After a little over 3 months and more than 35,000km we returned to the UK yesterday having driven to the Pole of Cold and back. Along the way we have crossed the Arctic Circle, stood at the northernmost point of Europe, crossed a continent, celebrated at the ‘Centre of Asia’, driven 2000km along a frozen […]
The last four days of our homeward journey have been a whirlwind of countries and currencies, as we dart from Finland to Sweden to Norway, back to Sweden and finally to Denmark. The route home has involved some ferry crossings too including an overnight passage from Helsinki to Stockholm across the ice-filled Gulf of Finland. […]
We visited a school during our day in Helsinki to ask the children about winter and compare their thoughts to those shared by the school students in Oymyakon at the Pole of Cold. The children in Helsinki gave us a very warm welcome. They had each painted a picture of ‘winter’ to show us and […]
It wasn’t so long ago that we saw a sign saying Moscow was more than 5000km away – now it is barely 1000km to the west of us. This series of images shows how the scenery has changed from mountains to tundra as we have travelled from Altai and across Siberia in the last week…
In Norway we saw rock carvings depicting hunters on skis. In Altai we read there were some rock carvings of antelope and reindeer next to a truck stop on the main route from Aktash to Barnaul. They were a bit hard to find under all the snow but brushing away the ice to reveal these […]
Deep in the Altai mountains along the Chulyshman Track we came across this flooded section of a frozen river. Having checked out the thickness and consistency of the ice the Defender took the crossing in it’s stride…
This is a section of the magnificent Chulyshman Track that winds it’s way from Aktash to the southern tip of Lake Teletskoe in Altai. Unarguably the highlight of the drive was the terrifying and yet thrilling descent into a deep gorge in the mountains to join the Chulyshman river at the bottom. Etched into the […]
Most of our journey into and out of Altai was on roads running along magnificent river gorges surrounded by towering mountains. But to see this particular gorge near Chemal we had to get out of the Defender and walk – and we’re very glad we did.
Life carries on in winter for the locals of Artybash living on the frozen northern shores of Lake Teletskoe in the Altai Republic. In summer this is a bustling holiday resort but in winter things are a little more sedate…
Just a little assortment of roadside sellers that we have come across in our expedition across this huge country called Russia – pickles, “meat”, berries, pine kernels, moonshine, hats, boots, dried fish and even branches to whip yourself with!
We had the need to pull the Defender out of some deep snow earlier this week – so we finally got to use the winch attached to the front of the vehicle!
Material and information from our journey to the coldest inhabited places in the world have been turned into fantastic educational resources by the Royal Geographical Society with IBG. The resources are available free for viewing or download on the RGS website: http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Schools/Teaching+resources/Key+Stage+4+resources/Key+Stage+4+-+From+the+field+resources/Polar+science/Polar+science.htm
VIDEO – Just to give you a flavour of what this Hellish road was like. Another great driving feat from Gisli and Felicity – well someone has to film it.
Zimnik means winter in Russian and there are a number of roads in the Russian far east called zimnik – meaning winter road. They are impassable at any other time of year. We followed the zimnik that runs from Mirny to Ust-Kut (joining it near Vitim). It is both beautiful and Hellish. Driving over the […]
At -45, a biting wind and dodging logging trucks a simple task of packing the Defender becomes a bone numbing experience especially after a night’s “sleep” under canvasâ€¦..well done team and thanks to Montane for the bags and extreme clothing!
We followed the ice-road along the frozen River Lena for more than 2000km from Yakutsk in the north to Ust-Kut. Providing both a unique driving experience and access to some of the most remote parts of Yakutia, it really was one of the top highlights of our expedition so far – a truly awesome experience […]
VIDEO:Â We hope this little snippet gives you the feel of what its like to drive on the ice roads of the Lena river – a wonderful experience for us all.
It starts with hours of drilling a series of small holes in the 2 metre thick ice of the River Lena in Yakutsk in Eastern Siberia. Most of the fish caught this way will be sold in the outdoor Yakutsk fish market where the produce is stood up frozen ready for sale. A speciality of […]
Just watch this little 2min video that we made at THE Pole of Cold in Oymyakon Siberia. And absolutely no camera tricks were involvedâ€¦great fun!
