Ann Daniels: “It’s absolutely ghastly…”

Published on 30.03.2010 - Catlin Arctic Survey - 2

While the expedition's scientists at the fixed base are getting on with their work, the trio that's heading north is experiencing days that are no longer difficult, but "ghastly..."

It's a question of the drift, always this god-forsaken drift that's the bane of expeditions at this time of year. In fact, the initiator of this entire project, Pen Hadow, has calculated, on the basis of the information that his north-bound team has given him each evening, that during the first nine days of the expedition, Ann Daniels and her two buddies would have gone backwards by... 42 kilometres!

"I've never seen anything like it in 19 years of polar expeditions", Martin Hartley, the photographer, affirmed. "The interstitial waters have become veritable king-size lakes, which at night are covered by a fine film of ice that has to be negotiated with the utmost care. And there are channels, for their part, just about everywhere, going off in all directions. They too are covered by a thin film of ice. I really wonder what's happened to the old ice that we used to encounter at such latitudes. Is this an obvious and spectacular sign of what's awaiting the Arctic pack ice in its irremediable melting with the passing of years and global warming? ..."

On 28 March, Ann wrote that they had experienced the worst day since their departure. First, it was bitterly cold (-30°C), then of course the wind, which was blowing at more than 70kph, with wind-chill of course, and then a succession of chaotic ice areas that is seldom seen, with blocks more than 15 metres high, congestions in the middle of which they were constantly at risk of breaking a ski or a ski stick and through which they could advance at only 0.1kph, and which concealed fragile snow bridges, below which the water of the ocean, 4,000 metres deep, was raging. Not to mention the traces of polar bears that were looking for seals and which they frequently came across on that particular day, as if one of the animals was following them...

Despite all that, the trio's morale is sky-high. They covered 9km on that day, nevertheless. This was their position on the evening of 28 March: 85° 49' 38" N / 78° 47' 46" W.

As for the scientists, they're getting on with their research work. They have harvested plankton down to a depth of 200 metres. They have deployed the ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler), a kind of sonar device that measures the speed and direction of the ocean's currents. They are also getting ready for the shift that will soon be taking place at the base. Because some of the people of this transitory station are soon going to be relieved by some newcomers.

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