The "Row to the Pole" publicity stunt looks doomed to failure by a sea ice block

Regular readers may recall that back on June 15th, I pointed out the absurdity of this “Row to the Pole” publicity stunt sponsored by the whisky company “Old Pulteney” which had plans to row to the North Magnetic Pole (based on the 1996 location) and along the way take some temperature, water, and ice samples along the way in the guise of a science expedition.

Only problem was, the North Magnetic Pole is far into the Arctic sea now, and ice locked. The destination they chose for “Row to the Pole” hasn’t been the location of the North Magnetic Pole for 15 years, as I illustrated below, they’ll fall about 738 km/458 miles short of the North Magnetic Pole due to a drift of about 41km/year:

Undeterred by this complication, the group of rowers has set off anyway, and made some good progress according to their Facebook page, covering 40 kilometers on the first day. They even offer a satellite tracking page to watch the progress.

Too bad though they have not checked the latest satellite images from NASA’s AQUA Modis RAPIDFIRE page. I did, and it looks like the expedition is going to hit a wall of ice soon.

Here’s the area I chose to look at today from this NASA image link=>

I rotated/cropped, plotted the approximate proposed path, and annotated the image from NASA to help readers see what the Row to the Pole people are soon going to run into in a couple of days:

Note the patch of white in the red box that the planned rowing path transects. Are those clouds or ice? The magnified view area gives the answer below.

Click for a full sized hi-resolution image

Yup, unless those guys in the rowboat have an icebreaker leading the way, or there’s an “instamelt” de-icing ahead of them, they likely aren’t going anywhere near the old North Magnetic Pole circa 1996, much less the actual one.

Looks like “Scotch on the Rocks” for them.

However, like any good publicity stunt, they’ll probably figure out some way to make a success out of it, perhaps declaring that “important though incomplete science has been done”.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

How can the North Pole be NNW of anything? It is N of everything!
(OK, OK, it’s relative to the Geographic Pole, but it did look funny!)


The 3-6-7 band shows the ice a lot more clearly:
Back up a day or two to let the clouds move out of the way, as needed.
Yes, they are in for a very rude awakening.
The danger, as I see it, is paddling straight into moving ice packs.
One of these publicity stunts is going to result in casualties, GPS or not.

They’ve been sampling too much of their sponsors’ wares.

Joe Public

“……….sponsored by the whiskey company “Old Pulteney””
Andrew, Scotch whisky doesn’t have an ‘e’.
REPLY: So noted, fixed. Thanks, Anthony

Joe Public

Sorry Anthony, not ‘Andrew’. Doh.

Douglas DC

1st Polar bear: “look Ralph, they included these nifty swizzle sticks!” 2nd Polar Bear” How ’bout that, scotch, and hors-d’œuvres ! thoughtful people these Old Puteney folks, eh?”
(after all they are Canadian bears..)


Let the Annual British Arctic Follies begin. I’ve been following the postings on their web site. They seem a bunch of pretty good ole boys in a British sort of way. They don’t take themselves too seriously. The whiskey ain’t bad either.

Alex the skeptic

I love scotch. I’ll do anything for a pure malt.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Such a tragedy. My heart bleeds. I shed one tear.
They’ll be leaving soon and haven’t fed even one starving polar bear yet! Why, I’ll bet they haven’t even rescued a single drowning polar bear by pulling it into their boat!

This was never going to end well.

They’ll have plenty of time on their hands to accurately measure the melting point of sea ice. I wonder what their boat is named? Titanic II might be appropriate. Ice with your single malt, anyone?

Gary Hladik

No doubt they prepared in advance by bringing a dog sled and some mutts in the boat. I mean, they’re not idiots, right? Right?

Gary Hladik

BTW, for those who deplore satirical, mocking, or derogatory articles and comments on this, a “puzzling things” blog, rest assured that my previous comment about dog sleds was totally serial.

Fred from Canuckistan

Hope their photoshop skills are better than their satellite imagery reading skills.
That will be the only way they successfully navigate all that “melted” ice.


I hope they have some kind of escape/rescue plan, otherwise lives may be in danger.

Lew Skannen

This has become a traditon.
Row into arctic to demonstrate the impending danger of melting polar caps.
Get stuck in ice and call for rescue.
Get rescued by evil fossil fuel guzzling monsters.
Come back to heroes welcome.
Maybe next summer someone will smear themselves with seal fat and walk slowly around Churchill to demonstrate how few polar bears there are left in the world..