It wasnâ€™t obvious which of the dilapidated sheds huddled by the side of the road was the truck-stop. Eventually I spotted the word cafÃ© in Russian daubed roughly in red paint above a battered door and yanked on the heavy handle. Â Iâ€™d already learned not to judge a Russian roadside cafÃ© from the outside and, […]
A thick coil of woodsmoke rose from a rusting chimney poking from the top of a simple A-frame canvas tent. Tucked into the tree line, we wouldnâ€™t have spotted the camp at all if not for the smoke. Two figures emerged from the tent as we approached in the Defender having followed faint sledge tracks […]
â€˜My name is Felicity and I am from England,â€™ I began. In front of me sat a sea of expectant faces neatly arranged behind old-fashioned wooden desks. Slava, the Yakut guide traveling with us, stood next to me translating my words. â€˜Iâ€™ve driven 20,000km during the last two months to get here from London in […]
Garages are important when it is -50C outside. Even if you have a webasto engine heater and extra insulation (as we have), any vehicle will struggle to keep running overnight as it approaches -60C! Most of the settlements we have stayed in overnight – no matter how small – have had a heated garage somewhere. […]
At home in the UK, when the roads get icy, we put salt on the roads to melt the ice. This is the reason…. Water freezes at around zero degrees. If you add salt to water, it doesn’t freeze until a few degrees below zero. If you keep adding salt, so that there is a […]
One benefit of the cold is that liquids that are usually hard to store are far easier to handle…because they are solid. Most of the houses in Oymyakon don’t have running water, so water has to be collected from the river nearby. In winter, water is collected as ice and stored outside in huge chunks […]
The meteorological station was a squat wooden cottage like any other house in the small Siberian town of Tomtor. The only feature that marked it as different was a spiky crest of aerials, antennas and satellite dishes arranged on the roof and the metal lattice of an observation tower protruding from one wall. Where the […]
We’d heard this myth before we’d left England. Supposedly, it was so cold in Oymyakon that the farmers put bras on their cows so that thier udders didn’t get too cold. Well…guess what? The myth is true! We saw for ourselves that the cows are kept inside most of the time but they are let […]
We are used to the idea that the air gets colder with altitude. We expect that it will be colder at the top of a mountain than at the bottom – but when it gets really cold the reverse is true. Cold air is heavy and dense, so it tends to sink to the lowest […]
The Mayor was not at all what I had expected. Oymyakon is not the biggest of places; a typical Siberian village of ramshackle wooden cottages each surrounded by a chaotic plethora of outhouses, woodpiles, cowsheds and rubbish pits. As we made our way to the Mayorâ€™s office in the centre of the village everything was […]
Unlike cows and other livestock, the Yakutian ponies are left outside all through the winter. There are four different breeds of Yakutian ponies but they are all very short, plump and have long hair – features that hep in the extreme winters. The ponies are not fed during the winter but graze by themselves using […]
One not so great surprise about life in the cold is that most of the villages and small towns we have passed through don’t have any running water or sewerage. This is because the ground is frozen solid so it is very hard to dig or bury pipes and if there are pipes in the […]
Meeting the Lord of Cold at the Pole of Cold at -51c is now officialâ€¦.we have the certificate!
