PURSUITS OF HAPPINESS

Harvey Oyer

Florida real estate attorneys who moonlight as historians and archaeologists, with just a single crash-course in cross-country skiing, don’t often haul 100 pounds of gear to a Russian-operated ice camp on the frozen Arctic Ocean and then ski to the North Pole.
But Harvey Oyer did.
Then again, there’s not much ordinary about Harvey.

Motivated by decades of Santa Claus movies and the very real fear that climate change would soon make the trek impossible, Harvey decided this was the year to put his caseload on ice for a few weeks and take the trip of a lifetime. Armed with skiing skills acquired from a single training session in Minnesota, he flew to the northernmost city in the world— Svalbard, Norway. From there he boarded a Russian Antonov 74 cargo plane and flew even further north, landing on an ice runway at
Barneo Ice Camp.

Accompanied by a guide and four new international companions who share his Save Santa Claus issues, Harvey clicked into his skis in the minus 40ºF temps and pointed them toward his goal: the geographic North Pole.

Each member of the team towed their own sleds of provisions and survival gear; Harvey’s was even heavier from the loaded shotgun he volunteered to carry in case of a Polar Bear encounter. The daily routine was 7-10 hours of skiing each day skiing over and around an ever-changing obstacle course of pressure ridges up to 25-feet high, gaps of frigid, open water, and piles of ice rubble, sometimes in white-out conditions.

Harvey Oyer at the North Pole
And the food? Let’s just say nothing they ate is a featured menu item at Pistache. A minimum of 7,000 calories a day from beef jerky, nuts, protein bars, Snickers and whatever dehydrated nourishment they could wrap their mittens around. “You learn what it means to survive. And you learn fast,” he said.

When they weren’t skiing and eating, they would set up camp and do their best to stay warm for the night, praying for a positive ice drift that wouldn’t carry them further away from the Pole while they were sleeping.

Harvey Oyer at the North Pole
After seven grueling days, he made it. The Holy Grail of 90° on his GPS. No candy cane lampposts or flying reindeer, but it was without a doubt a fantasy realized.

Harvey Oyer at the North Pole

In the helicopter returning to camp, Harvey discovered significant frostbite on his nose and all fingertips. Aloe, hot showers and indoor plumbing restored him to a sense of normalcy as he boarded the plane back to West Palm Beach, 15 pounds lighter, but with a heavy sense of accomplishment.

While he’s stood at the top of his game for years, downtown resident Harvey Oyer has now also stood at the top of the world.

— JF

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