Last week, BoingBoing posted a link to the journal of Elham Al-Qasimi, a polar explorer on her way to becoming the first Arab woman to make a solo expedition to the North Pole.
Just four days ago, on April 24th Al-Qasimi posted from the pole. She writes in her journal, “I dropped to my knees and looked around. Then pulled out a small ziplock bag of sand from the UAE desert that I had been using for Tayyamum and emptied the sand from my desert that I grew up with and came to be the person I am today, at the very top of the world. My mission was complete.”
The Arctic is full of surprises. Ice breaks up unexpectedly, animals alter their migratory patterns, or the weather shifts suddenly, bringing snow. But there’s one thing you just don’t expect: Snow.
That’s just what the Catlin Arctic Survey Team encountered, though. Here’s the latest:
Paul Ramsden, the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base Manager, reported big raindrops fell during the shower. “I had to look twice. Snow flurries we expect, not rain. It is obviously quite worrying when you are camped out on ice! I felt distinctly nervous for a while because the consequences of getting wet here can be serious – but eventually it stopped and we are all safe” he said.
Such weather conditions are not only rare — they’re virtually unheard of. According to the Canadian Weather Officem, normal weather for Isachsen (located 20 miles east of the base camp) boasts highs in the -1.1′s (Celcius) and rainfall at “nil.” That’s based on climate data for a period stretching from 1951-1980.
The rain points to some serious changes taking place in the global weather system. Expedition Director and Arctic explorer Pen Hadow notes that, “there will be more unpredicted events like this as the climate of the region warms. Our team up there have already reported many locals people at Resolute have also been commenting on the unusual warmth of the winter this year.”
“Expeditions don’t expect to be confronted by rain and Arctic gear – clothing and tents – are certainly not made for rain. Polar clothing is made to be breathable not waterproof and if it gets wet it just freezes making it less effective in keeping body heat inside. The Arctic is normally very dry, but of course very cold, so I’m really pleased for the team that it didn’t rain for too long.
You can read more about the Catlin Arctic Survey — which includes updates on the team as well as insight into the science being done with the data they’ve collected — on their website.
As part of the promotional tour for Disneynature’s Oceans, Arctic Kingdom founder Graham Dickson has been doing interviews in all sorts of places. Yesterday found him on Canada AM, discussing Arctic Kingdom’s role in the feature film.
Arctic Kingdom founder Graham Dickson is in the midst of a media frenzy surrounding the North American release of Disneynature’s Oceans. Today, an interview with Graham appeared on the front cover of Arts & Life section of the National Post.
One of the things that’s great about this interview is that it really gives a sense of the scale of the work that Arctic Kingdom did on the Arctic portion of Oceans, and the wide range of considerations a small word like logistics covers. As Graham notes in the interview, it involves more than getting people and equipment from point A to point B:
“We had a post-production black-out tent, a kitchen and dining area in another tent with water supply, medical facilities and an emergency physician on site,” Dickson says. “Just to survive and run a camp in a remote location, let alone film there, requires a huge amount of equipment – it was approaching a military scale.”
While the tents themselves were heated, on raised beds and large enough for people to stand up in, the exterior conditions weren’t as cushy.
“Everything that we shot was obtained the hard way,” he says. “We’d be setting up rails on the ice while looking out for polar bears, while also sending out a crew on a boat. The logistics to move that number of people, supply them, feed them, have enough fuel, choose the right locations, making it all safe — it’s gargantuan.
“Furthermore,” he adds, “figuring out the right locations and right times to go is challenging. Climate change doesn’t help, nor do shifting migration patterns and ice floes, so it can be very unpredictable.”
From keeping people fed (not an easy task so many kilometers from the nearest corner store) to finding animals and helping crews get the right shot, bringing a film crew to the Arctic is no easy task. All of which makes Oceans an even more momentous event — a lot of people worked very hard to make this footage look effortless!
Early risers in Canada have a chance to see our founder and Chief Expedition Officer, Graham Dickson, interviewed live on CTV’s Canada AM this morning. Look for him at around 8:40 AM EST.
And in case you missed it, Graham’s interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing is now online. You can watch it on the CBC’s website.
And of course, Disneynature’s Oceans opens today in North America! As Ian Hanomansing points out in his interview with Graham, all the footage from the Arctic in the film is from Canada, and we’re proud to have played an instrumental role in obtaining that footage. I, for one, can’t wait to see the finished product!
It was seven years in the making, and now it’s just seven days away: Oceans opens in North America this Earth Day, April 22!
We’re very excited to have been involved in the making of this film, which uses the latest technology — including a camera called the Thetys after the sea nymph of Greek myth — to capture unprecedented shots of underwater life.
On Monday, I blogged about the ice breakup the Catlin Arctic Survey team experienced at their camp the previous week.
The video above, filmed previous to the ice breakup at camp, shows the extreme conditions the team has been experiencing this year. It starts with some fast-moving ice, and goes on to show the difficult conditions the team traverses in the course of attaining water and ice samples.
I have to admit a weakness for hot air balloon travel — there’s something so elegant, so magical about it, it really takes air travel away from mere utilitarian transport and into a realm of wonder.
Of course, up at the North Pole, this is more than just a balloon ride. Of his 3,130 km trip from Spitzbergen to Siberia, 65-year old French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne notes,
It was much harder than I imagined it to be. Yesterday I made contact with France and for a press conference, they asked me, if it took me five days. I would say I wouldn’t know. It was constant and non-stop… It was an extremely grueling voyage with sleep hours, well, that doesn’t exist- sleep hours, more like with some minutes of sleep. It was very very grueling.
Still, the video that balloon soaring over the snow is gorgeous. It reminds me of one of my favorite sets on our Flickr page, of a 2004 expedition utilizing a hot air balloon for filming!