Catlin Arctic Survey: Past 89º, Still Heading North

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While the Arctic Season is over and done with for the most part, the intrepid trio that make up the Catlin Arctic Survey’s Explorers Team are still out on the ice and still heading towards the North Pole, even as they face more negative drift, wide open leads, and a race against the clock.

Yesterday was a very long, and tiring day, for the already exhausted team. Team leader Ann Daniels, along with polar explorers Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton covered more than 12 miles, only to give more than a mile and half back over night, thanks to negative drift. As of their last recorded position, the team was sitting at 89.29ºN, butting them so close to the Pole they can almost taste it, but with still quite a few miles to cover before they are done.

The team has now been out on the ice for nearly two months, and that has begun to take a physical and psychological toll. There is no doubt that they are all very tired, but remain committed to reaching the top of the world before they go home. In their latest report, the team talks about the caloric imbalance they’ve had to deal with while out on the ice. It is estimated that they are burning somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 calories per day, but are living on about 6000 calories per day. Over the course of their journey that means a significant loss of weight and energy, while they battle to stay focused and on target with their goals. The update also says that they could end up losing as much as 10% of their body weight and have essentially zero fat when they have completed the expedition.

Meanwhile, despite all of that, and the long days out on the ice, the team has not lost sight of their mission. In addition to reaching the North Pole, they still continue to collect ice samples which will be scrutinized closely upon their return to examine the levels of Carbon Dioxide present in the Arctic Ocean as part of a larger effort to determine how global climate change is effecting the polar ice caps. This is something that the Ice Base Team, the second arm of the survey, was working on before they closed up shop and went home for the season.

Speaking of which, it now appears that the Explorers will continue on to the North Pole no matter what. They’ll be retrieved from the ice once they complete their journey, but it is now getting very late in the Arctic Season, and the ice is breaking up significantly at this point. Hopefully that will not have an impact on the ability for a rescue plane to come get them once they are at 90ºN. If they keep going at their present speed, they should reach that point in a matter of days.

Kraig Becker