Crew lands on frozen ocean to begin building seasonal Ice Base: Is this the coldest building site on Earth?

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Four operations crew and a mountain load of equipped have now been deployed to ice off the western coast of Ellef Ringnes Island on the edge of the Arctic Ocean to begin building the Catlin Ice Base.

Erecting a tent in the Arctic (c) Martin Hartley/Catlin Arctic Survey

“They are probably on the coldest building site on Earth! Pitching a tent outside is quite a challenge when you’re wearing thick gloves - try tying a knot with mitts on!

Four operations crew and a mountain load of equipped have now been deployed to ice off the western coast of Ellef Ringnes Island on the edge of the Arctic Ocean to begin building the Catlin Ice Base.

Using four Twin Otter flights, all the kit and equipment needed to build the tented facility were safely landed at the makeshift air strip at 78°46’ N 104°43’W

The location was identified using satellite imagery and, after a reconnaissance flight, the air lift operation began yesterday morning.

The team is already making a start on building the camp ready to house a community of scientists and staff who will live there for two months. Ice Base manager Simon Garrod, Ice Base Guide Carolyn Bailey, Field Operations Manager Ian Wesley and scientist Helen Findlay were deployed onto the ice to set up camp.

Expedition manager Kai Schiefelbein knows how challenging this will be for the crew, having set up, checked and, if necessary, repaired 19 tents earlier in the week in -30 degrees in Resolute Bay.

Kai said: “They are probably on the coldest building site on Earth! Pitching a tent outside is quite a challenge when you’re wearing thick gloves - try tying a knot with mitts on! Well, you can’t. You have to take your gloves off to do it and quickly put them on again before the tips of your fingers freeze. And of course you’ve got to be careful not to touch bare skin against cold metal because it can stick to it. The plan is to get your hands back into warm mitts in less than 20 seconds!”

Back at base in Resolute Bay, the rest of the Ice Base scientists and the expedition’s Explorer Team are in the final throes of training, preparation and packing. Weather permitting, both the explorers and scientists hope to depart for the start of their two-month scientific expedition this Saturday.

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Rod Macrae
Catlin Arctic Survey
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