In what has become an annual rite of spring, the 2011 Catlin Arctic Survey is preparing to get underway once again this year, but like the other teams waiting to head into the north polar regions, the weather is already adding challenges to the team's plans.
Over the past couple of Arctic seasons, the Catlin Arctic Survey teams have explored the polar icecaps, taking core samples from the ice and measuring the amount of CO2 in the Arctic Ocean. Last year, there were actually two teams out on the ice, one that made the long trek to the North Pole and another consisting of scientists, educators, and researchers that stayed at a stationary base to conduct experiments and take various atmospheric readings. This year's teams will have a similar approach, with one team of explorers making a journey from the North Pole south towards Greenland, while the other will establish an "Ice Base" aboard a ship that will be heading across the Prince Gustav Sea. The focus of their research this year will be on the surface layers of the Arctic Ocean, and the impact that they are having on the climate in North America and Europe.
The 10-week long expedition will get underway soon and is expected to extend into May. The first members of the team were actually on their way into Resolute Bay in Canada earlier this week, and were preparing to touch down at the tiny airport there, when severe winds caused the pilot to scrub the landing and fly back to Pond Inlet, 358 miles away. They stayed there overnight before finally catching another flight into Resolute, where they are currently hoping to get out on the ice this weekend, provided the weather cooperates. It is said to be in the neighborhood of -40ºF/C there at the moment, with plenty of wind and blowing snow as well.
The Catlin Arctic Survey is a unique combination of exploration, adventure, and scientific research on some very important environmental questions. The past few years the survey teams have been fascinating to follow, and I expect that this year will be much the same. Stay tuned for plenty updates on this one too!
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