Minor technological setbacks…

Published on 21.04.2009 - Catlin Arctic Survey

Expedition HQ has announced that the group may not make it all the way to the Pole on account of a few minor problems encountered with the scientific equipment being used to carry out measurements and readings on the ice.

This expedition stated from the outset that its main aim was to conduct a whole series of scientific measurements throughout the trip. This statement has turned out to be a wise precaution, because things are not going too well at the moment for Pen Hadow's expedition. First of all, their progress across the ice has been hampered badly by the uneven and chaotic condition of the ice everywhere. Added to that, a number of sophisticated measuring devices have failed, despite the fact they were tested carefully before the expedition set out.

It all began when "Sprite", the radar device that measures the thickness of the ice, and its little computer were the first to let the explorers down. Then it was the turn of "SeaCat", which is a machine that measures the characteristics of the column of water beneath the sea-ice. This particular device is scheduled to be replaced when the next re-supply takes place, although this does not appear to be the case for the Sprite radar.

As a result, because these scientific experiments are so important as part of this adventure, Pen Hadow is having to spend at least three hours each day drilling a hole manually in the ice to measure its thickness. This usually takes place at night in the tent. Ann does the drilling and Martin sets up all of his cameras.

It should be noted that these problems don't affect the actual readings being taken. Expedition HQ tells us that over 1 100 measurements have already been taken since the group set out. These readings cover the depth of the snow, its density and temperature, the thickness of the ice, topographical observations in areas where the ice is all overlapping and jumbled, leads of open water, ice floes moving with the current, etc.

Another effect of this is that as Pen Hadow is spending far more time than scheduled measuring the thickness of the sea-ice, they will doubtless have to review their plans for the expedition and possibly decide not to go as far as the North Pole on this occasion.

Having said that, the expedition has just published the results of its readings taken over the first three weeks of the journey. One example of the figures is that the average thickness of the sea-ice taken during the first weeks was 1.77 metres. Researchers and other specialists will probably conclude that this confirms that the Arctic ice has become younger in this area of the pack-ice over the past few years.

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