We were told that the Lord Keeper of the Cold would greet us at the Pole of Cold monument at the centre of the village. I wasnâ€™t too sure exactly who the Lord Keeper of the Cold was, nevermind how he knew we would be arriving â€“ but sure enough as the Defender nudged along […]
After driving 20,000km in our trusty red Defender for almost exactly two months we arrived at Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place in the world â€“ the Pole of Cold! We received a wonderful welcome from no less than Chyskhan, Lord Keeper of the Cold, himself as well as from the villagers of Oymyakon, for which […]
The Kolyma Highway runs from Yakutsk to Magadan and includes a section of the Road of Bones built by enforced labour, gulag victims and POWs. The Kolyma region was infamous for its gulags – the cold, the conditions, the lack of food and clothing and the hard labour meant that hardly anyone survived. Prisoners in […]
Why does the tiny village of Oymyakon in north-eastern Siberia experience colder temperatures than anywhere else in the world outside of Antarctica? It would be reasonable to expect that somewhere in the high Arctic â€“ or at least north of the Arctic Circle would be colder â€“ somewhere like Greenland, Nunuvut or the North Pole? […]
On our way to the Pole of Cold from Yakutsk, we drove along the original route of the road of bones from the village of Khandyga to the village of Tomtor. The road used to stretch all the way to Magadan, a distance of more than 2000km and as its name suggests, it has a […]
The ground is frozen so hard in the permafrost regions of Siberia that it is very difficult to dig down very far into the ground. This means that everything that is usually buried underground tends to be placed overground instead. The most obvious consequence is the pipes that run all over the small towns and […]
Most of Siberia is covered with permafrost – a surface layer of frozen earth that can be several metres thick. This layer never thaws throughout the year but it can melt if warmed artificially and turns into a soft peaty bog. The permafrost has huge implications for building. Older wooden houses were built directly onto […]
The cold is a vehicles biggest enemy. Freeze the engine (or rather all the lubricants inside it) and you are in real trouble. Our Defender has coped with the cold really well so far but we want to do everything we can to ensure we protect it from the extreme temperatures – so we have […]
The city of Yakutsk is only accessible by crossing the river Lena – but there is no bridge. In the summer all traffic to the city crosses the river by ferry but in the winter the River Lena is frozen so the ferries can’t operate. Luckily the ice is over a meter thick so ice-roads […]
Having spent a day in the northern siberian city of Yakutsk, we head out on the final leg of our journey to the Pole of Cold. When we tell people in Yakutsk where we are going, they shiver and say, ‘Very cold there!’ – even though Yakutsk is itself pretty cold, a balmy -40C on […]
Nearly 1000km from the nearest big settlement in any direction, Yakutsk is an amazing cosmopolitan oasis in the middle of the wilderness. It is the fastest growing city in siberia, as well as the coldest. Temperatures are daily hovering around -40C. But despite the extreme climate, life goes on as normal – people even wait […]
We’ve seen some inventive ways to play in the cold. We came across a party of children on ice skates with an inventive form of sledge-roundabout on the ice of a frozen river…… And another group of children using the ice as an extension of the town slide….
Even when it is -40C and below outside, people still want a cold soda – easy you’d think, just pop it outside! But No! It is too cold, the liquid inside would freeze and burst the can open. As a result the cans of soda are still kept in a cooler, but a cooler to […]
We just wanted to show you the huge variation of roads that we have encountered on our expedition across Russia – ranging from ice roads and frozen gravel one minute to perfect tarmac nextâ€¦..constantly changing after every corner.
Engines don’t work when they are too cold. We are lucky enough to have a Webasto engine heater in our Defender to warm up the engine before we start it in the mornings – we’ve also added a purpose-made radiator cover to stop freezing air cooling the engine as we drive along. But it’s interesting […]
It makes perfect sense. Pushing wheels through slushy snow or thick fresh powder is hard work – much easier to replace the wheels with sledge runners instead. Nowhere have we seen this more clearly than with pushchairs and prams. Many parents have ditched conventional pushchairs for sledges with seats and cots for toddlers and babies. […]
Travelling through Buryatia we stopped at the Ivolginsky Datsan, the heart of Buryat Buddhism. Buryatia is the region sitting between Lake Baikal and Mongolia and it marks the border between the dominance of Buddhism from the east and Orthodox Christianity from the west. There’s a healthy remnant of shamanist traditions mixed in too…. But it […]
Our daily life revolves somewhat around petrol stations. As we travel further east they get ever more scarce and those we do find are becoming full of….character. We are also slowly getting to grips with the complex matter of buying petrol at Russian petrol stations – each one seems to have its own unique system […]
Today we reached another momentous stage in the Pole of Cold expedition – our Defender’s first view of Lake Baikal at -25C. The lake wasn’t frozen yet (by March it will be covered with a layer of ice thick enough to drive on) so we spent most of the day driving around its shore. The […]
