British explorer to measure shrinking North Pole

12th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

A British explorer sets off on an expedition to the North Pole to measure the thickness of the melting ice cap to help scientists predict the length of time before it disappears.

LONDON – A British explorer set out Wednesday on an expedition to the North Pole to measure the thickness of the melting ice cap in a bid to help scientists predict the length of time before it disappears.

Pen Hadow and teammates Martin Hartley and Ann Daniels left London for northern Canada, where they will assemble their kit before taking another flight to the Arctic for the start of their mission on 27 February.

Braving temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius, the team will make a three-month, 1,100-kilometre (680-mile) journey to the North Pole dragging SPRITE, a radar which measures the thickness of ice every 10 centimetres throughout the trip.

The radar readings will be fed back to Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in the US, who hopes to build a body of evidence that will help predict how long the polar ice cap will last.

Scientists disagree about how long it will be before the Arctic Ocean ice completely melts.

But according to the Catlin Arctic Survey project, some fear that the ice is melting so fast that there will be no permanent body of it there during the summer months by 2013.

Consequences include the warming of the ocean as it absorbs solar energy that was previously reflected back into space by the ice cap, as well as huge changes to the eco-system, including to the habitat of polar bears.

Hadow, 46, is the only person to have trekked solo and unsupported from Canada to the North Pole, but he admitted to reporters last month that his latest expedition was his most daunting yet.

"We cannot afford to fail on this mission - there is too much at stake," he said. "As a matter of honour, we will gather as much data as we can."

[AFP / Expatica]

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