Arctic Survey is a pioneering international research endeavour, involving a collaboration between scientists and explorers, whose inaugural sponsor was Catlin Group 2009-11. Catlin Arctic Survey investigated the rates, causes and global consequences of the unexpectedly rapid environmental changes taking place in the Arctic Ocean region. The vision for Arctic Survey was created and driven by Pen Hadow, working annually with a remarkable 50-strong project team of dedicated explorers and guides, scientists, pilots, logisticians, project managers and marketing-communications experts.
In 2009, the work, in association with the University of Cambridge, focused on the rapidly diminishing volume of sea ice, and involved an Explorer Team led by Pen Hadow. It covered over 400km in 70 days in the northern Beaufort Sea area. The team measured the thickness of the sea ice and its covering layer of snow. It led to Prof Peter Wadhams (Dept of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics) announcing the data collected supported the emerging thinking that the ocean may be ice free in the summer-times by as soon as 2029. Pen Hadow and his fellow sledgers (Ann Daniels & Martin Hartley) were declared ‘Heroes of the Environment’ by TIME magazine. The sponsorship was also nominated by the European Sponsorship Association for ‘Sponsorship of the Year’. The endeavour won the World Technology (Environment) Award in New York.
In 2010 and 2011, it involved two complementary research operations: Ice Base; and Explorer Team. The research theme in 2010 was ‘ocean acidification’; and in 2011, ‘ocean circulation’.
Ice Base was a unique research base facility for scientists, located on the sea ice on the edge of the Arctic Ocean – off Ellef Ringnes Island in the Canadian high Arctic archipelago of the Queen Elizabeth Islands. It enabled x5 scientists to undertake fieldwork over 10 weeks in the key Winter-Spring transition period, supported by polar guides and camp staff. Researchers came from Canada, UK, France, and the US.
Explorer Team involved a team of 3-4 professional polar explorers, undertaking 2-3 month 300-450km treks on skis, hauling sledges with equipment and supplies. These extreme long range scientific surveys made observations and collected samples linked to the work of the Ice Base and/or other research teams.
The primary outputs are the results/papers expected to be published in scientific journals by the end of 2015. Secondary outputs included the four TV documentaries broadcast globally, and the coverage of the science and associated environmental issues by over 80 TV news networks and 300 international newspaper titles in over 90 countries, and the reports featuring on approximately 1,000 online news sites.
Tetley South Pole Mission – in Support of the Royal Geographical Society (2 Dec 2003 – 28 Jan 2004) – New Route
Pen Hadow is the first – and still only – person in history to have trekked solo and without resupply from Canada to the North Geographic Pole. He is also the first – and only – Briton to have trekked to both the North and South Geographic Poles without resupply – feats which he achieved within a 12-month period.
Completed the Tetley South Pole Mission, a 680-mile (1,200km) trek to the South Geographic Pole, making Pen the first (and only) Briton to trek, without resupply, to both the North and South Poles. On 2 December 2003 Pen and British businessman Simon Murray set off to test the viability of a new route (a variation to the classic ‘Hercules Inlet’ route which lies 50 miles to the west), from sea level up to the South Geographic Pole at 9,301ft, hauling sledges initially weighing 28 stone (180kg) including filming equipment, in temperatures which reduced from -10 °C at the outset to -40°C at the Pole.
On 28 January 2004, at 63 years old, Simon became the oldest person by a decade to have trekked from the continental edge of Antarctica to the South Pole. The 58-day ice odyssey raised over £280,000 to help restore and digitally catalogue the most important items within the Royal Geographical Society’s internationally significant polar heritage collection. Selected items from the collection are now accessible to the public via the internet or can be visited at the Society’s new public-access facilities at its headquarters in London.
The Omega Foundation Solo North Pole (17 March-19 May, 2003) – World First
Pen became the first (and still only) person to trek the 478 miles (770km) from the north coast of Canada, across the moving, melting, crumpled sea ice surface of the Arctic Ocean, to the North Geographic Pole, solo and without resupply.
He began what explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has described as ‘one of the last great endurance challenges on Earth’ at midday on 17 March, and reached his goal, the North Geographic Pole at 09.54 GMT on Monday, 19 May. Others have likened the feat to climbing Everest – solo and without oxygen.
Along the way he saw no living thing, save a couple of ringed seals, a seal carcass left by a polar bear, and a small bird – a snow bunting.
The expedition was funded by an American educational trust – The Omega Foundation. This is a private charitable foundation dedicated to promoting scientific research, education, and environmental protection, primarily in the world’s high altitude and high latitude regions.
At the start of the expedition, Pen was hauling a sledge weighing 19 stone 7 lbs (125kg), filled with all his supplies and equipment, on average for 11 hours a day over chaotic jumbles of ice 1-4 metres high. Sometimes, in the opening 20 days, the most he could achieve was just one mile (2km) in a day.
Three-quarters of the way to the Pole, he lost a ski when he broke through thin ice and fell up to his neck into the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, and he was then forced to trek the final 150miles on foot.
Pen accomplished his feat in just 64 days – more quickly than some of the few teams that preceded him, who were able to share the weight of some of their equipment between their sledges, and had further heavy resupplies of food, fuel, replacement equipment and medical provisions flown in as required. He arrived at the Pole one day ahead of his published 65-day projected finish date. Sir Ranulph Fiennes commented, “The man has a constitution of iron”.
The only solo journey, without resupply, to the North Geographic Pole previously had been from the Russian coast, on the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean, going with the flow of ice and wind, made by Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland (1994).
Previously, only solo journeys by the Canadian route had been achieved with resupplies. The first, by the legendary Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura (1978), involved a dog-team to pull the sledge, and seven re-supplies were provided. The second, by France ‘s best-known explorer, Dr Jean-Louis Etienne (1986), was a sledge-hauling expedition requiring five re-supplies. The third successful solo expedition was undertaken in 2001 by another Japanese explorer Hyoichi Kono, who managed to reduce the assistance down to one resupply.
The McVitie’s Penguin Polar Relay to the North Pole (March-June, 1997) – World First
Organiser of the first all-women’s relay expedition (22 women) to the North Geographic Pole from Ward Hunt Island, Canada – including its promotion, fund-raising, selection process, contracting of professional women guides (who trekked the entire distance), physical training, polar base management and media relations.
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Presenting Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards at Holyrood Palace
Invited to present Gold Awards to young Scots, I found myself overnighting the night before, just a few hundred yards from Holyrood Palace and the adjacent Scottish Parliament building. Skies were overcast and threatening liquid deployment. More happily HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were in the middle of their annual Royal Week based in Holyrood, and spirits were un-dampened amongst the 300 Gold Award recipients, each with their two guests.