Polar Flight 90 - The Polar Pumpkin's Journey to the North Pole

Preparing for 2011

Capetown, South Africa - November 30, 2010

After flying the Polar Pumpkin from Table Grove, Illinois - the flight log of which will follow - it was clear that several logistical issues needed to be addressed re. my flight across the Arctic Ocean. The Russian government, over many years, has acquired an extensive resume of experience in Arctic Ocean science and logistics. Also, since the demise of the Soviet Union, private Russian companies have engaged in providing opportunities for tourists and visiting scientists in the vicinity of the North Pole. Several logistic tools used in this enterprise include the Ilyushin 76 transport aircraft, the Antonov 74, and the MI- 8 helicopter. Equipment and supplies are parachuted onto the drifting ice pack; and a temporary camp is set up near the Pole by these companies. Utilizing these Russian facilities would improve the efficiency of Polar Flight 90; as well as increase my margin of safety.

Art and the Polar Pumpkin at Peace of Selby in the Brooks Range
Maintaining the Polar Pumpkin in the outback of Selby Lake. The Peace of Selby Wilderness lodge is in the background.

Art With the Polar Pumpkin at Selby Lake.

Arriving in Fairbanks Alaska
Art and the Polar Pumpkin upon arrival in Fairbanks.

Selby Lake - 67N156W - September 25, 2010

All of our guests at the Peace of Selby Wilderness Lodge have left the wilderness and are home safe and sound. It's been another wonderful season with broad vistas, campfire stories, interesting personalities, and even a bear encounter or two. Now it's just me here. The moose are just beginning the rut season; and the caribou are now migrating from the calving area in the Northern Brooks Range to the wintering area in the Southern Brooks Range. I'll soon be putting the bear shutters on the lodge, flying the Cessna 180 to Fairbanks, and pulling the float plane out of the water for the season.

St. Petersburg, Russia

So in the winter of 2009- 2010, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to meet with polar expert Mr. Victor Boyarsky and others in this regard. Other Russian logistics specialists were located in Moscow; so Victor and I traveled there for meetings as well.

St. Petersburg, a mecca for architectural wonders and history, also is the location of the Russian National Museum of Ethnography - which so very well interprets the lives of Russia's indigenous people. Of course, Russian Orthodox cathedrals, the Hermitage, Red Square, and the Kremlin were other sites that I had the opportunity to visit. A huge thank you goes out to my Russian friends that provided such wonderful hospitality.

Russian Transport
Loading the Polar Pumpkin into an Ilyushin 76 Russian cargo
plane for the flight from Antarctica to Chile

The Kremlin, Moscow
The Kremlin, Moscow


The hyperspectral imager installed in the belly of the Polar Pumpkin
The hyperspectral imager installed in the
belly of the Polar Pumpkin

Doing hyperspectral imagery in the cockpit of the Polar Pumpkin.
Doing hyperspectral imagery in the
cockpit of the Polar Pumpkin.

NASA'S Hyperspectral Imager

The Polar Pumpkin will become a flying laboratory as I fly across the Arctic Ocean. One of the primary instruments that I will be carrying is a Hyperspectral Imager, owned by NASA. After I returned from Russia, Mr. Joe Casas from Marshall Space Flight Center and Mr. Ken Copenhaver from the University of Illinois, came to Alaska for the installation of the hyperspectral imager. With the help of my excellent mechanics, we completed the installation quickly; and then proceeded to do test flights. The instrument worked well; and, over the course of the Spring, I continued the testing, flying at varied altitudes and conditions. Another instrument that will be on board the Pumpkin is a Sun Photometer, also owned by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

It was my pleasure to have the Polar Pumpkin on display at Oshkosh Airventure 2009. Although it was not practical to fly the Pumpkin from Alaska back to Oshkosh for Airventure 2010, I accepted the invitation to once again lecture at various venues throughout the event. For any pilot and aircraft enthusiast, it's a magical place to be.

Art Mortvedt with Dick and Burt Rutan
Art with aviation legends
Dick Rutan (center) and Burt Rutan (right)

Adventurers Club

Art Mortvedt, Polar Flight 90 2011 Expedition The Adventurers Club ChicagoWhile in the Lower 48 States, I also had the pleasure to give an evening lecture at the Field Museum of Natural History. What an amazing place! For someone interested in any aspect of the natural world, this is a "must see" museum. The historic Adventurers Club in Chicago maintains a "club house" in the center of Chicago; and, once again, I was invited to share aspects of Polar Flight 90 with this outstanding group.

One of the members, for example, was about to leave for Southeast Asia; where he was planning to collect venom from sea snakes, and bring the venom back to an extensive data base at the University of Chicago. The Adventurers Club has honored me with a special flag to carry on the Polar Pumpkin to the North Pole. For me, the icing on the "lecture cake" was that with a boys and girls club in the inner city of Chicago. What an outstanding group of young men and women - very interested in many aspects of geography, and especially the Polar Pumpkin going to the North Pole. What we will attempt to do is connect with these students through a program called REACH - i.e. Remote Education Adventures for Children. As I fly North through the Arctic, I will connect with these students by Iridium telephone and try to answer their myriad questions.

It's actually quite fortunate that logistics did not allow the Polar Pumpkin to fly to the North Pole during April 2010. During inspection of the aircraft, certain maintenance issues were discovered that required serious attention. These issues, uncorrected, could have caused major problems for the flight. So, over the course of the 2010 summer, all was put in order; and the aircraft is now in Fairbanks being fitted with skis for the flight. While the skis are installed,

One of my primary supporters is Hudson Farm in Andover, New Jersey. Note sticker on the airplane
Another of my supporters is Tanis Aircraft in Glenwood, Minnesota. Here Melody is fabricating an engine preheat cover.

Preparing for 2011

I will be in Antarctica for a short period preparing a portion of the logistics for another Tawani expedition focused on the search for extremophiles - extreme life in extreme places. Then, returning to Alaska just before Christmas, I will be test flying the Polar Pumpkin in preparation for the flight North in April 2011.

Summer maintenance on the Polar Pumpkin
Polar Pumpkin maintenance, summer 2010

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