London, Jan.14 (ANI): As the countdown to a major scientific survey begins, three polar explorers are undertaking a rigorous programme of final drills and tests in northern Canada to prepare themselves to capture accurate measurements of the thickness of the Arctic Ocean sea ice.
The collected data is likely to help their scientists' team to predict more accurately than ever before how long the Arctic Ocean's floating ice cap will be a year-round global feature.
The ice team, now assembled at Broughton Island in northern Canada, is rehearsing its daily routines and all their equipment in temperatures as low as -30 Celcious.
Leading the Catlin Arctic Survey team is a veteran polar explorer Pen Hadow. Other team members include photographer Martin Hartley and female explorer Ann Daniels.
They are practicing their drills and tasks as well as checking us all the scientific and life-supporting equipment is performing correctly.
The Broughton Island mission is the third and final set of trials for the team and the gear they will use during their three-month expedition to the North Pole, which gets underway next month (February).
During previous trials in November, the team returned with varying degrees of frostnip to their faces and limbs.
Broughton Island is currently in darkness for at least 20 hours per day. Conditions are tough. "You can't see your hand in front of your face, and if your overhead torch goes out, that is it," says Hadow.
The three-member team will set off on a four-day 'training-expedition' on Thursday (January 15) to road-test the complete assembly of expedition gear they will use.
They will have a final chance to test the specially developed surface mounted mobile radar which will make ten million measurements across a 1200 kilometres (750 miles) transect of the sea ice during the expedition itself.
"It's vital we make sure we have tested everything in the extreme conditions of the Arctic winter" says Hadow.
"We also need to be sure we work well as a team, so our daily routines for trekking, eating, science work and so forth have to be practised so we are in the best possible shape when we cross the starting line in late February. After years of preparation, that will be our moment of truth," Hadow added.
During the expedition, the team will be forced to swim large sections of the route - across open water, where the sea ice has already melted.
To prepare for this, Hadow, Hartley and Daniels are taking tips from local Inuit clam-diver Stevie Audlakiak, who has been diving in sub-zero sea-water searching for clams for decades.
To cross open water with all their supplies, the CAS team will don their custom-made immersion suits over the top of their standard polar clothing and attach new floatation devices to their specially-built sledges, converting them into floating vessels. Each team member will then pull their heavily-loaded sledges behind them as they swim.
During the Training Expedition later this week, polar photographer Martin Hartley will use an underwater camera to capture dramatic images of the team swimming in sub-zero temperatures.
He will also use a night-vision camera for video footage of the team crossing the ice in complete darkness.
The Catlin Arctic Survey has been advised by some of the world's leading ice modellers and climatologists including scientists from the US Naval's Department of Oceanography, the NASA ICESat Mission and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.
The data that Hadow and the team will gather will help scientists to more accurately assess the state of the rapidly receding Arctic sea ice in a fragile region already affected by global warming. It is hoped the information will help fill the current gap in existing measurements from remote sensing techniques, such as using satellite.
"Developing the Catlin Arctic Survey over the past four years, has proved the most enormous challenge, breaking ground across a raft of areas of which I previously had no knowledge, as well as working with some of the most intelligent scientists in the world and raising the necessary funds in an uncertain economic climate."
The project, known as the Catlin Arctic Survey, has amassed substantial financial backing for the £3m survey despite the gloom currently surrounding the world economy and has secured support from UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), WWF International and the Royal patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales.
Hadow first visualised the project having returned from the South Pole in 2004 when he became the first Briton to travel to both Poles without receiving resupplies.
Catlin Group Limited, the global specialty insurer and reinsurer, is the main sponsor of Catlin Arctic Survey. (ANI)