Cracking Sounds All Over!

Published on 03.06.2007 - The Arctic Arc

Although Saturday was one of the most extenuating days of the expedition, Dixie and Alain walked for ten hours and progressed 15 kilometres.

Is the Arctic beginning to yield to the determination of our two comrades? We shall of course never know for sure. However, last Saturday, they had a sign: even though the terrain on which Hubert and Dansercoer were progressing that day was the worst they had ever seen until here, a bright sun came to help them nearly all day long. "It is clear", said Hubert by satellite telephone, "that if it were not for the beautiful sunshine, we would only have progressed two or three kilometres at most. But we managed 15 even though we spent the day in the middle of scattered blocks of ice, crossing difficult ridges and open water leads. It was again a living hell..."

A small effort

Even though we have been following –very closely- this adventure ever since its beginning, it is still quite difficult for us humans to realise exactly what these two beasts of courage are living. But let's try anyway. We have already seen various pictures of the fallen ice masses that sprinkle the sea ice and across which they must clear a pathway – that's already quite a program! But concerning small open-water leads, we have not seen very many yet. However, Saturday, they started to count quite a few. "If we didn't cross 300 of them, we did not cross any of them at all", said Hubert.

But what are they exactly? They are small streams like those we often see in our forests and which we call rivulets – except that in this case, their banks are of course made up of ice. Their width is between 1 and 5 metres, and their depth is somewhere between 80 and 90 cm. At the bottom of these mini depressions, the Arctic Ocean is made up of black water. Of course, as such, they are not very dangerous – they just need to be well negotiated. But when the leads are narrow and that it is heavily snowing (such as it has been the case this last spring), the snow can easily form an ice bridge in just hours, hiding the lead beneath it.

To finish off this landscape

So let's imagine them walking... As long as the ski pole is placed beyond the lead (this is possible if the lead is narrow), one can easily see a foot stepping upon the fragile surface and, suddenly, without realizing the danger, falling through the ice with incredible speed. He falls or is at the least caught unbalanced, but the risk of twisting or breaking a body member is also there. Dixie and Alain do not talk about it much; but both are suffering from bruises and from the beginning of tendonitis from repeating too often the same movement in crossing these difficult leads.

This is, without mentioning the sledge's reaction (the « beast » as Alain calls it) which, to add a bit of spice to the adventure, must of course always surprise people. To conclude this landscape, make a last effort of imagination and multiply the scenario which we have just lived by three hundred, in a single day. This is what last Saturday was like. Now we have dipped into the suffering of their world.

Let's now take a moment to draw back from it all. They are approaching the coast, we have seen satellite pictures showing huge zones of ice breaking up near the coast and spreading towards the trajectory of the expedition, Alain tells us that these small leads are getting more numerous (300 on Saturday) and that the temperatures are getting warmer... With the result of this equation right in front of them, it is best to keep our fingers crossed wishing the best over the next few days and hoping they do not have to start an impossible race against the clock.

The wesite of the day

The article we have chosen today was published in the Sunday Metro, a popular British newspaper. By chosing this publication, we wanted to stress that Arctic climate change is now a hot topic, not only in the scientific press, but also in popular newspapers.

The article is entitled "Melting Arctic ice at 'tipping point". The journalist wrote amongst other things that each year, the Arctic sea ice looses an ice surface of around 70 000 km2. If this continues, this process will have dramatically bad consequences for the entire global climate.

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