90°L

At 13:15 on 23 April 2010, my team mates and I dropped our sled harnesses and took our skis off one last time and stuck them upright in the snow at exactly 90 degrees latitude. A few moments later it had already moved and we scampered forward to capture the moment again, to look down at our GPS screen showing 90.00 00 000 000.

90°L
Location looks nondescript, but it doesn't feel so

The first thing I have to express is an immense amount gratitude foremost to God for blessing us with good weather and allowing us to pass through one of the harshest environments created. The Arctic could have easily chewed us up and sent us packing back home.

The evening of 22 April we were all in such good spirits. We knew we only had five miles to travel, therefore, not only was the next day due to be our ‘summit’ day, it should also be an easy day. But of course its never that smooth sailing out here. We got a call from Borneo Ice Station saying a huge storm was coming in on the 24th, the ice was breaking up rapidly and therefore Borneo would be dismantled early this year. We had to be picked up the next day early afternoon.

On 23 April we woke up at 6am and found we had drifted south just short of a mile. We therefore had less than five hours to cross six miles, working against a southerly drift. What was supposed to be a relaxed pace turned into an adrenaline packed rush to make it to the Pole before our helicopter came to pick us up. We skied five hours with no breaks. Amazing how elusive a goal can be at the last minute.

Three miles into the ski I was exhausted, soaking wet and cold and I did not want to arrive at the Pole in this mindset, struggling, worried and heart pumping with adrenaline. I wanted to arrive there peaceful, aware, grateful, leaving a lasting memory of the scene around me as I approach the top of the world. In those moments, I could hear the voices of all the friends and family who wrote little notes of encouragement to me in my journal. I could sense a group of people who perhaps were waiting for the next blog post, telling of success. I felt the prayers of my family for my safety and how much diligent love had gone into supporting this attempt.

How then could I not step forward with a great big smile, with this huge force behind me? In those moments, it suddenly stopped being a struggle against time, and I felt like I was skiing, no, floating on wings rather than ice and snow.

The Arctic is alive, and I can’t express how magical it is. I am not the most dramatic of people but that last mile was emotional. Turns out it was similar for my teammates. I watched Rick’s eyes glow with pride as his son Taylor switched sleds with him (taking the heaviest one) and took over the GPS and led us the last mile to the Pole. I thought about how nice it must be to be able to share this journey with family. The ever committed Ian, normally up front, dropped out of site and arrived at the pole last, wanting to savour the moment in private. Keith, my fearless guide, opted to stay standing outside in the freezing cold and appreciate the experience rather than come into the tent we erected while waiting for the helicopter.

90°L
Leaving a piece of the UAE at the top of the world
90°L
Helicopter arrived to pick us up very soon after we did

When I read the GPS reading of 90 degrees latitude, I remember looking down at my boots and trying to sense the earth moving beneath me. I then made a wide circle around the Pole and announced out loud that I had just gone around the world (bad polar humor)! We then shot a couple of flares and two rounds from the shotgun into the air.

90°L

The wind made it hard to capture the moment!

The pole shifted slowly away from us and we stopped chasing it – instead we savored it. I dropped to my knees and looked around. Then pulled out a small ziplock bag of sand from the UAE desert that I had been using for Tayyamum and emptied the sand from my desert that I grew up with and came to be the person I am today, at the very top of the world. My mission was complete.

Each day at camp before departing I would ask Ian where he fancied going that day. He would normally answer something like, “Errrm… I don’t know. Fishing? Swimming? Nah, lets go north.” But at 1:30pm Ian asked me where I fancied going that day. I smiled and said, “Hmm. I’m kind of done with going north. Let’s go south for a change.”

I have more to say, but it is time for me to pause and recover for a day or two.

Love

Elham

Comments

  1. Ranjani on

    Wow, that’s absolutely amazing! Congratulations :D

  2. parwana on

    congratulations.  i can’t possibly express my feelings and happiness .  i could simply just say i am soooooooooooo proud of you.  it has been a great acheivement .  you have earned it to be appreciated.  with all my love your aunt.

  3. John O'Brien on

    Congrats. I am so envious right now!
    Well done!

