The mystery of the yellow bean…

Published on 14.04.2009 - Catlin Arctic Survey

Pen Hadow had never seen anything like it in his entire career as a polar explorer. A yellow stain, the size of a big fat bean, trapped in the ice...

And yet he didn't even write his update on 1st April! It was in fact on 14th April that the expedition HQ related the anecdote. It all had to do with something Pen Hadow came across as he made his way over the ice. Trapped in a block of ice, over a metre from the ground, he saw what looked like a yellow stain of the size and shape of a nice fat yellow bean. In fact, he saw it twice on the same day. "I have never seen anything like it on any of my previous expeditions," Hadow told the people back at HQ. "It was really disconcerting. What I saw looked like a shiny jewel, concealed beneath a layer of ice, unobtainable..."

To begin with, Hadow thought he might be looking at some sort of animal urine. But he doesn't think that is possible, because the stain was too shiny. Also, because of where it was lodged in the ice (at the top of an ice block), it was impossible for it to have been left there by an animal. To try and solve the riddle, Pen asked his photographer Martin Hartley to take a few photos of it so that specialist sea-ice biologists can see the oddity for themselves and decide what it might be.

Meanwhile, back on the ice, the expedition was resupplied successfully on 8th April. The person writing the updates took advantage of the opportunity to explain that for Twin Otters to land safely on the sea-ice, there has to be a flat landing strip at least 305 metres long, 12 metres wide and at least 60 centimetres thick. The team is due to be resupplied another two times before it reaches the Pole.

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