Børge Ousland

Polar Explorer

Expeditions Council Grantee

Skiing on the south side of Patriot Hills mountains in Antarctica.

Photograph by Børge Ousland

Photo: Borge Ousland

Photograph courtesy Børge Ousland

Birthplace: Oslo, Norway

Current City: Oslo, Norway

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to become a traveling writer or a journalist.

How did you get started in your field of work?

I was 24 years old, working as a deep-sea diver in the North Sea, when two colleges and I decided to ski across Greenland. That was in 1986, and not many people did such trips back then. This was before GPS; we used a sextant to navigate and had only wool and cotton clothes. It was a great experience and after that I started to plan for my first North Pole trip.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to exploration?

I really feel that I do what I want in life, to explore the unknown and share the spirit of adventure and love for nature with other people through books, lectures, blog, and films.

To be in the middle of the strong Arctic or Antarctic nature with just your sled and skies, to be self-supplied for up to three months at the time, is a lifelong and intense experience.

What's a normal day like for you?

I try to do something physical every day, since my body is the tool I need to have in shipshape when I go on trips. Every day is a mix of training, planning trips, doing presentations, working with equipment, or logistics.

Do you have a hero?

I am inspired by lots of people, from Mother Theresa to Reinhold Messner. Mostly it's people who make a difference, or use their talent to do extraordinary feats. People who challenge themselves again and again and never give up.

What has been your favorite experience in the field? The most challenging?

It was my first solo expedition to the North Pole in 1994. This is both my favorite experience and my most challenging. Mainly because it was the first time I was solo on a big trip, and nothing beats those virgin experiences and emotions.

What are your other passions?

Sailing, fishing and outdoor life, and to spend time with friends and family. But basically it's everything in connection with nature really.

What do you do in your free time?

I don't have much free time, since my work is also my hobby, but of course to be with my family and good friends is a priority and equally important.

If you could have people do one thing to help stop global warming what would it be?

In 2010 I sailed through both the Northeast and Northwest Passage in one season, something that was impossible only ten years ago. Polar ice is retreating so fast, which has serious consequences for all Arctic life, and ultimately the rest of the world. We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming now.

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Inside National Geographic Magazine

  • <p>Photo: An explorer walking across ice fields</p>

    Arctic Dreams and Nightmares

    In the dark of winter, two veteran adventurers slog toward the North Pole while a third battles for his life off the coast of Siberia.

  • ousland-field-notes.jpg

    Field Notes

    Giving it everything he had, explorer Børge Ousland muscled gear over plains of snow during the expedition to the North Pole.

In Their Words

To be in the middle of the strong Arctic or Antarctic nature with just your sled and skies, to be self-supplied for up to three months at the time, is a lifelong and intense experience.

—Børge Ousland


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