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Swimming to the North Pole in 2009

Pen Hadow to measure retreating Arctic ice - Times Online

Pen Hadow, the explorer, is to embark on a 700-mile expedition to the North Pole to measure the thickness of the shrinking Arctic icecap.

The information will be used to refine computer models of the impact of climate change...

Hadow will set out in February from the Canadian side of the Arctic. The short days mean much of the trip will be undertaken in darkness in temperatures as low as -50C, while the break-up of the icecap means the team will have to put on immersion suits and swim. Hadow said: “Hitherto our skills and experience have been largely socially redundant, but now we have the chance to deploy them for the benefit of everyone.”

In February/ March there will be about 13 to 14 million square km of ice in the arctic, if you can't find it so you have to swim then you are worse than socially redundant. And if you think a a survey that will cover one millionth? of that area is of any use other than as a agitprop stunt then matron really should make you stick to the basket weaving.

Comments

This annual event will probably end the same as last year's - which was turned back when it encountered, in contradiction of its expectations, ice...

Those two silly women who, a couple of years ago, set off for the North Pole in high heels and skimpy tops (or something like that) have much to answer for.

They were rescued after a few days suffering from frostbite and hypothermia, but established the principle that this sort of gesture environmentalism produces headlines and funding.

I nearly worked for Mr Hadow a while ago for some building work he was having done. I never actually met him, nor did the architect concerend but dealt with his wife. He described her in such terms that we both understodd why someone would want to spend so much time away from home in cold & freezing conditions! Enough said.

Funnily enough, sea ice is seasonal. Therefore if you wish to measure it's break-up during the spring, you'll have to be prepared to swim between sheets and floes. It's not a matter of finding the ice. That's easy, it's just a matter of traversing narrow, but nevertheless open areas of water without a helicopter (which requires constant refuelling, stable places to land, etc).
As for extent, satellites can map ice movements easily. We have shedloads of data on that. What they can't measure easily is ice thickness. That requires in-situ, point measurements. There are techniques to assess thickness with satellite imagery, but it is (a) primitive, and (b) requires in-situ measurements to calibrate the model against.
A transect across the Arctic may not cover a lot of area (just a line of points), but it will give a great cross-section, which is more than we have now.

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