Whit­sun­day cou­ple share tale of ex­pe­di­tion to the North Pole

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rhi­anna Bull

MOST peo­ple couldn’t fathom stand­ing in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures sur­rounded by walls of white fog 480 miles from the North Pole, but for Whit­sun­day cou­ple Jack and Amy Close, this was their re­al­ity.

The cou­ple em­barked on the ex­pe­di­tion of a life­time with a Dutch bil­lion­aire, his wife and 10-year-old son and four crew on board of a con­verted ice-break­ing tug boat named Lars.

Leav­ing Hol­land in March of 2012, the group tran­sited the Nor­we­gian coast be­fore punch­ing up to Sval­bard – a se­ries of is­lands ap­prox­i­mately 500 miles from the most north­ern point of Nor­way.

Ev­ery time the crew went ashore of Sval­bard, they had to be armed due to the po­ten­tial dan­ger of be­ing killed by po­lar bears.

De­spite this, Mr Close de­scribed see­ing the gi­ant bears in their nat­u­ral habi­tat for the first time as one of the high­lights of the ex­pe­di­tion.

He said the crew was saddened by the num­ber of po­lar bears feed­ing on the de­com­posed car­casses of seals and slowly starv­ing to death.

Fac­ing ice glaciers more than 700km long, Mr Close de­scribed huge wal­ruses pass­ing wind on the em­bank­ments and old ru­ins of aban­doned coal mines and whal­ing sta­tions.

With the am­bi­tion of get­ting as far north as pos­si­ble in the ice (82 de­grees), the crew trav­elled up the east coast of Sval­bard be­fore head­ing into un­charted ter­ri­tory.

“It was great weather in clear wa­ter and as we ven­tured north it started to close in and we had to crack the ice and move it,” he said. “We got to 81.45 de­grees so we were 480 miles from the North Pole.”

The crew re­turned to Nor­way in Septem­ber of 2012 and dis­banded.

The cou­ple re­turned to Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary this year and cur­rently re­side at their home in Air­lie Beach.

DAR­ING EX­PLOR­ERS: Chief stew­ardess Amy Close with her hus­band and chief engi­neer Jack Close are pic­tured less than 500 nau­ti­cal miles from the North Pole in front of a driftwood sign that points to Air­lie Beach that they con­structed with other Lars crew on their ex­pe­di­tion in Au­gust 2012.

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