Ex­plorer launches bit­ter­sweet mis­sion to sail to North Pole

The Dominion Post - - World -

BRI­TAIN: It is a po­lar record the Bri­tish ex­plorer Pen Hadow does not want to achieve. The 55-yearold, who was the first per­son to walk solo across the pack ice from Canada to the North Pole in 2003, will now try to high­light cli­mate change by be­com­ing the first to sail there in a yacht.

Hadow said it would be a bit­ter­sweet achieve­ment to achieve the feat be­cause it would mean that the po­lar ice cap had shrunk to record lows.

‘‘I’m very con­flicted,’’ he said. ‘‘If we do reach the North Pole by sail, I think the im­age would be iconic for the rest of the cen­tury and a call to ac­tion,’’ he said. ‘‘If 50ft yachts can do this, imag­ine what com­mer­cial ship­ping can do.’’

For his record-break­ing trek, he hauled a sledge for 850 hours over two months, but there were al­ready so many gaps in the ice that he spent be­tween 30 and 50 hours swim­ming be­tween ice floes in an im­mer­sion suit.

It was melt­ing so fast that, on his re­turn, he pre­dicted it would be gone be­fore his five-year-old son Wilf grew old enough to re­trace his fa­ther’s steps.

‘‘Peo­ple thought I was be­ing over­dra­matic,’’ he said. ‘‘Now it is clear that this is com­ing the way of our chil­dren.’’

For his new record at­tempt, Hadow and his nine-strong team will take two yachts on a 5630km round trip from Nome in Alaska to the pole, us­ing satel­lites to find a route through the ice and avoid get­ting stuck. He was to fly to Alaska to join his team mem­bers yes­ter­day.

If all goes to plan, he will ar­rive at th e pole be­tween Au­gust 15 and early Septem­ber, about 820km fur­ther north than any­one has sailed be­fore.

Hadow ex­pects ice cover to be at a record low in late sum­mer, af­ter Nasa de­clared in March that it had reached a new win­ter low, at 14.4m square kilo­me­tres. The Cen­tral Arc­tic Ocean is pre­dicted to be ice­free in sum­mer for the first time in hu­man his­tory by 2050.

A Rus­sian ice­breaker, ca­pa­ble of smash­ing through ice two me­tres thick, found open wa­ter at the pole in the sum­mer of 2000. Ten years’ later, a Rus­sian crew sailed around the Arc­tic in a sin­gle sea­son with­out ice­breaker as­sis­tance.

Hadow warns that once the pro­tec­tive pack ice has gone, marine life will be ex­ploited by fish­ing boats and harmed by ship­ping

"I'm very con­flicted. If we do reach the North Pole by sail, I think the im­age would be iconic for the rest of the cen­tury and a call to ac­tion." Pen Hadow

us­ing the new tran­sit route.

He hopes his ex­pe­di­tion, which will also con­duct sci­en­tific re­search, will gal­vanise sup­port for cre­at­ing a marine re­serve of more than 1m square miles, an area as large as the Mediter­ranean, within the in­ter­na­tional mar­itime bound­ary. He said: ‘‘I’ve moved from ad­ven­ture to ex­plo­ration to pro­tec­tion or ad­vo­cacy. It is time for us to pay the same at­ten­tion to the world’s oceans as to the rain­forests.’’

The risk of ships be­com­ing trapped in ice was once very real. In 1893, at the start of the golden age of po­lar ex­plo­ration, the Nor­we­gian Fridtjof Nansen wedged his three-masted schooner, Fram, into the pack ice, trust­ing its nat­u­ral drift to de­liver him to the North Pole. Af­ter 18 months he tired of its slow and er­ratic progress and set off with dog sledges in­stead.

Yet Hadow is con­fi­dent of suc­cess - and has per­sonal rea­sons for want­ing to avoid an ice­bound win­ter. He has promised his fi­ancee, Vene­tia Jenk­ins, that he will be back in Bri­tain for their wed­ding on Oc­to­ber 6. - Sun­day Times

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