In 2017 Pen Hadow launched a new programme of scientific research and public engagement expeditions, Arctic Mission, to explore the wildlife and floating ice-reef ecosystem of the international waters* around the North Pole.
The key insight from the voyage was to realise that sea ice is a habitat. Therefore sea-ice loss is habitat loss. Therefore reports about sea-ice loss need to focus less on the geophysical phenomenon of melting sea ice, and far more on the imminent catastrophic loss of a floating ice-reef habitat and ecosystem involving some of the planet’s most iconic species including beluga, narwhal, walrus and polar bear.
In association with the ocean advocacy organisation, 90North Foundation, these expeditions seek to operate annually in the Arctic Ocean until 2032, with two objectives:
Arctic Mission‘s first expedition involved sailing two 50’ yachts into the North Pole’s international waters. In becoming the first vessels in history to do so without the use of icebreakers, the expedition demonstrated the extent of recent summer sea-ice loss … and the resulting accessibility of these waters to commercial shipping, fishing, tourism, and mineral extraction.
The wildlife and ecosystem is stressed by the reduction of its habitat. But we have opportunity to prevent new potentially disastrous stressors by strictly controlling all human activity in the area.
* The international waters (aka high seas) surrounding the North Pole are referred to as the Central Arctic Ocean.