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‘My 24 hours on the ice at the North Pole’ – the ultimate adventure with Ponant

Alastair Newtown, the Director of National Geographic Partnership at PONANT, has been to a few places.   He’s been an expedition leader, taken private jet tours and created itineraries for a large superyacht.

But nothing prepared him for his experience sailing with PONANT aboard Le Commandant Charcot through the North Pole.

The first sentence of his post says it all : “Last week I spent 24 hours on the ice at the North Pole.”

Mr Newtown is a part of the world’s first large scale international search and rescue training exercise at the North Pole, which was coordinated by PONANT. With observers and authorities on board from the US, Canada, Russia, UK, Greenland, Iceland, the team was being trained for what to do in a polar emergency. 

And the unique exercise gave PONANT the chance to test out its “Ice Cube” Group Survival Kit,  which Mr Newtown describes as: “consisting of polar shelters (tents that can also float) and custom suit designs that retain 30% more heat than the current industry standards, and are uniquely designed for this environment.”

It’s a look (see below) that really belongs on the ice.

“Our goal of the of the test was to see what lessons could be learned from the extended practical experience on the ice. Additionally, medical and behavioural studies were performed to understand the impacts of the time on the ice in order to shape development of both our solutions and also for the international rescue coordination centres to create new strategies based on our shared experiences.”

Mr Newtown’s images show the truly extraordinary landscapes where this work was being carried out.

“As someone who has lived through winters at -40c, Although the temperature here was “only” -18c, I can honestly say this was a truly challenging experience.  The knowledge gained will be shared not only within PONANT, but also with the wider industry and rescue centres, hopefully ensuring that big strides can be made in the safety of Arctic operations for all industries.

“However challenging, it was an incredible experience and I am proud that PONANT is leading the way on developing new standards in polar safety.“However challenging, it was an incredible experience and I am proud that PONANT is leading the way on developing new standards in polar safety.”