The Bermuda-based Catlin Group Limited announced that a team of three British explorers has commenced a vital scientific expedition to the North Geographic Pole. They hope to help establish how long the sea ice floating in the Arctic Ocean will remain a permanent feature of the planet.
“The Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Team arrived at a point on the permanent floating Arctic Sea ice (81.5 degrees North, 130 degrees West) at approximately 11.30pm GMT on Saturday,” said the bulletin. “The team was dropped by Twin Otter aircraft some 1,075 kilometers [app. 672 miles] from northern Canada after a 7½-hour flight.”
Catlin Group is the title sponsor of the Catlin Arctic Survey.
Chief Executive Stephen Catlin stated: “I would like to congratulate the entire Catlin Arctic Survey team both the polar explorers and their back-up staff on the successful start of the expedition. We wish them the best of luck on their journey. It has taken many months of detailed planning to get to this point. I am looking forward to following the expedition, both in terms of the human adventure involved as well as the important scientific findings that we believe the survey will produce regarding the impact of climate change on the Arctic environment.”
The bulletin explained that, “during the 90-day expedition, the Ice Team Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and photographer Martin Hartley will be assessing the state of the ice by taking a series of survey measurements to help scientists get a clearer understanding of the future of the Arctic Ocean s floating ice. The ice is known to have been shrinking rapidly in size, but there are fears that it is also thinning.”
The survey team is well equipped with “pioneering ice-penetrating radar and highly sophisticated communications equipment.” They will make “millions of measurements of the thickness of the remaining ice during their three-month journey, assessing its density and the depth of the overlying snow, as well as taking weather and sea temperature readings. The data will be transmitted to the survey s operational headquarters in real time.”
After their arrival the three scientists hiked 3 kilometers (1.875 miles), set up their camp, and began taking measurements. Although that doesn’t sound particularly difficult, Catlin’s bulletin notes that daytime “temperatures are currently -40ºC (-40Fº).” It didn’t specify how cold it gets at night.
Catlin also pointed out that in 2003 Hadow “became the first person to trek solo and unsupported without any resupplies from northern Canada to the North Pole.” He indicated that this mission is fundamentally different from past adventure-oriented expeditions in which he has participated. “I think this time does feel different. We’re only doing this because there is such an urgent need for more data about the permanent floating sea ice,” he stated. “If, as scientists tell us, the ice is thinning quickly, then it should set alarm bells ringing around the world. Assuming we can get the job done, then it will be up to the experts to interpret it. Personally I’d say the loss of such a magnificent, but precarious, feature on the surface of the planet would be a tragedy.”
The Catlin Arctic Survey s science partners include the US Navy Postgraduate Naval School in Monterey, California, where Professor Wieslaw Maslowski will be using the data collected by the explorers to support his modeling of the Arctic Ocean sea ice. His current model projections suggest that the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in summer as early as 2013.
The findings will be taken to the national negotiating teams working to replace the Kyoto Protocol agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The expedition will be a difficult one. Catlin noted that “during the trek the three explorers face the hazards of polar bear attacks, steep ice ridges and a constant danger of falling through the thinnest ice. Each of them is hauling a sledge weighing up to 120 kilos [265 lbs.]. They will ski most of the way, but face swimming for up to 150 hours between floes, where the ice has broken up or is too thin.
“The Ice Team will be re-supplied every 20-25 days on their mission and will be using state-of-the art satellite communications to send photos, video and data directly from the ice. The team’s progress can be followed during the expedition on www.catlinarcticsurvey.com. The explorers aim to reach the North Geographic Pole in late May or early June.”
IJ Ed. Note: While some skeptics continue to argue that global warming doesn’t exist, Catlin’s sponsorship of this expedition underscores the insurance industry’s concerns that climate change will increasingly affect global weather and sea levels with potentially catastrophic consequences. Science is based on gathering and analyzing data in order to be able to analyze what’s happening in the present and to project what may happen in the future. Whatever conclusions are drawn from the survey team’s efforts, the most important findings will be the additional knowledge of the vast arctic ice sheet gained from their efforts. Ultimately this will benefit all mankind, as well as the insurance industry.
Source: Catlin Group – www.catlin.com
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