From GSFC to the Arctic   Page 2 Page 4

The expedition team departed GSFC in Greenbelt, Maryland on April 19 for Resolute Bay, Canada (75°N, 95°W). Resolute Bay is located on Cornwallis Island in the new Canadian territory of Nunavut. While in Resolute Bay, we worked closely with Principal Shannon Adams, the 6 teachers, and the 70 students of the local K-12 school, called "Qarmartalik" (meaning "land of many sod houses" in the native language of Inuktituk). Expedition leader Mike Comberiate and Chief Scientist Claire Parkinson presented slide shows and lectures to the students and our team's first official webcast was broadcast from the school. For most of the students, it was their first exposure to the Internet. Subsequent webcasts were done from other locations around the town (hamlet), including the adjacent frozen bay, a mountain overlooking the town, and the facilities at Environment Canada. While performing the webcast from the mountain we experienced blizzard conditions with wind chill temperatures in the -50°F range. Consequently, the planned 60-minute webcast was shortened to 20 minutes.
 

 

Resolute Bay
The second official webcast was completed out on the ice in Resolute Bay.

Hamlet
 

 

A panoramic view of Resolute Bay; population 205.

On April 26 the team departed for Ellesmere Island and the airport at Eureka, Canada (80°N, 86°W), a necessary refueling station for the two DeHavilland DHC-6 "Twin Otter" aircraft that were chartered from Resolute Bay. While in Eureka, we conducted webcasts, performed ozone and soil measurements and were treated to a tour of the Environment Canada weather office by the airport station manager. The next day, five members of the expedition team headed for the North Pole. During a necessary refueling stop at 85°N, 100°W, the expedition team successfully drilled three holes for ice thickness measurements. Data from these and other measurements are currently being analyzed.

Approximately two hours later, and after circling the world three times (we crossed every line of longitude as we circled the pole), the Twin Otter touched down on the ice floes of the Arctic Ocean at 89° 58'N, 69° 41'W, approximately 2.5 miles from the exact North Pole. Soon after landing, a prompt set up of the ECOMM, laptop computers, and video camera enabled a webcast and web chat from the North Pole, a historic first! The live webcast and chat session had to be timed precisely in order to coincide with the short TDRS-1 visibility window.

Twelve hours after the live webcast, the TDRS-1 satellite was over the opposite end of the Earth. Normally used to provide daily Internet connectivity to the South Pole, on that day TDRS-1 provided the only means of making a voice phone call to the South Pole. With an Iridium Satellite telephone at the North Pole and TDRS-1 at the South Pole, the team completed a call from their tent to NOAA and National Science Foundation personnel at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station, located at the South Pole. Also online for this historic phone call were George Morrow, Aqua Project Manager, GLOBE Headquarters representative Vince Hurley, and a GLOBE School in Pennsylvania.

A total of 28 hours were spent in the vicinity of the North Pole. Fortunately, the weather cooperated with us as the wind was mostly calm, visibility was good, and the temperature held steady at -20°F. Since it was springtime in the Arctic, the Sun never set, instead circling the horizon once every 24 hours.

Numerous pressure ridges and leads surrounded our camp, offering evidence that we were not on a stationary ice floe. Our GPS instruments indicated that the ice floe we worked and camped on was moving at approximately three-tenths of a mile per hour. Needless to say, where the Twin Otter dropped us off was not going to be same place where we would be picked up. Once the pilots were in range, our HF radio provided the means of relaying our exact location to them.

While keeping our fingers and toes warm was certainly a challenge, it was even more of a challenge warming the ECOMM, laptop computers, and video equipment to minimal operating temperatures. The same generator that powered our equipment also provided power to heating pads that were placed on top of the sensitive electronics. In some cases, hand and toe warmers were used to keep our camera and laptop batteries from freezing in the extreme temperatures encountered at the North Pole.

next Many watchful eyes in the sky/Education and Outreach
back Communications and Science

 

Twin Otter
During the refueling stop at 85°N, the team was able to drill three holes for ice thickness measurements.

Print this entire article