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Polar Ice Thickness Survey Ready To Go
Three polar explorers are undergoing a rigorous programme of final drills and tests in northern Canada as the countdown to a major scientific survey begins.
Their mission is to capture accurate measurements of the thickness of the Arctic Ocean sea ice. This hard-won data will help their scientific team to predict more accurately than ever before how long the Arctic Ocean's floating ice cap will be a year-round global feature.
The full ice team now assembled at Broughton Island, in northern Canada, are rehearsing their daily routines and all their equipment in temperatures as low as -30C.
Leading the Catlin Arctic Survey team is veteran polar explorer Pen Hadow. The team also includes photographer Martin Hartley and female explorer Ann Daniels. They are practising their drills and tasks as well as checking all the scientific and life-supporting equipment is performing correctly.
The Broughton Island mission is the third and final set of trials for the team and the gear they will use during their three-month expedition to the North Pole, which gets underway next month (February).
Conditions are tough. Broughton Island is currently in darkness for at least 20 hours per day. “You can't see your hand in front of your face, and if your overhead torch goes out, that is it,” says Hadow.
The team are testing the specially developed surface mounted mobile radar which will make ten million measurements across a 1200 kilometres (750 miles) transect of the sea ice during the expedition itself.
During the expedition, the team will be forced to swim large sections of the route – across open water, where the sea ice has already melted.
To cross open water with all their supplies, the CAS team will don their custom-made immersion suits over the top of their standard polar clothing and attach new floatation devices to their specially-built sledges, converting them into floating vessels. Each team member will then pull their heavily-loaded sledges behind them as they swim.
The Catlin Arctic Survey has been advised by some of the world’s leading ice modellers and climatologists including scientists from the US Naval’s Department of Oceanography, the NASA ICESat Mission and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.
The data that Hadow and the team will gather will help scientists to more accurately assess the state of the rapidly receding Arctic sea ice in a fragile region already affected by global warming. It is hoped the information will help fill the current gap in existing measurements from remote sensing techniques, such as using satellite.
“Developing the Catlin Arctic Survey over the past four years, has proved the most enormous challenge, breaking ground across a raft of areas of which I previously had no knowledge, as well as working with some of the most intelligent scientists in the world and raising the necessary funds in an uncertain economic climate.”
The project, known as the Catlin Arctic Survey, has amassed substantial financial backing for the £3m survey despite the gloom currently surrounding the world economy and has secured support from UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WWF International.