By the Catlin Arctic Survey team
WWF is supporting the research of the Catlin Arctic Survey. This year’s research includes an expedition across the ice, as well as an ice base, both in the far north of Canada. The main purpose of the mission is to gather data on the changing Arctic Ocean currents.
Read our previous posts here and here, and an article on the WWF Global Arctic Programme website announcing the launch of the 2011 Catlin Arctic Survey here.
After 77 miles in temperatures dipping as low as -42°C, the polar explorers have completed the first phase of their expedition: a speedy 11-day crossing of Prince Gustaf Adolf Sea.
Arriving at the Catlin Ice Base at 7:45pm on Wednesday 23 March, the weary team were welcomed with warming cups of tea and a hearty meal from Ice Base Chef Fran Orio.
Despite the harsh conditions, the team achieved their objectives of this first mission. They captured data on water temperature and salinity levels, they deployed devices to determine the speed and direction of currents flowing beneath their feet and they took daily measurements of snow and ice thickness and depth. This data will be returned to scientists to help determine how climate change is affecting the Arctic Ocean and what impact this will have on the vital currents which distribute heat and nutrients around the world’s oceans.
Speaking from the Ice Base Ann Daniels, co-team leader, said the short but challenging crossing had gathered data on an area of special interest to scientists. Water flows through this area from the Arctic Ocean to the North Atlantic.
“Some of the ice we crossed was really thick multi-year ice that was just too thick to drill through. Our ice drill can drill to four and a half metres and we still weren’t breaking through. In other areas we were able to drop our measuring devices down to 200 metres depth below the floating ice.”
The Explorer Team will return to Resolute to rest and refuel before being redeployed to begin a much longer 300 nautical mile trek from the region of the North Geographic Pole towards Greenland to gather data on the Fram Strait waters flowing beneath the ice.