In the three months since our trip to the Canadian Arctic, Chris and I have been peppered with questions by friends, colleagues, and family. What was it like at the North Pole? Did global warming have anything to do with the breakup of the runway at Barneo (day 5)? Does the ice-tethered profiler work (see “The Poles in Depth”)? What do you remember most about the trip? Finding the answers took some time, some interviewing, and some soul-searching.
On April 28, one of the WHOI-built ITPs was successfully deployed on a 2.5 meter-thick ice floe at 88.810°N, 12.513°W. Complementary instruments developed by the Naval Postgraduate School, the Climate Change College, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were deployed nearby. Since then, the ITP has been diving and rising four times daily between 7 and 760 m depth each day and reporting back on the motions and properties of the upper layers of the ocean--not to mention the ice that relentlessly drives the instruments across the Arctic in the Transpolar Drift.
Though much news has been made in recent years about the shrinking ice cap and the general thawing and melting of the North Pole, our colleague Andrey Proshutinsky (physical oceanographer at WHOI) was skeptical that global warming had anything to do with the cracking ice in Barneo this year. “These conditions are not unusual,” said Proshutinsky, a veteran of many Arctic expeditions. “This is Arctic weather, which very frequently is unpredictable.” Physical oceanographer and ITP creator John Toole took the long view of the North Pole Environmental Observatory (NPEO): “Perhaps what's more anomalous than the ice problems in 2007 is the fact that the NPEO program had such a run of good success for all of the years prior to this one.”
What I remember most about this trip can be summed up in one word: camaraderie. Scientists, technicians, warehouse workers, pilots—people of different backgrounds, educational levels, and interests—all came together for two weeks in a beautiful, remote part of the world and made sweet lemonade when nature handed them lemons. Jamie Morison said it best: “One ice floe, even at the North Pole, looks like another. But the level of group cohesion that we had this year is a rare pleasure.”
As for what it was like to visit the North Pole…we have had to live vicariously through our friends, Rick Krishfield and Kris Newhall, who sent back the following photos (and some great notes) from NPEO 2007, Barneo Camp.
Read more about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »