Catlin Arctic Survey: Explorers Face “Ice Armageddon”

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While the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base Team may have packed up and headed for home, the Explorers Team is still out on the ice, still conducting, scientific data, and still battling the unforgiving elements of the Arctic. Today, those conditions including a very large lead of open water, 65 meters in width at the narrowest point, and an ice field that team leader Ann Daniels has labeled Ice Armageddon” for its gigantic blocks of ice that made progress very tough for an already weary team.

Joining Daniels out on the ice are Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton, both veteran polar explorers. As of this writing, the team is sitting at 88.36ºN, but are now in a race against time if they hope to see the Pole this year. Despite making 7 nautical miles of progress today, they’re likely to face negative drift tonight, thanks to a steady and constant northerly wind. On top of that, it is getting very late into the Arctic Season at this point, which means the pack ice is starting to break up, and soon it will be impossible to land a plane to pick the team up. Reportedly they have given themselves until the end of the week to reach as far north as they can before calling for an evac.

Thanks to that giant lead mentioned above, the trio had the opportunity to do a little swimming today. Donning their dry suits, they set out across the wide open water in an effort to reach the far shore, and continue their mission on towards the Pole. In order to cross the water, the team has to lash two of their sledges together, and float them across, with Charlie riding along on top, using his poles for stability. That’s exactly how they managed to circumnavigate their latest challenge, and within a half hour, they reached the opposite shore, safe and dry.

With their days now clearly numbered, the team will continue moving forward as best they can, collecting ice samples for study as they go. Those samples will be used to research the health of the polar ice caps, and specifically the amount of CO2 in the ice and its impact on that health.

Kraig Becker