Catlin Arctic Survey: Ice Base Team Packing Up, Explorers Continue North

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While most of the Arctic explorers have called it a season, the Catlin Arctic Survey Teams are still out their on the ice, conducting their experiments and taking readings on the impact of heightened levels of CO2 in the Arctic Ocean on the healthy of the ice caps.

As you probably remember, the project was broken up into two teams, the Ice Base Team, which remained in one place on the ice to take daily readings and conduct experiments and the Explorers Team, which is still making their way to the North Pole, taking ice samples as they go. Today, the Ice Base Team began packing up their gear and equipment, and are preparing to be airlifted to warmer climes either today or tomorrow, depending on weather conditions. The Ice Base, which is located off Ellef Ringnes island in the Canadian High Arctic, has been in operation for 40 days, and according to the Survey’s website, has served as home for “six scientists, five journalists, three polar guides, two chefs, two ice base managers, two communication managers, one Inuit guide, one passing Japanese skier and an extremely lovable polar bear guard dog.” It will be some time before the results of their findings will be known, but the men and women who lived and worked at the base have started some important research into the acidification of the oceans, and the long term effects that will have on the health of the planet and the human race.

And as if we needed more proof that we are in the midst of a global shift in climate and weather, the Ice Base Team received a real shock a few days back, when it actually started to rain. Now, most of us would take April Showers in stride, and think nothing of it, but it is HIGHLY unusual in the Arctic this time of year, especially above 79ºN. Needless to say, it made the scientists at the Base a bit nervous, considering they were camped on a patch of ice, with nothing but Arctic Ocean beneath them.

Meanwhile, the Explorers Team, consisting of polar veterans Ann Daniels, Martin Hartley, and Charlie Paton are still making their way North, with designs on reaching the Pole itself. Last Friday they received their second, and final, resupply, and while they continue to deal with the usual challenges, namely negative drift, open leads, thin ice, and difficult weather conditions, their spirits remain high, and they are as dedicated as ever to their jobs.

Like most of the other explorers heading to the Pole this year, they are dragging their equipment behind them sleds as they make the long, difficult journey north. But unlike the others, who at the end of their day would set up their tent, go inside, warm up, and begin the process of melting snow, this trio has a set of ice samples to gather and readings to take, before they can go about those other duties. But it is all in the name of climate research, and they seem up to the task.

Last year, the Survey Team didn’t make it to the North Pole, simply running out of time for when a safe evac could occur. Hopefully this year, they’ll reach their destination. I’m sure it would be especially sweet for Ann and Martin to stand at 90ºN.

Kraig Becker