A ‘world first’ expedition
Jock and his crew are aiming to be the first adventurers to row all the way to the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole. Their expedition has only been made possible in recent times due to the decreasing size of Arctic ice sheets, as until only a few years ago it was frozen year-round.
Along the way, the expedition will also serve to provide scientific insight into the Arctic’s changing landscape and how the human body deals with these extreme temperatures.
The vanishing ice of the Arctic
This once ice locked destination is going through rapid change as Global warming brings a great thaw to the region. As the glaciers recede and the area covered by sea ice shrinks each year, greater expanses of open water are created.
Scientists have been able to record this ice decline using Satellite imagery. Each year they measure the span and thickness of the remaining sea ice at the end of summer. During the last four summers, Scientists have reported the four lowest minimum ice extents since records began (www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/seaice). The sea ice that does remain also continues to thin, making it increasingly vulnerable to further changes.
Whilst scientific projections vary, there is a real possibility that the Arctic Ocean could be entirely ice free in summer within thirty years.
A chance for gathering ‘world first’ data
The extreme weather conditions and its remoteness make field research in the Arctic difficult, so chances to gather data are relatively rare. That is why The Old Pulteney Row To The Pole voyage provides a vital opportunity to conduct much needed research.
David Mans, one of the crew, is an oceanographer and he will be leading the science programme to capture data on the open water crossed during the expedition. This will be first data captured from these waters and will provide a base line for all future studies.
Using specialist equipment, David will be measuring the salinity and temperature of the water at different depths. This data will then be sent to the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton where it will help researchers piece together a more detailed picture of the changing Arctic.
Once processed, the data will be useful for modellers seeking to project the pace and pattern of changes which are likely to occur in the future: not only in the Arctic, but in other parts of the world.
How the research will be undertaken?
- Data will be collected every 10 nautical miles throughout the voyage.
- A small probe, is lowered into the water down to a depth of 50 metres
- The probe will be lowered over the side around 8 times a day
- The probe will measure the conductivity, temperature and depth levels of the water
- The probe’s readings will be recorded along with the exact location from the vessel’s GPS system at each sampling position
- Boat GPS system accurately
records the location.
- The probe is lowered over the side of the boat
on a line released from a drum.
- As the probe descends it measures the conductance of the water,
indicating salinity and records the water temperature at each depth.
- The probe can take measurements every few metres
down to 50 metres or more.
With temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Centigrade, this will be hard and sometimes painful work to undertake as wet equipment in these temperatures can quickly freeze over.
The harsh environment faced by the Old Pulteney Row To The Pole crew is also providing research opportunities for those investigating the effects of freezing temperatures on the human body.
Even without the exertions of rowing for long periods of time, the crew need to consume huge amounts of calories in order to retain core body temperature.
Throughout the expedition the team will have their physical conditions measured. This physiological information obtained by using bio markers will then to be used to enhance our knowledge of coping with extreme cold.