Markets don’t look the same when the temperature outside is consistently way below freezing. In Irkutsk, even thought the temperature was -33C, there was still an outside market with fruit and veg, fish, meat and everything else you would expect…..but there were a few subtle temperature-related differences. For a start it was hard to see […]
The old man had one milky eye. You could tell it had used to be blue, like his other, which still shone brightly with humour. He was small and unassuming with a shock of clean, white hair and a perfect, even smile. â€˜He is the shaman,â€™ said the interpreter as the old man shuffled into […]
Earlier this week we visited the Republic of Tuva. We experienced many things whilst travelling through this beautiful area of Russia near the Mongolian border. Here is just a small selection of images from our visit to the local shaman based in the capital Kyzyl who we met in his smoke filled little room, puffing […]
We set off before dawn. First, picking our way through the heavy traffic of Krasnoyarskâ€™s gridded streets before slipping free of the city altogether, heading south. The road took us upwards into heavy snow and high forested hills before spitting us out onto a vast open plain of gently rolling steppe. The snow thinned out […]
Almost every town and city we have passed through has had its own set of ice sculptures. They’ve varied from fantastical statues of mythical creatures, to playgrounds of ice-castles and tunnels. Certainly the favourite centre piece seems to be the ice slide, a wooden structure that has water poured over it until it freezes into […]
VIDEO: In the middle of our 13hr.. yes 13hr driving stint from Novosibirsk to Kraznoyarsk we just had to stop to clear the ice and snow that kept freezing to the wiper blades and windscreen.
Here is a small selection of chosen images from just some of the Russian cities we have visited to date. Â Sunrise over the River Niva, St Petersburg StÂ Peter and St Pauls Fort in St Petersburg Xmas tree being constructed in the main square in St Petersburg Salty Ears monument in Perm Old next to the […]
Perm 36 is now a museum – but as recently as 1988 it was used as a labour camp for dissidents and political prisoners. There were once thousands of similar gulags across Russia (and we say thousands literally – the figure given was over 2000) but most of them were destroyed when they were closed. […]
Thanks to everyone for their Christmas wishes for the team – it was really appreciated. We had a bit of a dispute among the three of us about exactly when it was Christmas. Gisli, who is Icelandic, traditionally celebrates Christmas at 6pm on the 24th December, while Manu and Felicity celebrate Christmas on the 25th […]
A small selection of images taken whilst at the ice caves in Kungur, Russia. The ground is so cold here that all the water that seeps into the underground caves turns to ice. The fantastic crystals grow because the air is so still underground that the moisture condenses out of the air as ice. The […]
Russian roads – they really are something we have never experienced before! Here are a few images showing some of the sights seen from within the Land Rover Defender – as you can see we were not the only ones doing the looking as we had our fair share of “admirers”, an impromptu rescue, lots […]
We decided that after a tough few days on the road we would treat ourselves to a hotel….Wow – this is what “hit” us as we entered into our rooms at the hotel in Kirov, Russia. It almost needed sunglasses and the static was literally shocking!
VIDEO – Check out some footage of a particular section of Russian road that we found today on our way to Kirovâ€¦and you’ll be pleased to hear that the Landy made it all in one pieceâ€¦!
We crossed the border from Finland into Russia and made the short drive to our first Russian city, St Petersburg. We’ve already started trying to get to grips with the Cyrillic alphabet and a few key Russian phrases – but we have a Russian language CD with us for the long hours of driving ahead! […]
A small selection of images showing the last places we visited in Southern Finland before crossing the border to Russia The castle at Olavinlinna – the lake surrounding the castle was already starting to freeze and huge chunks of ice could be seen drifting into the bridges. The world’s largest wooden church is Kerimaki Church […]
Parking the Land Rover, we walked the last few hundred yards towards the monastery. As we approached the main building I felt oddly daunted and suddenly became very conscious of the fact that I looked a bit scruffy. My shoelaces were undone and for the first time in weeks I stooped to tie my boots […]
I had seen three elves sat on a sign at the side of the road. â€˜Are you sure?â€™ asked my team mate from the back of the Defender. I could tell from his tone that he didnâ€™t believe me. â€˜Yes! There were three people dressed as elves sat on a sign back there!â€™ I protested […]
Yesterday we saw the sun for the first time in weeks. It feels like an age ago that we crossed the Arctic Circle in Norway and ever since not only has the sun not appeared over the horizon but the hours of light in a day have become incredibly short. Up at the top of […]
We couldn’t pass through Lapland without going to see Santa! We were thrilled to find out that Santa had seen our expedition Defender sat outside and that he approved of the colour! We also made sure that he was ready for the 24th….. And yes, this IS the REAL Santa!
