Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 Explorers Begin Sea Ice Mission

A team of veteran polar explorers on Sunday began a 500-kilometer [312 mile] trek across the floating sea ice of the Arctic Ocean as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey 2010, an international scientific mission to learn how increased carbon emissions could be affecting the seawater of the Ocean. This is the second year that the Bermuda-based (although headquartered in London) insurance group has sponsored the Arctic Survey.

Before leaving the northern Canadian town of Resolute on Sunday, Explorer Team Leader Ann Daniels commented: “We’re as ready as we’re going to be and eager to get started. Our work is to capture data which scientists would otherwise not be able to get, as it is extremely hard to operate in this environment in the winter.”

The second phase of the survey will begin later today, March15, weather permitting, when a team of research scientists will be flown to a purpose-built ‘Ice Base’ which will become their home for the next 45 days. “The Ice Base – located at 78°45’N 103°30’W on the shore of Ellef Rignes Island, only 750 miles [1200 kms] from the North Geographic Pole – will provide living, dining, research and communications facilities under the supervision of experienced polar guides,” the bulletin explained.

The Explorer Team, which landed successfully on the ice late on Sunday, will begin their scientific work today by heading northwards across the rugged sea ice, measuring its thickness and taking samples of the seawater beneath the ice.

The bulletin described the Survey as a “unique collaboration between explorers and research scientists to gather data in the inhospitable conditions of an Arctic winter. This year’s survey will focus on the potential impact of rising levels of carbon dioxide (‘CO2’) in the Arctic Ocean, including ocean acidification. There is a need for much more information about any changes in the Arctic Ocean, especially as CO2 is more readily absorbed in cold water and could act as a barometer for possible changes in other regions.

“Some scientists believe that, based on current projections, the pH of the world’s oceans could reach levels by 2050 not seen on Earth for 20 million years. If this occurs, there could be serious consequences for marine life in the Arctic and elsewhere.”

Pen Hadow, Director of the Catlin Arctic Survey, noted: “Scientists really want to know more about what is going on in this region of the Ocean, but to operate on the Arctic Ocean in winter is extremely difficult. The Catlin Arctic Survey not only gives scientists a way of working in the Arctic themselves, but the efforts of the Explorer team will also allow data to be obtained far beyond the areas where it is safe for scientists to work.”

“Extremely difficult” is putting it mildly. Catlin’s bulletin indicated that during the Survey, “both teams will be facing temperatures as low as minus-45°C (minus-49°F) with wind-chill factors as bitter as minus-75°C (minus-103°F).

“The academic institutions whose researchers will work from the Ice Base include CNRS-Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Laboratoire Oceanographie (Villefranche); Plymouth Marine Laboratory; Institute of Ocean Science (Fisheries and Oceans Canada); University of Exeter; and Bangor University. An international group of scientists based in Europe, Canada and the United States will be able to use the results of the data gather by the Survey.

During the expedition the team will be sending video, reports and photos to show what it takes to capture data under the extreme condition of the Arctic Ocean. The public can follow the Catlin Arctic Survey at www.catlinarcticsurvey.com.

Source: Catlin Group – www.catlin.com