Would you trek 483 miles of polar ice to get a few water samples? That’s exactly what the Catlin Arctic Survey team did over the last two and a half months. The team returns with the first samples of ocean water at the north pole ever taken. Their mission is to measure how fast the Arctic Ocean is acidifying and the affect of climate change on local flora and fauna.
The leader of the team, former bank manager Ann Daniels, said:
“It has been an unbelievably hard journey. Conditions have been unusually tough and at times very frustrating with a frequent southerly drift pushing us backwards every time we camped for the night. On top of that we’ve had to battle into headwinds and swim across large areas of dangerously thin ice and open water.”
The team that attempted the journey last year had to be airlifted out after dealing with thin ice, open water, fierce wind and ice cracks forming under tents overnight. This team was working in tandem with another research team at an ice base north of Canada. Combined, the two groups collected 2,200 pieces of data from plankton collections, ice core samples and approximately 350 water samples, some from as deep as 5,000 meters.
The global average is a 30% increase in acidity over pre-industrial levels. From the available information, that’s the fastest rate of change in over 55 million years. The new samples will broaden our understanding of whether the arctic is acidifying faster than other regions because cold water absorbs more CO2.
“As it’s been collected for the first time, this data will be viewed as baseline information for further studies, providing insight into the impact of carbon dioxide absorption [in the Arctic].” — Dr Tim Cullingford, science manager for the Catlin Arctic survey