This Way to the North Pole
THE Hollow Earth Society hopes to find the entrance to the globe's interior at the Magnetic North Pole.A trio of French adventurers wishes to traverse the perimeter of Cornwallis Island on a sled pulled by ponies. An Alaskan musher wants to drive her dog sled to the Geographic North Pole, alone. Arctic adventurers all, they began by contacting Bezal Jesudason (pronounced BAY-zil Jay-su-DAY-son) here at Resolute Bay in Canada's Parry Islands and engaging the services of High Arctic International. Each year, the leading outfitter of the high Arctic renders his services to more than 300 individuals or organizations from all over the world. Two-thirds of them are adventurous tourists, interested in a rare experience. The rest are serious explorers or adventurers, seeking to do something in the Far North that no one has done before. Some of them, says Mr. Jesudason, have no real understanding of what they are getting into. His help and advice, based on 23 years of arctic experience, often makes the difference between success and failure. He cites the ubiquitous portable "white gas" stove that cooks the meals of wilderness campers the world over: The piston in a hand pump that compresses the air in the stove's fuel tank employs a rubber gasket, Jesudason explains. The gasket works well under most conditions. But in subzero arctic co ld, the gasket freezes and renders the piston, and the stove, inoperative. "If you don't know this," Jesudason points out, "your expedition, and possibly your life, can be endangered." For him, the stove's manufacturer replaces the standard rubber gasket with one made of oiled leather, a more reliable substitute. "The Arctic is unforgiving," according to Jesudason. "It won't tolerate mistakes. If you do it wrong, you die." Of arctic dangers, the cold itself is the one that Jesudason takes most seriously. Among the large mammals likely to be encountered, only the polar bear merits concern. Yet, in more than a decade of camping in polar bear country, Jesudason has never experienced a bear threat, much less an attack. Their reputation as aggressive people-killers is overblown, he says. For example, an adventurer using some of Jesudason's equipment claimed that, on three occasions during a dog-sled trek over winter ice, he had been attacked by polar bears and had to shoot them in self-defense. But investigating game wardens discovered diaries, photographs, and tape recordings proving the opposite. Having found bear tracks, the man chased down the animals, shot them, took pictures of himself with the carcasses, and then reported that the bears had attacked him. Born in Madras, India, and possessing university degrees in physics, chemistry, and engineering, Jesudason came to Canada in 1968 on a postgraduate lark and took a government job to earn spending money. Sent as a technician to several arctic communities, he became fascinated with the Inuit and their frozen land. In 1979, with the help of his wife, Terry, Jesudason founded High Arctic International to outfit arctic expeditions for tourists, scientists, explorers, and adventurers. For venturesome tourists, Jesudason arranges flights to the geographic and magnetic North Poles, fly-in camps to Polar Bear Pass, Beechey Island, and Lake Hazen, and snow-mobile treks over the ice to Grise Fjord. But for serious adventurers, he has organized such unusual expeditions as: * Skiing to the geographic North Pole. * Documenting the wanderings of the Franklin expedition lost in 1847. * Filming whales in arctic waters. * Paddling from Greenland to Resolute Bay by kayak. * Mushing from Greenland to Alaska. * Motorcycling to the geographic Pole. * Flying to the geographic North Pole in an ultralight aircraft. * Walking from Resolute to Greenland. * Helicoptering to the geographic North Pole. * Traversing the Northwest Passage by kayak. Jesudason's clients range from eccentric millionaires to the National Geographic Society. "Most have no concept of the amount of money and time needed to mount an attack on the Pole," Jesudason observes. "You'll need at least $200,000 and more if a large party is involved, and 60 to 70 days." Most starry-eyed amateurs go back to their easy chairs after learning some of the realities, he adds. As outfitter, Jesudason supplies everything an arctic adventurer might require, from clothing to food to sled dogs to fuel. To accommodate Sir Edmund Hillary, for example, Jesudason had to find size-14 boots for the feet of the conqueror of Mount Everest. Jesudason arranges for permits and legal documentation along with experienced guides and pilots. His command of five Indian languages, the Scandinavian tongues, German, English, Japanese, and two dialects of Inuktituk is an invaluable asset. Many of Jesudason's guests want nothing more than to fly to the geographic or magnetic North Poles for the thrill of it. But some have other motives. One couple, believing that the "flux of energy" at the magnetic Pole would "align and cleanse" all the cells of their bodies, had Jesudason arrange for them to conceive a child there. "They were convinced that their baby would be superhuman," he says.