Dave Springer

You learn something new every day.
Fun Fact in the “Things that make you go HMMMMMM” category:
A graph of the speed of magnetic pole drift, with speed on the Y-axis and time on the X-axis is a is identical to Mann’s hockey stick.
CO2? I don’t think so. This has to more than just coincidence. /sarc


Wonder if they have seen any dead polar bears floating in the water.
According to Gore they should be everywhere to be seen.

Sean Peake

“Old Pulteney” is an ancient Gaelic expression for “some idiots will do anything for free booze.”

The last Facebook update says there is a problem with their website today. There is, but only the title page, which is now completely blank; if you link to specific parts of the site, like the one in this post to the satellite tracking page work just fine. Hmmm.


PaulH says:
July 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm
You mean like sticking close to land, where they can quickly get out of the way of marauding pack ice?
I doubt it, being that paddling upstream to the flow of Sea Ice debris isn’t the smartest thing to be doing.


Anthony, I hate to tell you but you have made an error.
Steven Goddard just posted a 1973 prediction of an ice free arctic region by 2000. So obviously there is no ice there as this is 2011 already. They had models to predict with and all you have is satellite imagery. What are you going to believe, your eyes or scientific models?
See newspaper at:

A rowboat in the Arctic? What could possibly go wrong?


“Data will be collected every 10 nautical miles throughout the voyage.”
“The probe will be lowered over the side around 8 times a day”
So they’re hoping for 80nmi (150km) per day, but
“according to their Facebook page, covering 40 kilometers on the first day.”
Oh dear.

Mike McMillan

Yup, unless those guys in the rowboat have an icebreaker leading the way, or there’s an “instamelt” de-icing ahead of them, they likely aren’t going anywhere near the old North Magnetic Pole circa 1996, much less the actual one.
Portage !


What the hey!? No phony biotelemetry data? I know where they can get some, cheap.
There’s a photo here: that shows the intrepid explorers fitted out in spiffy harness for portage across that ice.
But I’m of a skeptical bent and wonder whether the whole thing is just a whisky fueled prank, despite the photo. I’m amazed that no one else has thought of this. (They probably will while I write this comment.) The expedition may, even as we wring our hands in concern over their fate, be sitting in a snug in Aberdeen, sampling the Auld Pulteney, and laughing at all the loons who fell for the joke. Note that the Row-to-the-pole website link on the sponsor’s site goes to an empty page. Here’s to ye!


Hope they have all the necessary survival equipment.
The Canadians and Alaskans on here might correct me but according to a good friend of mine who was just recently given the honor of placing Australia’s most precious collection of seeds into the Millennium Vault in Norway’s Svalbard Island, standard equipment required by an individual or by any group when going anywhere at all in those latitudes were a pistol and a rifle.
When the now common polar bears appeared they got some pistol shots to frighten them off. If the pistol didn’t do the job and the polar bear kept coming then the rifle was used and if necessary, with deadly intent.
To a hungry polar bear I would think that there would not be much difference between a seal and a human although the human might be preferred when it is suffused with that delightful aroma of a good malt whiskey


Anthony, would it be possible to overlay the route of the Top Gear trip to the magnetic pole for comparison?

Mick J

The London Telegraph has this at
Usual respect shown by commenter’s for such ventures. 🙂
Found this site for Magnetic Pole information.
Gives the annual positions.

J Calvert N

According to their website, they have an ice expert in their support group. Wonder what he has told them?

Ted Swart

Why on earth (excuse the expression) did they not choose the geographic North Pole — which does not wander around like the magnetic North Pole and is far more meaningful? And, given that they did choose the location of the magnetic North Pole, why choose one that is out of date? Presumably because it just so happens that the out of date magnetic pole stood the best chance of being reachable by rowing. Talk about a pure gimmick — to prove what?? They sure deserve their comeuppance.


Their press release says their boat is designed to be dragged over the ice, so not only are they not going to the pole, but they’re not expecting to row there!


They are probably prepared for a tropical storm so not to worry.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

PaulH said on July 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm:

I hope they have some kind of escape/rescue plan, otherwise lives may be in danger.

True, hardly anything is known about where these researchers have been, what they’ve done, what ailments they may have, what medications they take (legal and otherwise)… It would be horrific if an innocent polar bear was harmed by ingesting an inconsiderate meal that didn’t make sure it was edible!

Still poles apart on global warming, it seems.