  4. Ali. M on

    Elham… many many congratulations on your achievement… This is an achievement of the Nation you belong to. Though I’m not part of this great Nation but somehow by living here feeling part of the success.

    Wish you all the very best and hoping your safe return. Will be looking forward to get to read a detailed story on this from any source.

    Cheers…

  5. A well wisher on

    Congratulations!!  I read the news before you embarked on this mission and am so proud that you persevered and achieved your goal.  My best wishes..

  6. Kaushik Pattni on

    Elham, CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    Words fall short to complement your achievement.
    Absolutely Marvelous. Proud to be associated with you.

  7. Jamie Robertson on

    G’day Elham, Congratulations! It was good to meet you when we filmed you on the beach in Dubai and I have been following your blog since then with great interest. I am very happy for you and hope we meet again in the not too distant future. Cheers and Beers Jamie

  8. Amy Stillman, Impetus Trust on

    Congratulations! You made it! Very exciting. Well done! Amy

  9. Venkatesh Sridhar on

    Elham,
    Congratulations for such a brave and valiant effort. You have done the entire nation proud and those associated with it (not necessarily by citizenship).

    I wish you all the best in conquering all your goals the way you have achieved this one.

    God Bless!

  10. afnan on

    WOW !! congratulations ! I can’t tell you how happy i am for you .. i am so proud of you ..
    i loved it when you left a a piece of the UAE at the top of the world
    i can’t wait to hear you telling the story =)

  11. T on

    Elham, What can I say. Absolutely Amazing. We are all so proud of you over here. Thats the spirit. Cant wait for you to come back and share your experiences with us. Although I have never had the honour to meet you but following your blog made me feel that I already do. Allah iywaffiqch inshallah and all the very best.

  12. haytham Odeh on

    Yes ,
    you did it
    thank you soooooooooooo much

  13. Daniela Barone Soares on

    Elham, well done!  Worth all the dedication and effort you put into it. 
    Best wishes,
    Daniela - Impetus Trust

  14. Sumaira Isaacs on

    Elham I have tears of joy as I read your last log!! of tht finite moment when it actually happend! Jut few days ago you were pulling tyres on teh beach and talking baout how it would be! AND now you have done it! YOU now are POLE OF INSPIRATION!! Cannot wait to paint you!! Thnak you for showing us the possibilities!

  15. jimmy on

    stunning and tremendously inspiring. what a heroic achievement! congratulations elham!

  16. diab shammary on

    congratulations elham, you made us all proud of you and your achievment, now schools around arab world can proudly refrence you to motivate our kids to come out and believe in themselves and jpoin the world openly, you simply filled us with many kinds of happy feelings, you reserved yourself an honorable place among human achievers
    thank you for doing this for yourself and, in a way, in behalf of all of us

  17. Marian Kamlin on

    I found you only by chance, here in cyberspace, just a day before you flew up and away from home.  Following you here in your journal has been a special journey for me also, and I thank you for sharing with us all.  I’ll be watching to welcome you back home again too.

    Marian

  18. maytho on

    all uea is proud of u….....
    congratz

  19. nat sloane on

    Bravo to you and your colleagues That is one grat achievement How about I buy you a (warm) celebratory drink here in London some time?

    Nat

  20. Waseem Baloch on

    Congrates ! You really make us proud.

    Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.”

  21. Mohammed Qady on

    Congratulations!!!
    Well done Elham Al Qasimi.  All of us as Arab nations are so proud of your achievement as the First Arabin Woman lands on the the most tip of the world . I’ll wait impatiently to see the whole story of your amazing journey to
    the North Pole

    Thank you for that deeply from my heart .

    Allah Save You . Nice done .

  22. S.Dmello on

    Wow! A Big Big Congratulations are in order…

    It truly shows the Dedication, hard work, perseverance and mental strength you have to have done what you have done…

    signing out fron Abu Dhabi…

  23. John rendel on

    Awesome news! So impressed. Now get back safe.

  24. Omair on

    Congratulations Slurp..you made all of us UAE nationals proud…

  25. Debi on

    Hi Elham,
    Congratulations on your excellent achievement; I’ve really enjoyed reading about how you did it.  Thank you for writing about it so all of us around the world can share a little bit of your journey.

    grin

  26. kawtar belmokhtar rabat on

    congratulations elham,
    un grand bravo je vous ai deja suivis sur la chaine abdhabi national geographie un grand bravo tu le merite et felicitation

  27. Saeed on

    Best of luck and get back safe

  28. Maryooma Sh on

    Congrats
    But if i may ask, what’s the point of this “accomplishment”?
    How did you benefit yourself and your country?

  29. Omair on

    How did she benefit herself and her country?  I will tell you how.  I’m sure it means a lot more for Elham and her family than say it means to you or me, but at the end it is a symbolic achievement for all of us.  For me, I have a two years old daughter, that I know one day will ask me if I really believe she can accomplish anything she sets her heart and mind to.  I know that I will tell her that female UAE nationals just like her, who were probably given the similar opportunities..faced similar disapointments..and given similar “cultural baggage” if you will, achieved things that were so complex in nature and diverse as reaching the northpole,becoming a successful brain surgeon or a courageous F16 pilot. 
    She won’t relate to those experiences that much had they only been achieved by people of the other gender, of other nationalities and backgrounds.
    My daughter needs this, cause the most daring thing she will see me doing will be flying a kite! lol.

  30. اهل الكويت on

    مبروووووووووك و رفعتي راسنا smile
    الله يوفقج ان شاء الله

  31. David Lees on

    I read about your achievement in 7 Days on 26 April. It inpired me to write a public congratulatory letter, which they published on 2 May.
    Impressive to say the least.

    What’s next?

  32. Ismaily on

    Well done Ilham. Am so proud to see someone from the Gulf take such an step. You are indeed representing the women of this world.

    So whats your next adventure, South pole?

  33. Rafif Jafari on

    Dear Elham,
    Let me start by saying CONGRATULATIONS!! You truly have been an inspiration…I am a grade six and seven ESL teacher at a public school in Dubai.  My students “Emirati girls” and I have been following your expedition from the beginning! One of our themes was about explorers and exploration and your amazing journey was included amongst other great explorers like Marco polo and Ibin Batuta! The girls are so proud of you, and have even written you passionate letters in their simple English- which we will hopefully send you soon. Thank you for showing them that they can achieve anything they set their minds to…and helping us teachers guide them towards it.
    Kindest Regards,
    Rafif Jafari

  34. Sahraoui Midou on

    congratulation elham

  35. Zulfah Hendricks on

    You are an inspiration to us all!  A big Thank You from South Africa for representing women so well.

  36. Magdi on

    Dear Elham,

    Congratulations!  This is quite an accomplishment for anyone, male or female, but I must say that some of the comments are very special because as an Emirati woman you are a role model to many young girls.  May your spirit inspire and guide them , and may they also achieve what they desire.

    We had a chance to work together on the Dubai Humanitarian City concept and I’m glad to see you’ve continued to accomplish quite audacious goals.  Best of luck in your next adventure.  Is there any Emirati sand on Everest?

    Warm regards (no pun intended),

    Magdi

  37. Sajith Kumar on

    I heard about your achievement couple of days back on BBC. Congratulation on this remarkable achievement, May it be inspirational to all Arab women.
    Best Wishes to for your future endeavors
    Warm Regards
    Sajith

  38. Mohammed on

    let me say your name as if I know you. Elham Al-Qasimi, for sure you have done something great, putting a piece of a precious sand from UAE at the top of the pole, took my breath away. by the way, I like the way you talk, the words you use, they all show how intelligent you are.
    congratulations to you girl.

  39. A.A on

    Congratulations!

  40. M.Sathish kumar on

    Bravo. what is your next adventure?

  41. julius on

    elham…many people love too the way you explore this mission and you did it..i really admire your courage and dedications..congrashburntulations again..

  42. illyas on

    u r the one…..........

  43. hassania Walker on

    Alhamdulillah.
    Raw3a!

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About this journal

This is Elham Al-Qasimi’s journal, kept as she prepares for her North Pole expedition. Keep track of both her preparation as well as her progress during the expedition here.

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Before she sets out on her expedition, Elham has a very busy schedule to follow. Follow a date link to read what she’ll be doing on that day.

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