More than two weeks before the scheduled end of the insurance company sponsored Catlin Arctic Survey the trio of explorers are resting comfortably in Resolute, a small hamlet in the Nunavut province in northern Canada. In an attempt to call attention to global warming and to secure a climate accord in Copenhagen this December, arctic explorer Pen Hadow teamed up with Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley to embark on a 100 day mission to measure how fast the arctic sea-ice was melting by hiking to the North Pole.
During the early stages of their trek across the arctic sea-ice they endured biting cold temperatures of lower than -50°F, rendering state-of-the-art ice measuring equipment, such as the SPRITE, useless as the wiring became brittle and snapped like dry twigs. The extreme cold also caused members of the team to suffer bouts of hypothermia and frostbite, which compounded the fact that it was too cold to fly in supplies.
As the sun climbed higher in the arctic sky through April and temperatures warmed, though still remaining below zero, massive blizzards would sweep across the landscape. Once again the team would be forced to hunker down and ration food supplies as it became too dangerous to fly in resupplies to the team due to zero visibility in heavy snow.
Despite all the set backs, all the fights for survival, all the climbs over pressure ridges and the one and only swim across a lead, this expedition has some how become new poster child of global warming. Environmental groups have claimed the Survey to be one of the greatest pioneering efforts to call attention to climate change in the Arctic, but why?
The team failed not only to make it to the North Pole, their intended destination, but failed to reach the halfway point. Temperatures encountered on the mission ran below normal during most of the time, the extreme cold was punctuated only by intense blizzards.
“It’s mostly first year ice”, the team exclaimed, seemingly mystified by the lack of multi-year ice. Truth be told, satellite data beforehand showed their route as consisting of mostly first year ice so what’s so astonishing? Considering they couldn’t make it to the field of multi-year ice which lie in wait past the halfway point to the pole it comes as no surprise that they hardly found any. Traveling across what were once leads later frozen would help to ensure that caveat as well.
Discussed previously was this teams’ questionable supporters, radical environmental groups with political agendas; their sentiment for this mission, “to secure a solution" in Copenhagen; and their funding sponsor, Catlin, an insurance company in the market to profit from global warming. Now that they’re off the ice and the ‘data’ has been collected one still must consider their motives and question the statements coming from this group.
For example, upon reaching Resolute the expedition leader, and most vocal member regarding climate change, Pen Hadow, said that the teams’ decision to end their mission was due to “an earlier than expected start to the summer melt season”. One must wonder how Pen didn’t come to the same conclusion in 2003 during his solo mission to the North Pole when sea-ice extent was over a quarter million square kilometers less than the same date this year.
This misinformation will undoubtedly spur on more dire predictions of how soon it will be until ice in the Arctic completely melts away. The latest coming within hours of the team being plucked from the ice, "By 2013, we will see a much smaller area in summertime than now; and certainly by about 2020, I can imagine that only one area will remain in summer." Or so says Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at the University of Cambridge.
Meanwhile, readers can continue to watch the latest ice extent data in the “2009 Arctic sea-ice watch” located on this page. Currently, this date in 2009 places highest in extent over the time period covered over the previous 7 years, as seen below.