Explorers and Scientists Begin Arctic Expedition

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International research mission to survey ocean change in polar region

Catlin Arctic Survey explorers begin their first expedition on the frozen Arctic Ocean.

The explorers begin their trek across the frozen Arctic Ocean.

The unique collaboration between explorers and scientists makes field research possible despite the inhospitable conditions of an Arctic winter.

The Catlin Arctic Survey confirmed today that its air operation to deploy its team of scientists and explorers had been completed successfully.

The expedition, which is investigating the changing climate of the Arctic, dropped a team of four explorers at 78° 26’ .146 N 109°12' .659 W near Borden Island, Canada to begin a two week trek across the shifting frozen ocean. In a separate series of flights, four scientists and support crew arrived at a seasonal Ice Base offshore from Ellef Ringnes Island, Canada (78°46’ .882 N / 104°43’ .684 W) where they will work for two months.

Chip Cunliffe, Head of Operations for the Catlin Arctic Survey, said: “We had a good window of weather and have been able to use satellite imagery supplied by MDA Geospatial Services Inc. to find the best ice conditions for landing aircraft on the floating sea ice. It took each flight about two and a half hours to reach the landing sites, but our information was accurate and we were able to land them all according to plan.”

Pen Hadow, Catlin Arctic Survey Expedition Director and leading polar explorer, said: “It is the third year that the Catlin Arctic Survey has operated on the Arctic Ocean. The unique collaboration between explorers and scientists makes field research possible despite the inhospitable conditions of an Arctic winter to spring transition.”

“Our focus this year is the vital role the Arctic Ocean plays in driving powerful ocean currents. Scientists need to know more about what is happening in this region of the world, but to gather data late in the Arctic winter is extremely challenging. The Catlin Arctic Survey enables data to be obtained far beyond areas usually accessible for on-the-ice research by sending experienced explorers to collect this information.”

For the explorers, the drop-off marked the start of the first of their two missions across the ocean. During the next two weeks, they will cross the Prince Gustaf Adolf Sea to the expedition’s Ice Base before being redeployed to the region of the North Geographic Pole for a second long trek towards the coast of Greenland, a distance of some 350 miles.

Tyler Fish (USA), Adrian McCallum (Australia), Ann Daniels and Phil Coates (both UK) will take regular scientific measurements to help determine how climate and environmental change may impact the processes which sustain the most significant of these currents: what is known as thermohaline circulation. Such major ocean currents carry heat and nutrients around the world’s oceans, and any change to the conditions influencing the currents could impact climate and weather patterns far from the Arctic. Their route will take them through rubble fields and over thin pans of ice. They are also prepared for days when they will need to swim across open water.

At the expedition’s Ice Base scientists from Canada, the United States and Britain will work on a series of research projects. There is a special focus on the impact of fresher water immediately beneath the floating sea ice, on the sinking of denser salty water to the depths of the ocean, on how CO2 is absorbed by seawater and on the acidification of the Arctic waters.    

During the expedition the teams will face late winter temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius with the wind chill factor often taking temperatures far lower.

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Rod Macrae
Catlin Arctic Survey
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Rod Macrae
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