The countdown has begun

Published on 11.05.2009 - North Pole 2010 Expedition, The Science and The Team

Now that the ice is melting rapidly in the area around Ward Hunt, the countdown phase for the end of Pen Hadow's expedition has begun in earnest.

According to the expedition's HQ, picking up the team of three will not be easy. NASA satellite images indicate that the condition of the sea-ice in the Arctic has deteriorated to the point where finding an area of ice sufficiently large and flat to accommodate the aircraft to pick up Hadow, Daniels and Hartley will be quite difficult.

The support team reckons the expedition will be over within ten days. From its daily contacts with Ken Borek Airlines, the backup crew has learnt from Resolute Bay that the pick-up will require two Twin Otters, not one. This is because the expedition is too far out on the sea-ice for a single plane to be able to complete the mission alone. So, one Twin Otter will have to carry fuel for the other.

We have also been told that a fuel dump will have to be set up midway between Eureka base and the expedition's location. These barrels of fuel will be needed to complete the operation successfully, with the pilots either picking up fresh fuel on the outward leg or on the return. But in any event, they will require this additional fuel.

Which means that whatever happens, they will need to find two long, flat areas where the ice provides sufficient room for the twin-engined planes to land (350 metres). Which will be no easy task – especially when we go back a few weeks and remember the five days it took the team to find the right spot for the first re-supply run! Or the eight days they were forced to stay in their tent waiting for the weather to improve before the second batch of fresh supplies could be flown in...

It seems that this pick-up operation is likely to take at least two days to complete. More news in a few days' time...

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