Arctic Explorers Lifted Up and Away After Days of Searching For Safe Landing

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Explorers end their scientific mission after successfully hunting for a safe landing strip amidst rubble fields and thin ice.

The explorers on the Arctic Ocean

Hauling sledges across the Arctic Ocean

While I initially became stronger and fitter during the expedition, towards the end my body began to weaken and I’d end every day that bit more tired.”

The Catlin Arctic Survey today extracted its team of explorers from the Arctic Ocean after they spent the expedition’s final three days navigating through broken, jumbled ice in search of a suitable place for a plane to land and collect them. The team of four had been out on the frozen ocean for 47 days on a two-stage expedition undertaking scientific work across 308 miles (500 kilometres).

The explorers called in the flight after locating a landing strip in an area where suitable thicker, flat, unbroken ice had proved elusive. Co-leader Ann Daniels said, “It's always a challenge locating flat ice at the end of an exhausting expedition. But we did it! Our runway had to be an area of flat ice at least 300 metres long by 15 metres wide and at least 76 centimetres thick. Eventually we found just what we had hoped for.”

“I was feeling the pressure as May 2nd was our last day of full rations and the thought of starting to eke out the remaining food wasn’t appealing. As it turned out, we had to stretch our supplies over two more days.”

The four polar explorers from the UK, US and Australia were picked up from the Arctic Ocean (86° 23’ .45 N 94° 47’ .00 W) at 2045 hrs GMT [1645 EST] on May 4th. They were flown to a remote high Arctic weather station at Eureka before continuing their journey to Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, arriving early this morning.

The team, part of the Catlin Arctic Survey’s third scientific expedition, gathered crucial data along their route for scientists studying the fast-changing state of the ice.
Tim Cullingford, head of Science for the Survey, said: “The work the explorers have been doing is about as tough as field science gets. After a whole day of trekking in the severe cold they have had to do several hours of science, drilling through the ice to create a sample hole and lowering a number of scientific instruments into the waters beneath.”

The results of their efforts will be analysed by Dr. Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). The explorers’ work is part of a wider research programme completed by the Catlin Arctic Survey this year. The Survey also included a purpose-built field research station which hosted an international team of seven scientists. The expedition’s Catlin Ice Base was located on floating sea ice on the edge of the Arctic Ocean off Ellef Ringnes Island.

The explorers are now looking forward to some recuperation time after their exhausting trek. Explorer and expedition filmmaker Phil Coates said: “It’s really punishing, unrelenting work. Towards the end of the expedition, after eating more than 6,000 calories each day, I still found myself scrabbling around in the bottom of my bag for any leftover nuts just to satisfy my hunger. While I initially became stronger and fitter during the expedition, towards the end my body began to weaken and I’d end every day that bit more tired.”

Initial scientific observations from the research expedition will be available soon. Full findings will be published after more detailed post expedition analysis is completed.

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Rod Macrae
Catlin Arctic Survey
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