@ROM says:
July 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm
To a hungry polar bear I would think that there would not be much difference between a seal and a human although the human might be preferred when it is suffused with that delightful aroma of a good malt whiskey.”

Hey… everyone knows meat is more tender, jucier, and more flavorful when it’s marinated. I’d expect in the normal course of evolution that polar bears would pick up on this ;o)


Smokey says:
July 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm
From the tranny shop commercial:
What could go wrong, he says. I’ll tell ya what could go wrong. Everything. That’s what could go wrong.

Interesting to see that, all the sarcastic Sceptics believe that: the more ice on arctic means colder. The truth is completly oposite. Colder = less ice – warmer = more raw material for replanishing ice. Get all the corect informations on so we can see the end of the Warmist propaganda.


Come, come now. We know you are exaggerating – not “all” of the ice up north has melted. Yet. A little but remains, but it is safely too far away from the north coasts up there to worry about -> and “everybody” knows that the polar bears are so rare and almost extinct (they’ve been declared endangered by Washington experts (who know everything of course) that they’ve all drowned swimming up there.
So: The polar bear threat is gone. Washington says so. There will be no ice to get in their way.
But…. About this “speed” thing.
They’re promising 80 miles a day: Pulling a boat where they have to, rowing when they are not walking. (Resting, eating, prepping food, how many hours a day????) The “ancient” walkers (who were in much better shape than these guys) going cross country across the flat prairie walking next to their wagons only averaged 15 miles per day on the flat parts of the Oregon and California and Santa Fe trails. And they were not “pulling” a “sledded” boat. Their oxen did that part of the work.
80 miles per day with a 16 hour day = ain’t gonna make it. (Without a motor and smooth water, with no ice and no winds and no storms.)
I give them odds on really making 15 miles per day (when they’re moving at all), and quitting by Sept 25 with (another) plane flight rescuing them.


I couldn’t help noticing that one of the sponsors of the expedition is Dogtag who advertise on the expedition’s web site:

“DOGTAG 100% Proof Travel Insurance is more than just travel insurance. Every insured person gets a personalised stainless steel Dogtag for use in an emergency…”

Now, I’m not one to minimize the importance of travel insurance but when you’re out in the freezing and sometimes stormy Arctic ocean in a little row boat making your way between ice packs and hungry hordes of Polar Bears, what could possibly go wrong? And personalized stainless steel dog tags? I’m not going to go there.

Clay Marley

From another article:
“Mr. Wishart and his crew’s attempt to row to the magnetic North Pole has only recently become a possibility due to the dramatic climatic changes taking place in the region which have decreased the size of the ice sheets and left large areas of the ocean unfrozen.
The members of the expedition state on the website that they hope their voyage in the specially designed boat, Old Pulteney, will highlight the effect of climate change on the polar regions. ”
If they have to portage over the ice, doesn’t that sort of defeat the message? And would it not be obvious to check the ice conditions before leaving? Or is it supposed to melt in the next few days?

Interstellar Bill

Too bad the entire cabal of Warmistas doesn’t take to kayaks on such a journey, but with no radios or anything else manufactured with eeville carbon-impact manufacturing, only prehistoric implements they make themselves. As mentioned above, no calling upon petroleum-fueled boats for rescue, though we’ll allow them to beg the dophins for assistance. I’ll donate the ultrasonic whistle and an English-Dolphinese dictionary.
And take all the rest of the Gaia-worshippers with you. The polar bears will welcome you with open jaws.


Absolutely hilarious. No such thing as bad publicity. I like the fact that their website image shows blue open water.

Jon-Anders Grannes

In Norway “snowmobilesandwich” is a slice of bread mixed with a bottle of moonshine in a blender.
Does not freeze so easily.

Donald (South Australia)

Well, it looks as if “Old Pulteney” and I are going to part company.
Billy Connolly was right – ” F*&#*^g Wick”.
Now, where’s the 25 yo Macallan…


I tried Scotch once, it tasted like tape.
Of course they will succeed, they are carrying a newspaper clipping from 10 years ago that says all the ice would be gone within 10 years. I think they are planning to simply waive that clipping around in front of them as they journy (that’s Scottish for journey) forth. Piece of cake. Seriously!



John Vetterling

Wonder if they know that Shackleton’s crew was only able to pull boats about 1mi/day over pack ice.

Roger Knights

Yo ho ho and a bottle of Tums.

rbateman says: July 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm
The 3-6-7 band shows the ice a lot more clearly:

Here’s another satellite source: