In the light of some extensive press interest and coverage regarding the attempted winter Vatnajokull crossing in Iceland, an open statement is issued below. Due to the sensationalist behaviour and reluctance to stick to facts by certain journalists, no further interviews will be given and this statement will be final.
On the 31st Jan, Alex and his team-mate set out from the junction of the roads 1 and F206 in order to cross the Vatnajokull from west to east in winter. Before even beginning the icecap crossing, 50km of lava fields and valleys would need to be crossed. By the 3rd Feb, this was achieved.
- The expedition proceeded on schedule and as planned for the first 7 days. Their final position was only 1.5 days from their chosen glacier, where they would descend off the icecap. They were on the ice for a total of 9 days, not 30 as reported in some places.
- The pickup by ICE-SAR was undertaken entirely in daylight hours
- There was no search. GPS coordinates accurate to 10ft were given and the skidoo team drove directly to our position.
- The ICE-SAR were thanked in person at the time and publicly in the initial press statement. Only one publication made the decision to print this part of the statement.
- Wet and cold conditions played no part in the decision to evacuate the team. Iceland in winter is wet and cold and the team were prepared for it, coping adequately throughout.
- Three separate members of the home team forecasted wind speeds of 120kph+ for the night of the Thursday. The team therefore asked for a Wednesday pickup during a lull in the wind.
- The tent was usually able to withstand high winds. Due to a change in wind direction during a period of 100kph wind, the tunnel design of the tent worked against it and part of it snapped and collapsed. Alex decided that this damage made it unable to withstand another major onslaught.
- A weather window of reduced wind was identified on the Wednesday prior to even higher winds.
- The tent canvas was not wrapped around the bodies of the team to keep them warm.
- Alex's UK-based team varies in size and type depending on the length and scale of the expedition in question. It can include logistics managers, experienced friends, members of his family and the family of other team members. In this case, it happened that he was in dialogue with his father, who naturally acted to activate the pickup.
- Press interest would likely have been much reduced should it have happened to be another member of his home team who made arrangements.
- The team had registered their PLB (personal locator beacon) with the radio administration and had notified the National Parks officials of their plans.
- The PLB was not activated due to adequate communication via phone.
- ICE-SAR offered to perform an immediate pickup. The team responded that they could secure the tent for the night to allow for a daytime operation.
- It is standard procedure to transmit vital information quickly and briefly to a home team via satellite phone and then let them make lengthier arrangements. This is due to limited battery power.
- The team was fully aware of the 112 Icelandic emergency number.
I hope that this answers many of the questions posed by interested parties and dispels some of the myths. Thanks again to all those involved with the expedition and evacuation. On a wider note, the only way to avoid the possibility of non-completion is to attempt easy challenges. This is not my style. The expedition will be relaunched in future years.
To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. Elbert Hubbard