Rakesh Patel, a 47-year-old commodity trader took a plunge to visit Greenland. Speaking to Asian Voice, he said, “Over a hundred years ago, our grandparents emigrated from India to Africa in search of a better life. In 1972, our parents had to flee a good life in Uganda and the journey went through Europe and the United States. They finally settled down in Norway, where both my brother and myself grew up. 50 years later, my brother and I cross the Greenland ice cap with the guys in Norwegian Team India.” Here’s his interview with Asian Voice where he speaks at length about his journey.
What inspired you to start this expedition?
I think that I am speaking on behalf of all four of us when I say that with Norway's strong Polar history, there is a will or search for challenging extreme winter conditions. We have big Polar names in Norway, like Roald Amundsen and Fritjof Nansen, that went in front and showed that anything is possible. The fact that they crossed the South Pole and Greenland 100 years ago tells you that this is possible in 2022 with modern equipment.
How different is this from going on a holiday or a trek?
First, this is in more extreme weather conditions than anyone will experience in other places. Weather changes fast and we need to be able to read weather patterns and be prepared to act in any situations that are in front of us.
Second, this was an unsupported expedition without a guide. We had to navigate in snowstorms, -35 degrees with windshields of 30-40m/s. Also, there was nowhere to hide if you were tired or wanted a rest. We skied for 10-11h a day and most of the food was dry food like porridge, drytech, chocolate, nuts, dry fruit, crisps etc. We burned about 5000kcal a day.
Third, the preparation and training are done 1-2 years in advance. There is physical training and mental preparation individually and with the team. We did several smaller expeditions running up to the 25 days it took us to cross Greenland from the West to the East coast.
What motivated you to cross Greenland?
First of all, this expedition was a big team effort. Dipesh Patel, Kim Gulbrandsen, Oddbjørn Rundtom and myself are always pushing boundaries and limits. We wanted to see how far you can push your body and mental strength. After the expedition, I must say that most people are not aware of how strong the human body is. If you set your mind to something and you are prepared both physically and mentally you can achieve anything you put your mind to. This is something I am trying to tell my kids, but I think everyone needs to experience it in different challenges before they realize it themselves. Also, working in a strong team where everyone knows their role in extreme conditions is important.
What kind of measures does one have to take to be safe and successful on such missions?
The main thing is preparation. From physical and mental conditions to spending 100s of hours going through scenarios with the team and discussing how to react in different situations. We also had a satellite phone and rifle with us in case of emergency and we got attacked by polar bears. Being honest with yourself and the team was also key to success. If one got injured it would have put the whole team at risk.