glare. If you are unprepared with goggles, make some by cutting eye slits into cardboard or wood. Do not use anything metal, as it will freeze to your face. Smear your cheeks with anything black (charcoal, soot, dirty oil) to reduce the reflection into your eyes.

Wrap up. Be sure to have multiple layers of loose clothing to allow circulation and evaporation of sweat. This includes shirts, jackets, pants, gloves, socks, and shoes. Nothing must fit too tightly, as it may keep perspiration from escaping and thus turn it to frost on your skin. The outermost layers of clothing should be windproof.

Make shelter. Shelters in the North Pole region will necessarily vary depending on specific location and available resources--which could include anything from used parachutes to evergreen boughs or the hull of a crashed airplane. If you have a tent or material to built one, set it in a sheltered spot where it has the smallest chance of being buried by snow. If you do not have a tent or cannot find a natural windbreak, an ice house or igloo can be made by cutting blocks of dry, packed snow and building a domed structure with a cold sink formed by a lowered entrance tunneling beneath one side of the walls (allowing the cold air to sink down and out the entrance while the heat remains trapped by the roof).

Keep dry. Getting wet in the North Pole can lead quickly to disaster, so it is best avoided by doing the following: turn your clothes and sleeping bag inside out from time to time to beat out the frost accumulated from condensation. Also, do not sleep directly on snow or ice. Pad the ground with anything you can find: canvas, boughs, seat covers, or even airplane wing covers.

Keep warm. Build a fire with materials available, making sure to keep it protected from the wind and off the snow. (Melted snow will wet the fuel.) If you wish to light a fire within your structure, make sure it has adequate ventilation to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide fumes.

Eat well. To provide the necessary heat-producing fats to survive the North Pole, hunt small animals like rabbits, geese, ducks, and fish as well as large animals like the caribou and seal. Polar bears also provide good meat, but avoid the liver, as it is poisonous. All Arctic fungi, grasses, and flowering plants are edible except for the Arctic fungus, easily spotted by its yellow and red cap.

Drink well. It is safe to use ice and snow as a water source unless at sea. If at sea, look for ice that is at least one year old (you can tell by the bluish color and rounded corners), as by this time most of the salt has disappeared and any water obtained from it is safe to drink.

Seek help. Unless you are in the North Pole on purpose and someone knows exactly where you are, do not wander. If you are hoping for rescue, stay with your crashed vehicle or anything that can be easily spotted from the air. For more polar rescue and survival tips, read the U.S. Air Force Arctic Survival Manual online at ssrsi.org.

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