National Geographic : 1959 Jul
Up Through the Ice of the North Pole ranks both on the ice and on deck. The swirling snow loomed around the red torches held on either side of the small table on which the container with Sir Hubert's ashes rested. I read the service and a short prayer Sir Hubert had written. Dave Boyd and I, accompanied by the torchbearers, walked to a place away from the group. There, as I read the committal sen tences, the ashes of this great man were spread to the strong winds across the frozen surface of the sea (pages 14-15). A rifle squad cracked a last salute, and it was over. We silently returned to the ship. After dinner we made a small cairn of ice blocks and placed within it a waterproof con tainer with the record of our visit and Sir Hubert's committal. Atop the cairn we left an American flag on a steel shaft. It is not inconceivable that the ice which was at the Pole that day may, in time, drift out of the polar sea and allow the container-which will float-to drift onto the shores of Greenland or Iceland. Its return to Skate would be of great historic and scientific value. About 8:30 in the evening, as Skate sub merged, I took a last look through the peri scope. As the submarine sank lower in the sea, the hummocked ice along the edges of our narrow lead took on the appearance of a rocky canyon into which we were slowly sink ing. I could still see the cairn with its flag whipping proudly in the wind. Thicker Ice Gives Skate a Nasty Jolt As we left the Pole, we followed the spine of the mighty Lomonosov Ridge southward. On the 19th of March we found what ap peared to be a usable skylight, and after working into position, we were soon watching the sail approach the ice. As the sail struck, we felt a sensation like the jolt one feels when an inexperienced ele vator operator stops too suddenly on the way up. The television confirmed that we had not broken through-our first failure. "Well, you're still three for four, captain," grinned my friend Medaglia. The disappointment of this failure was not deep, but when several more identical failures followed, we began to worry. Had we just been lucky on our first three tries? Finally on the 20th we worked the Skate under a narrow lead that showed some promise. It was near midnight, local time, in the eastern longitudes we were exploring, and in the rela- tive darkness we turned on the light atop our sail so that on our television screen we could watch it approach the ice. The cone of up ward light against the underside of the ice made a dramatic picture as we came up. We fully expected the slightly sickening sensation of another sudden stop-when sud denly the light went out! Baffled for a moment, we soon realized why we could no longer see the light; it was shining up into thin air. We were through again! It was with a real feeling of relief that I climbed to the bridge for the first time in nearly three days. The awaiting view was worth the effort. It was virtually dark, and all the stars were out-the first we had seen in the Arctic. The sky was cloudless, and a gibbous moon lighted the surrounding ice with a beauty I cannot describe. The Skate was in a narrow lead winding through lightly hummocked ice. I'm sure that when the first men step out on the moon they will not see a more unearthly or delicately beautiful vista. Divers Explore Under the Ice It was time to give our Scuba divers a chance. (The initials stand for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.) In an air temperature of about 30° below zero, Lt. Dave Boyd and Lt. Dick Arnest were soon on the deck in black rubber "wet suits" and Aqua Lungs. There was a small hole in the ice near Skate's rudder and in they went (opposite). I must admit I watched them with some misgivings. But underwater examination of the Arctic ice is one of the requirements for learning all we need to know about its struc ture-notably the huge underwater pressure ridges, some of which go more than 100 feet down below the mean ice level. Far from a stunt, Skate's use of divers was an attempt to blaze the trail in this area to see whether wintertime Aqua-Lung opera tions from a submarine in the ice pack are practical. They are. Our fifth surfacing was noteworthy mainly forthefactthatonthewayupwesawatwo foot puddle of open water, the first and last open water we saw on the entire cruise. Sunday evening, the 22d, saw Skate on the surface for the sixth time, in a long and nar row lead. The air temperature was 310 be low-cold enough to crystallize the salt out of the ice on the lead. It seemed covered with giant snowflakes half an inch or more in diameter.