The Catlin Arctic Survey Explorers Team is experiencing some very challenging and unusual conditions, even by Arctic standards. Team leader Ann Daniels went so far as to describe it as the “weirdest weather conditions ever seen” by the highly experienced team. Daniels is joined by Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton on a journey that will eventually lead them to the top of the world and the North Pole.
The team has been inching along over the past few days because the ice is behaving in unusual ways. Daniels says that it is “constantly moving, breaking and shifting,” and “bending, bouncing and wobbling” while the intrepid trio passes over it. As a result, the team hasn’t made much headway the past few days while the move through a patch of ice that is unstable at best.
The Catlin home team, based out of London, says that it is a “combination of fast moving ice, large amounts of open water and a continual breaking up of ice floes splitting and rucking up right in front of your eyes, hour after hour for days”. Polar explorer Pen Hadow, who was part of the team last year and is now serving as the Director for the program, says that he hasn’t seen anything like it in his years of polar exploration. An unusual weather pattern, which has delivered constant, steady winds from the north is being blamed for the thinner ice that is disrupting travel for the Catlin Team as well as other explorers in the area.
Perhaps most disheartening is the strong negative drift which is preventing them from making much progress. According to a press release from the team today, the Explorers Team hit the ice back on May 14th and should have covered more than 53km by now. Thanks to negative drift however, they’ve only managed to gain 5.5km.
This year’s survey is broken into two teams, and while the Explorers head north, collecting ice samples as they go, the Ice Base Team is made up of a group of scientists and researchers who are staying in one place and taking their own samples from the ice and saltwater found underneath. That base is located in the Nunavut territory of Canada, and will serve as a scientific research station while the team remains in the arctic.