National Geographic : 2002 Mar
through bomb wreckage. When I find fresh pack ice, I measure its thickness with marks on my ski poles. The data I collect will help the Norwegian Polar Institute study global warming. I measured ice in '94 too; it's thinner now. I've started to feel the layers of civilization peeling away; it takes weeks to find your animal self. I wake up, grunt at the sun, perform the day's chores, sniff the north wind, and automatically pick out the best route and the safest campsites-all without thought. I've found the rhythm. I think I can do this. Chill out with Berge Ousland as he reads aloud from his polar diary, and see more of his trek photos at nationalgeographic.com /ngm/0203. AOL Keyword: NatGeoMag CROSSING TO SAFETY All ice floes come to an end. You can't get to the North Pole without traversing leads. Polar survival lesson one: Cold water kills. If I fall in and get soaked, I won't survive more than a few minutes. I say, work with nature, not against it. I try to think like an animal when I plan expeditions. What do polar bears do when they come to a lead? They swim. I worked with Norwegian gear manufacturer Helly Hansen to develop a polyurethane suit that could keep me dry, fit over my ski boots and mittens, and leave me enough freedom of move ment to swim across leads. I tested it in the frozen fjord near my home in Oslo. My time as an apprentice polar bear paid off. I was nervous when I slipped into the black water of the trek's first lead. But it worked. Nice and toasty. I swam across and pulled the sledge after me. The suit became my best friend; I christened it "Captain Nemo." The good Captain and I crossed 23 leads in all.