Prouty STRETCHers Share Their Experiences from the North Pole Expedition
Being stretched is more than an everyday exercise for the Prouty Project and its clients. It’s an annual expedition originating back to 1999 with the inspiration, “A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions” by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Each STRETCH Expedition is designed to help you stretch mentally, emotionally and physically. This year, the Prouty Project, a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and leadership development, went polar and celebrated its 20th anniversary STRETCH Expedition by embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the top of the world — the North Pole.
Fifteen STRETCH adventurers ages 18 to 77 boarded the Russian icebreaker, “50 Years of Victory”, which took them across the Arctic on a 14-day adventure to the North Pole. The ship, the largest, most powerful nuclear icebreaker in the world, was the 140th icebreaker to arrive at the North Pole, and our 15 STRETCHers are now one of 33,509 people to have ever set foot on the 90° mark of the earth.
At 2:36 a.m. on a bright, sunshiny Wednesday (June 19, 2019) the ship arrived at the North Pole. The celebration began with a champagne toast and the ULTIMATE polar plunge. STRETCHers also got the opportunity to sightsee via helicopter above the Arctic Ocean, enjoy hot-air balloon rides and cruise in a Zodiac surrounded by dramatic, endless icescapes.
Excerpts Journaled Throughout the Trip by Prouty STRETCHers
The North Pole is a once in a lifetime trip.
I can’t pinpoint just one highlight of this trip, but a favorite thing of mine to do was just to look out into the landscape. I would use my takeaways from each lecture and apply it to my surroundings. It was cool to see all of these learnings in my observations — like how you’d always see sea birds following the ship because the propellers flipped up polar cod. I loved seeing all this beauty and life where people imagine a barren tundra.
When I try to explain the “STRETCH concept” to others they often seem to be saying with their body language, why leave your comfort zone. For me, it’s important in life to take a little risk, stay curious, and continually develop that “can-do” attitude while experiencing exciting adventures in a country that may not have been on a person’s bucket list.
So, why the North Pole on a Russian icebreaker? This trip offered a unique once in a lifetime experience beyond what I could ever imagine.
Laila, our tour guide, used this quote to describe a Finnish philosophy: “It’s cool to take care of yourself.”
Let’s take care of each other, let’s take care of this planet.
On the roads in Helsinki: “The roads are arranged ‘like a logical spider’.”
What a sight to see in person! After watching videos and seeing photos… the in-person experience was amazing! Huge and kind of intimidating is how I would describe it. Very mysterious.
After our briefing and meeting with the Quark Expedition staff it was time to depart. Two tugboats roped up to the side of the ship and started pulling us away from the dock.
As Solan announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to the North Pole!”
It’s not just the boat, it is what it is having us do. We’re doing the unthinkable, going to the North Pole.
But more importantly than that, having us make friends with 13 other people, many of who we have never met. That accomplished, the opportunity is presented to interact with well over 120 more people and get to know many of them. This has strongly reaffirmed my faith in mankind and my belief that generally people, no matter their country, race, religion, occupation, status in life, or where they live, are kind to each other, courteous, caring, willing to help, and just want to exist peacefully.
Never ever was going to the North Pole on my bucket list, but here I am on an amazing adventure to the North Pole…it’s an experience beyond words.
What a special treat to wake up to an announcement of another polar bear sighting! It was much closer than the first one we saw, and it seemed to be as interested in us as we were in him. At one point, the polar bear just sat down as if he wanted to provide the perfect “photo op” for us!
Solan capped the day with a description of what the day will look like when we arrive at the North Pole tomorrow. We had a glimpse of our surroundings earlier in the day when the conditions improved such that all groups were treated to a helicopter ride around the ship. From this vantage point, you could see the leads and cracks in the ice much more clearly. We’re traveling in a vast ocean with ice as far as the eye can see. It’s beautiful and tranquil, both a treat to my senses and needs at the moment.
Once utopic, in a few degrees, a reality. It is hypnotic looking outside the window, looking from the bow of the ship. This bright white that has been touched by the summer sun. What a view. I pinch myself. I am here. Right now. Living the moment. The present, on the enigmatic North Pole.
With our adventure we have continuous light but the time and place we are searching for is moving and hard to catch and grasp its greatness — living in the present moment, finding our flow and being mindful of our place in this wonderful world.
The journey was challenging due to heavy ice and somewhat later than expected.
As always nature in is control. We must be ready for the unexpected and solider on regardless of the situation. It’s really quite humbling for us humans, but the realities of our place in the universe, we are blessed to visit true wilderness, which is rapidly vanishing.
We spotted a mother polar bear with two, year-and-a-half old cubs. All healthy-looking body conditions, she moves her family away from the ship as we drift still. A few hours later we spot a lone bear. We stop, she casually but intently approaches us. She is close enough; we can hear her paws sinking into the snow. She licks the air, scenting us. She examines the row of humans on deck as potential food. It is among the rarest experiences for humans, to feel like we are food.
The ship took us close to Robin Rock, which is the nesting place for 30,000 birds. As we neared the rock you could hear a loud bird chorus.
It’s a little strange to be in a helicopter with the sun shining at 11:30 PM.
The vastness of this Arctic region is hard to comprehend. The way animals have adapted to living in such a harsh environment is a marvel.
My high point of the trip was doing the North Pole polar plunge. I thought it was so fun to be able to see people step out of their comfort zone and jump into freezing cold water! Also, it was very cool to see some people swim and touch the ship then swim back.
During the auction for Polar Bears International: “In one hour at the auction, Quark raised $25,250 USD for the polar bears!”
The highlight for me was the on-ice celebration at the North Pole. Champagne toasts, steak barbecue, hot air balloon ride, polar plunge and satellite phone call back to our team in the office. The North Pole is surreal, and I can only compare it to what it might look like and feel like on the moon.
I learned about polar politics and polar bears, and it was fascinating to get to know the 15 people on our team as well as the 105 other guests from around the world. I thought often about Ann Bancroft’s journey to the North Pole in 1986 with seven men and 49 male sled dogs. A wonderful team, a wonderfully stretching experience.
The 2020 STRETCH Expedition
Our next STRETCH Expedition is taking us to the African nation of Namibia. Learn more about the expedition and how you can reserve your spot on the trip.