Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Arctic Survey - They're Off!

I was privileged to be present at the send off party for the Catlin Arctic Survey Team. Pen, Anne and Martin leave Heathrow tomorrow for the frozen Arctic Circle. Their coolness in the face of the task ahead of them was something to behold. Pen with his gentle humour is a British explorer to be proud of and an inspirational leader.

Ice-CoringImage Copyright Martin Hartley

Anne is the only woman on the 3 person team trekking across the ice. She is an inspiration to many women and she’s in charge of navigation! So, with much guffawing going on in the room by the chaps, she is of course a woman to be respected. No jokes about female voices on sat-nav from here on in!

Martin will be capturing on film the beauty and awe inspiring scenery few of us will ever experience and sharing that with the rest of the world. Although quite how you hold a camera in -30 degrees, and not chop people’s feet off when there is a polar bear eyeing you up for dinner, is a real skill.

Their optimism and light-heartedness probably hid personal anxiety and trepidation. When you look at the hazards they face, hungry polar bears seem to feature heavily, -30 degree temperatures and plain simple danger, you cannot help but feel a little humble that they all seem to take it in their stride.

Their personal “adventure” is the thrust of the news and interviews. They have a Royal Pennant from HRH Prince Charles – the first to be given I believe since Shackleton’s expedition – A measure of the importance this one has. But when you reflect on the undercurrent of what they expect to find the situation is unnerving - no-one is really talking about the implications – from energy security, mass exploration and exploitation not to mention the environmental impact of total melt, wholesale methane release, and mass change on commercial shipping and trading routes etc.

The survey data they collect will not be fully known until later this year, but in your daily lives, spare a thought for them in the freezing conditions as they trek across the frozen wastes in the interests of finding out how our lives will be impacted longer term.

The team behind the characters that have made this expedition possible are passionate, dedicated and many. The “goodwill” of people involved who weren’t able to physically put cash in but have put time and effort has given the expedition momentum. It says a lot about harnessing the collective strength of people who want to make a difference in this world.

If your organisation wishes to sponsor some of the education packs going to schools, do get in touch.

And as a final thought, the last couple of weeks snowy inconvenience looks trifling compared to what they have to face for the next few months. Increasingly disruptive weather patterns look set to become something we will have to endure.

Our thoughts, wishes and luck go with them for a safe journey and homecoming and you can watch their progress at http://www.catlinarcticsurvey.com

Debby Lloyd
Managing Director, EcoSearch

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