Here are a few images taken from our extensive tour of the Arctic Research Centre in Sodankyla in Northern Finland – culminating in the automatic release of the meteorological balloon! Each balloon drags a polystyrene box that measures Ozone and when the balloon bursts (in the stratosphere!), the box drops to the ground. Many thanks […]
There are two institutions housed in the same building at the Arctic Research Centre and nowhere is this more obvious than in the coffee room. As I helped myself to coffee from a jug as invited, Osmo came rushing over, looking nervously apologetic. â€˜As I mentioned, we are two organisations here, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, […]
Here is a selection of images taken during the winter roundup of the Skolt Sami reindeer herd in Northern Finland. Once the ownership of the young reindeer had been established, the herd was corralled, one group at a time, into a small round pen. There the 20 or so Skolt Sami reindeer herders captured, marked […]
Ester of Polmak made a point of emphasizing that she doesnâ€™t call herself a shaman. â€˜I do everything that the old men used to do,â€™ she explained. â€˜But if I call myself a Sami shaman, people will come to me with a certain expectation.â€™ Traditionally, before Christianity wiped out the old belief systems of the […]
WINGS World Quest is an organisation that celebrates and supports women in discovery, exploration and science. Felicity has been delighted that many of her past expeditions have been nominated as flag-carrying adventures followed by WINGS WQ – and the Pole of Cold expedition is no exception. On her trip to the coldest inhabited place in […]
Lake Inari isn’t supposed to be frozen at this time of year but there has been a cold snap with temperatures plummeting below -40C recently which has made the ice-cover form earlier. We went out for a ski on the frozen lake, the ice already covered with a thick layer of snow, but stayed close […]
VIDEO -We were lucky enough to be welcomed by local Sami to see the reindeer gathered in the annual winter ’roundup’ today. This herd are waiting to be identified and tagged. Do you know what the strange clicking noise is?
We stayed in a wood and turf building on the Norwegian / Finnish border – a design based on the traditional building methods of the Sami. The turf houses would gradually rot from the ground up, so that the buildings got lower and lower until – eventually – there was no trace the buildings had […]
VIDEO – Here is a short little video of Gisli explaining how the Norwegians operate their convoy system on the road to Nordkapp – or until the road runs out!
Having spent a lot of time skiing in cold places, keeping toes warm is a subject very close to my heart. I have with me the very same boots that I used to ski across Antarctica last year but the wool liners (katankas) that sit inside the boots are almost completely worn through (hardly surprising […]
Here is a selection of images showing our final final trip up to the northern most tip of Norway – finally after much delay. Sorry about the grain but you don’t get any “light” this far north.. Â
I’ve never really thought about how far back the history of skiing can be traced. If you’d asked me this morning to guess the earliest record of skiing – I probably wouldn’t have said ‘pre-historic rock art’ and yet, today, I was amazed to see pictures of figures carved into rock thousands of years ago […]
If you’ve ever been to Norway you probably came across ‘brunost’ – the strange brown cheese that tastes like caramel – and wondered why the Norwegians are so crazy about it. Well, at the ‘Saturday cafe’ in Oldervik we were introduced to the way of the Norwegian waffle – a hot waffle with generous slices […]
The change in visibility was dramatic and rapid. One minute I could see right the way across the bay from the little red house weâ€™d been loaned on the shore but within moments the view had disappeared beneath a fog of grey â€“ the featureless haze of heavy snowfall. Gone were the mountains and smudges […]
We have finally landed in the Lofoten Island on the western coast of North Norway. During the limited daylight hours we managed to experience some truly beautiful locations.
