When most of you reading this blog hear the word ‘exploring’, you probably default to assuming it’s ‘urban exploring’ – that hobby of going where you’re not suppose to. (I shy away from calling it ‘urban exploring’ because most of the people that call themselves ‘urban explorers’ in the US are not exploring in urban settings).
There’s still a lot of people on this planet though that explore as it was originally conceived: traveling great distances in dangerous conditions to see places that few ever have, or ever will see. As someone who has gone out of his way to see some spots in NYC that very few have now or ever will see, I can appreciate the dedication of such people to the exploring trade.
The Beserkers are, or were, just those sort of people. As their website states:
The crew onboard Berserk II wish to pick up the old Norsemen traditions opposed to today’s so called “civilized” and often artificial way of living. Instead of being a part of the playstation-generation, in a 7 – 4 life with computers, electrical tin openers and washing machines, they seek adventures and exploration in the spirit of the ancient vikings. Simply equipped on a low budget ,The wild vikings turn the time back to the old days when men were men. Back to basics. Back to nature in harmony with its simple and real beauty to the worlds remote corners.
Noble words and thoughts. Sadly though, their latest expedition this spring ended in tragedy. The crew of 5 went to Antarctica on a small yacht (the Beserk II). 2 (including Berserker founder Jarle_Andhoy) left their boat in an effort to reach the South Pole. the other 3 stayed with the boat, and attempted to pilot it across the Ross Sea to a rendezvous point. They never made it. A sudden storm came out of nowhere (as storms do in that part of the world) and apparently sank the Beserk. The Beserk’s life raft automatically deployed and emergency beacon was set off – which became the only trace of the craft ever having been in the area.
The scant few other people in the area were the crews of 3 ships – all of which were over 12 hours away and facing the same life threatening conditions. The Wellington, a New Zealand navy boat, Sea Shepard’s Steve Irwin, and the Spirit of Enderby, which is described as perfect for Expedition Travel: it is unique in that it is the only expedition ship in the world to be equipped with Zodiac’s (Naiad’s), All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) and a Hovercraft for Antarctic voyages. The crews of the Irwin and Wellington described the storm as one of the worst they’ve ever seen in the southern ocean. The Wellington was itself badly damaged by the storm and forced to return to port before arriving at the last known location of the distress beacon. Much of the rescue operation was documented from the Steve Irwin and aired in the 7/15/2011 episode of Whale Wars (“Race to Save Lives“) . Only the empty inflatable life raft was found. The presumed wreckage and remains of the Beserk may never be found.
As a result, Jarle_Andhoy is awaiting trial back home in Norway, charged with not filing the proper permits and obtaining insurance before making the trip. Some question his tactics and implore the inherit dangers of going to such places, labeling those that do (without proper permits and gear) to be irresponsible at best. Jarle for his part doesn’t necessarily feel that way. He discussed the situation in this interview.
This entire story serves as a reminder of the ultimate cost that seeking adventure can extract. Whether your choice of adventure is in the cold harsh antarctic, an unstable abandoned building, or the hot cramped confines of an urban transit tunnel, death is always just a circumstance away.
I’ve personally taken huge risks in my fixation on seeing all of NYC’s transit tunnels, drains, and crumbling abandoned buildings. I can firmly say that a life without adventure is perhaps not a life worth living. However, you should always calculate your risks, be as prepared as you can – know the conditions you’re going up against and be man enough to admit defeat and turn back if conditions are rougher than expected.
This is Monday morning quarterbacking though, of course. Sometimes the unexpected happens, and no amount of preparation can compensate. What could have been a very success expedition for the Beserk crew ended tragically, due to something nearly impossible to be ready for. If you’re not prepared to potentially die, perhaps another hobby would suit you better than exploring does, no matter where on the planet you might find yourself.