This is the second part of an interview with polar explorer John Huston about his unsupported trip to the North Pole with Tyler Fish.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while on the ice? How did you overcome it?
Besides the interpersonal tension, the southerly sea ice drift we experienced during the last ten days appeared to be insurmountable. It got really bad. Fueled by winds out of the northwest, we we drifting south at a rate of 12 miles every 24 hours, we were trying to go the wrong direction on a treadmill and we couldn’t figure out how to out ski the drift. On the evening of Day 52 we basically threw in the towel, that was the most depressing moment. We thought we had failed. A satellite phone call to our expedition manager, Julie Hignell, gave us new life. We came up with a plan to sleep very little and push for the pole (we slept only 3 of the last 66 hours of the expedition). At the moment of crisis we slowed down, gathered ourselves, and made a new plan of attack. It’s a lesson I’ll always remember.
When did you know that you would be successful?
The end of the expedition was so surreal, we were operating in the netherworld of consciousness. I felt we had a really good shot after skiing 20 miles on the morning of Day 53. But I don’t think I fully realized it until we stopped skiing for the last time just a few yards from the pole on Day 55. Tyler had been sick and nauseous much of that last day and we were so cautious about something unforeseen going wrong.
Describe your feelings when you succeeded in reaching the North Pole.
Massive relief and a powerful feeling of respect for the awesome power of the Arctic Ocean. I was totally blown away by the immensity of the physical and mental effort. We were so happy to stop skiing and to take a break from our routines, which were a big part of our success, but were also relentless.
What lessons did you learn on this trip that you use in your daily professional or personal life?
Professional: I try to plug myself into focused work routines, with breaks every 90 minutes or so. The expedition was full of little tasks that had to be done very well everyday, I try to bring the same devotion to quality and consistency to my work life…I aim to do it right the first time and don’t cut corners.
Personal: I take care of myself better. The North Pole expedition was one big self-care initiative, if we took care of our bodies we knew we’d have a good chance at success. I do the same at home, eat healthy, workout everyday, and get outside as much as possible.
What might someone else take away from your trip that could impact their daily life?
Take time to check-in with those who you people in your life who you depend on at work and at home. It can be difficult to be vulnerable and open up, but how well you get along and how you function as a team I feel is one of most important factors that determines success and happiness. Work to establish a healthy culture of feedback. And have fun, a happy person and a happy team is a powerful force in this world.