In the expedition world, the North and South Pole mark two of the most extreme places on our planet. Both are known for being difficult to reach, with explorers facing dangerously cold temperatures, consistently high winds, fierce blizzards and a myriad of other challenges just to stand at 90° north or south respectively. But the Poles aren’t the only places on the planet that are known for extreme cold and a team of intrepid adventurers has just launched an epic road trip to visit another one. They’re headed toward a destination that has been dubbed the “Pole of Cold,” which just so happens to be the coldest inhabited place on the planet.
The Pole of Cold team left London last week on what promises to be quite a road trip. Setting off from the Royal Geographical Society in their Land Rover Defender, they will now make an 18,000+ mile round-trip journey overland to Oymyakon, a remote outpost located in the farthest reaches of Siberia. The tiny village holds the distinction of being the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth. It has gotten so cold there in fact that temperatures once dropped to a bone chilling -89.8° F.
The leader of the team is Felicity Aston, a veteran of polar expeditions and the only woman to make a solo traverse of Antarctica. She is joined by Gisli Jonsson, an expert mechanic who will be charged with keeping the team’s vehicle running even when they are in remote areas far from any settlements. The third member of the squad is Manu Palomeque, a photographer and filmmaker who will be documenting the journey.
After leaving London, the trio first drove across Northern Europe to Norway. Their current goal is to drive north cross the Arctic Circle and visit the northernmost point in Europe. Once they have achieved that objective, they’ll turn back south, pass through Finland and eventually turn east toward Siberia and Oymakon. All told, the journey is expected to take roughly three months to complete, beginning and ending in London.
While undertaking a journey like this one simply for the sake of adventure has its appeal, the team has some other goals in mind as well. Along the way they hope to study how different cultures adapt to living in extremely cold environments and how their attitudes towards winter are shaped by the environment around them. Do those who live with the cold on an almost constant basis view it differently from those who have four seasons? Does winter mean something different for those who experience warm summers too? Those are the kinds of questions they’ll be examining as they travel to the far ends of the Earth to experience just how cold things can be.