I read an Edgar Allan Poe story called ‘Descent into the Maelstrom’ when I was young and determined that I would go see a ‘Maelstrom’ (a tidal whirlpool) myself one day….well, today was the day. We passed through Saltstraumen, a town near Bodo named after the maelstrom that forms in the channel that runs through […]
VIDEO: We would like you to click on the link and let us know what do you think is happening in this video? It was taken in the Saltstraumen Museum and shows Gunnar demonstrating a local archeological find. First correct and accurate answer gets a postcard from somewhere frosty!
The location we had plugged into the GPS mounted on the dashboard was out by a digit. One small human error â€“ typing a two, rather than a three – had sent us to the wrong side of the airfield. Weâ€™d set out early to be sure that we made our half past eight appointment […]
Here is a small selection of favourite images from my experience of going out on an exercise with the Norwegian Royal Air Force – Squadron 330 – a truly eye opening experience.
When I received an email asking if we would like some chocolate to take with us on our journey to Siberia, the answer was an emphatic, instantaneous â€“ YES! Discovering that the offer had come from a world class chocolatier I was even more delighted. We would have chocolate on our journey and not just […]
We were looking for the first big red barn on the right. It was dark and snowing heavily on the narrow one-track road. We squinted into the gloom of the roadside as the headlights of the Defender briefly illuminated buildings half obscured by birch and cloaked in snow drifts. The first candidate turned out to […]
Here is a selection of what we call “bonnet-shots” mainly taken from the iPhone from the dashboard of the Defender showing the different road views.
VIDEO – Here is a very quick walk around our Land Rover Defender with Felicity Aston pointing out some of the vital adaptions to ready the vehicle for winter conditions. Shot in Drammen, Norway.
The Arctic Circle is a real Geographic term – it is defined as the southernmost latitude at which Polar night is experienced (24-hour darkness at the winter equinox) and midnight sun (24-hour daylight at the summer equinox). Today, we were very excited to cross the Arctic Circle ….but there was little fanfare – just this […]
VIDEO – Please click on this link to get a rough idea of the roads we are encountering so far in Norway
As we drive north we are going to start catching up with winter and that means a few changes to the vehicle. In Norway it is mandatory to use winter tyres after a certain date in the year – so as soon as we landed in Oslo we were obliged to change from our standard […]
Purely to keep within our budget we found ourselves staying in an apartment in the fascinating “naughty” area of Copenhagen. But what to do with the Defender all loaded up and bustling with expensive bits and pieces especially the advent calendar! So we unloaded everything, dragged it all up two flights of stairs and parked […]
After a great nights kip in our bunk beds we woke up to flat seas and a beautiful and crisp North Sea morning Time for breakfast.
Well here we are at our first stop at Harwich port. Suitably knackered after this week but after a good nights kip we should be fully revived for our short trek across Denmark.
An incredible day for the Pole of Cold team. We were invited to Land Rover in Solihull to collect our expedition Land Rover Defender. It seems like a long time ago that we first met with LR chief engineer Tim to talk about the vehicle – but now the day has arrived that we get […]
Finally here is the fourth member of our team and she’s simply put…awesome!
VIDEO – A little piece of video taken from the back seat of the Defender whilst training in Iceland. Your browser does not support the video tag
Felicity traveled to Lake Baikal in 2008 and made a short film about it. Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world (no-one has so far reached the lake-bed at a depth of 1600m or more). It is located in south-east Siberia close to the Mongolian border. During winter the surface of […]
VIDEO – We travel to the South Pole — in Ireland — to investigate the life of Tom Crean, an unsung hero of early polar exploration. Felicity Aston, a veteran of several Antarctic expeditions herself, heads to Tom’s pub, the South Pole Inn, to meet his grandson and find out more about Tom’s adventures and […]
Some of Manu’s favourite shots from training in Iceland with a – not the real one – Land Rover Defender!
Working out what we have in Felicity’s lock up and what we need for the expedition