A man making his way back from a North Pole expedition was found recently, alive after 16 days out, wandering off course and seven days off schedule. Bob Mantell, 37, of Ely, Minn., was spotted by a helicopter pilot 15 miles northwest of his destination, a Canadian island in the Arctic Ocean off northwestern Greenland.
"He was fine. He didn't perceive himself to be in any trouble," expedition manager Liane Benoit said by telephone from Ottawa, Ontario, after Mr. Mantell was picked up by a Canadian army and police team.
The group with which Mr. Mantell had signed on included Canadian Richard Weber and Russian Mikhail Malakhov, Mr. Benoit said. After a disagreement, Mr. Mantell left the three-man expedition with enough food and fuel to last 12 days. The 90-mile return trip over the fractured sea ice should have taken him nine to 10 days.
Helicopters and planes went out after Mr. Mantell was listed missing May 3. A military plane found Mr. Mantell's tracks and remnants May 5 of four campsites 21 miles from Ward Hunt Island. The campsites were four to five miles apart, indicating he was making about half of his expected progress.
By the course Mantell appeared to be on, Mr. Benoit said, he would have missed Ward Hunt, which is about 2 miles long, but eventually would have hit Ellesmere Island to the south, which is almost as large as Minnesota.
The dispute that caused Mr. Mantell to leave the group may have been over the use of equipment. Mr. Mantell was the trip's navigator, using a traditional sextant and compass. As the group fell behind schedule, Mr. Benoit said, the others may have wanted to use electronic equipment to make up lost time. Mr. Mantell, who carried radios but did not use them, was skiing with a komatuk, a handmade wooden Eskimo sled. The others used lighter, faster plastic sleds.
"He was the one most interested in pursuing this expedition in the spirit of the old explorers," Mr. Benoit said. That about says it all. No wonder he got lost.