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Written by John Morton   
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 19:35

Eric Larsen, who has trekked to the ends of the earth to raise awareness of climate change, will return to county to discuss his recently published work

Eric Larsen has fallen through the Arctic Ocean ice. No sweat, he says.

And he’s had polar bears sneak up on him from behind. No biggie, he’ll tell you.

Eric Larsen LBut writing a book about a lifetime of such adventures?

Yikes.

“Writing for me is hard,” said the 45-year-old seasoned expeditioner from Cedarburg, who now lives in Colorado. “It’s like parking a truck in the middle of a field and leaving it for 20 years, then going back with a wrench to repair it but all the nuts and bolts are rusted through. Each sentence feels that way for me.”

Like all his endeavors, however, Larsen has come though — this time in the form of a first-ever book entitled “On Thin Ice: A Final Epic Quest into the Melting Arctic.” The book captures his harrowing 500-mile, 53-day unsupported and unaided walk in March of 2014 with partner Ryan Waters, from Greenland to the North Pole, on shifting ice that can drift you 3 miles southward of your destination while you sleep.

It’s something he’s done three times, but never again. The ice is melting and no logistics companies are now willing to land planes for pick up — despite the lofty fee of $110,000 Larsen and Waters had to pay for such — on the shaky and thinning surfaces.

“There’s no infrastructure for any of this,” Larsen said.

So yes, Larsen and Waters are likely the last people to make such a trek.

Published by Falcon Guides, the book is available for $13.99 on Amazon and at most book retailers.

The book took 18 months to complete  — it should have taken half that time, Larsen said — but when the publisher assigned a helper, things got rolling.

“Without that it would have never been finished. Writing literally hurts my head,” Larsen said. “And after each adventure I’m thinking about the next thing. After that one, I think I was in Nepal and then Patagonia fairly quickly.

“I eventually had to focus, which isn’t easy. With a book like this you need accuracy, but it must also be engaging and interesting.”

And in this case it also needs a message, he said. More than a chance for storytelling, Larsen also saw the book as an obligation to address the reality of the melting polar ice cap.

“There’s no other place like it on our planet and I want to give a realistic account of what is happening there. I want to connect people with this,” said Larsen, who in 2015 also filmed a documentary entitled “Melting: Last Race to the Pole.” “I’m one of few who have been there. I’ve seen it changing with my own eyes. I need to address this in as many venues as possible.

“I was drawn to this place knowing full well what might be happening. And it is.”

On Thursday, May 18, the author will be signing his book at Saukville’s Riveredge Nature Center. 

The talk begins at 6 p.m. with a question-and-answer session to follow.

Writing might not be a comfort zone for Larsen, but Riveredge certainly is.

“It’s been a part of my entire life and is very meaningful,” said Larsen, whose father, Andy, was the center’s director. “It played such an important role in growing up and the person I’d become.”

Excursions organized by the center, such as camping outdoors and paddling for days on end, were indeed a harbinger of things to come for a man who today estimates he’s spent an entire year of his life, in aggregate, in a tent on sea ice.

“I remember going on a two-week canoe trip through the Boundary Waters and after a week some people were like, “We have seven more days of this?’ And for me it was like, ‘Yes, we have seven more days of this. Thank goodness,’” Larsen said. “Dave Borneman was a naturalist at the center back in the late ‘80s and I remember him telling us that no matter what we did, the worse it got the more we’d appreciate adversity.”

That’s a mind set that has served Larsen well. There have been countless times that death was a real possibility, he acknowledges, but why dwell on such a daunting thing?

“Yeah, it crosses your mind, knowing there is no rescue possibility, but you learn to compartmentalize it over time,” he said. “You develop gallows humor — like, wow, that was close, but then that’s it. You just rise to the occasion and keep going. And it’s not like you have a choice.”

The writing experience gave Larsen some time to catch his breath and reflect on his remarkable lifestyle.

“Time changes your perspective, and what really sinks in for me now is how this is another piece of us understanding how much we need our environment,” he said. “Yes, it was a really difficult trip, but there’s so much more to it. It’s a big-picture story that really needs telling.”

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