Catlin Arctic Survey 2011: Heading Home!

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The 2011 Arctic Season, what little there was of it, is quickly grinding to a halt, as the Barneo Ice Station closes for another year, and several last minute expeditions had to be scrubbed. As anyone who follows these polar adventures know, this was a particularly strange and challenging year, with no one making the full journey to the North Pole. But the severe, and at times odd, weather conditions didn’t prevent the Catlin Arctic Survey teams from doing their job for a third straight year.

For the past two months, the survey teams have labored away in the Arctic. One of those teams stayed at an ice base that was constructed specifically for the project, while the other team traveled by skis from the North Pole to Greenland. Both teams spent time collecting important data on how climate change is affecting the Arctic and the healthy of the ice there. That data will be used in research that will potentially give us insights into how changes at the North Pole can have an effect in Europe and North America as well.

According to their latest blog post, the Catlin Arctic Survey team is now packing up their gear and preparing to head home. The scientists and researchers at the Ice Base expect to be evacuated from the ice this weekend, provided the weather cooperates. With most of their work done, and their ice core samples and other data packed away, the group took time out to celebrate the Royal Wedding today.

Meanwhile, the Explorers team doesn’t quite have it so nice. Over the past few days, they’ve been struggling with finding a route towards their final destination, and as they go, they’re encountering more and more open leads, that is to say, large sections of open water. That has required them to don their immersion suits, climb into the frigid waters, a swim across the water, pulling their gear in inflatable rafts behind them. As you can imagine, this is a time consuming, and tiring, process that has left them physically drained at this stage of the expedition.

Despite the conditions, which have included nasty weather and total whiteouts, the team remains strong and focused, with good spirits. They’re still heading south of course, and hope to reach their destination soon.

Kraig Becker

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