The Mission
About Catlin Arctic Survey
Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 is focused on what is widely considered to be the ‘other’ carbon problem beyond climate change....that of ocean change. The Survey is undertaking vital research into how greenhouse gases could affect the marine life of the Arctic Ocean, including some species that can be described as the core of life on our planet. 

In the time-honoured tradition of exploration, the mission connects scientists and explorers in the quest to advance scientific understanding of the world we live in.  Bringing together marine biologists, oceanographers and polar explorers, this international collaboration aims to study the impact of increased carbon dioxide absorption by our seas. This is changing the chemistry of the water, potentially leading to a phenomenon known as ocean acidification.

Within only a few decades, an increase in ocean acidity may cause seawater to become corrosive to the shells, skeletons and armour-plating of many marine life forms, and could seriously undermine the growth of coral reefs. 

Since CO2 is more easily absorbed in cold waters, the changes highlighted by scientific research in the Arctic Ocean could act as an early-warning system for change around the globe.

Following work begun by the Catlin Arctic Survey 2009, more measurements and observations will also be collected on the thickness of the sea ice. This information is vital to understand the impact of ice cover reduction on acidification as more water becomes exposed to increased CO2 absorption. 

Three teams are instrumental to this mission: a group of leading scientists operating from our polar Ice Base under the guidance of Arctic experts; an Explorer Team gathering complementary data over a much greater area across the floating sea ice and a 24/7 Operations Team based in the UK.

Situated in the territory of Nunavut in Canada, the temporary Ice Base will host a number of leading international scientists during the Survey. For many, this will be the first time they have ever experienced Arctic sea ice and weather conditions. 

Seawater sampling is taking place in a number of locations, both in a bay close to camp and at a remote sampling point situated further out onto the sea ice. 

Click here for the latest from the Ice Base.
Three polar explorers are conducting an extreme expedition, travelling up to 500km across the floating sea ice to take vital measurements to help further our understanding of ocean change.

The team of Ann Daniels, Charlie Paton and Martin Hartley face an arduous challenge. They will be trekking in effective temperatures as low as 
-75°C; manually drilling through ice up to 5m thick; taking multiple water samples they must stop from freezing; swimming in dry suits across areas of open water; and scrambling over ice rubble fields and ridges. All the while they will be pulling sledges one and a half times their body weight.

Click here for the latest from the Explorer Team.
Organising a project of this magnitude takes months of careful preparation, and it doesn’t stop once the teams are on the ice.

Offering round-the-clock support from our headquarters in the City of London, the Operations Team is responsible for ensuring all aspects of the project are executed with precision and that the safety of the Ice Base and Explorer teams is maintained at all times. 

Click here to view the latest from the Operations Team.
The Arctic is one of the toughest environments on Earth, not just for the polar explorers heading our across the inhospitable ice, but also for those scientists largely unused to the freezing conditions. For each one of them, meticulous preparation and training is key. 

Physical Training

By the time the Explorer Team step out onto the ice, they have to be at peak physical fitness. Each of them has been pushed to the point of exhaustion through an ongoing training programme and has had to overcome both mental and physical weaknesses to be ready for the Arctic terrain.

This culminated in a week-long boot camp, specially tailored to put them through their paces in the final push before their departure. Addressing all seven components of fitness (flexibility, endurance, skill, stamina, core strength, speed and power) the main aim was to build power and stamina for the challenge ahead.

Specific techniques and exercises that mimic tasks carried out on the ice were also practiced. Towing and hauling weighted tyres for miles over rough ground has prepared them for the jagged pressure ridges and broken terrain they face on the sea ice.

Equipment Testing

Arctic weather is punishing and unpredictable and problems are extremely hard to solve in the remote wilderness of the Arctic Ocean. These conditions made it vital to rigorously test all the Survey equipment before the expedition set off.

In late January, five of the Operations Team braved blisteringly cold conditions to spend two weeks in Iqaluit to do just that. Located on the south coast of Baffin Island in the Canadian High Arctic, the town was an ideal environment, with conditions similar to those out on the ice. 

Mirroring the daily routine of expedition and Ice Base life, the camping, communications, cooking, heating and scientific kit was thoroughly checked over.

Scientist Briefing

The Arctic remains one of the most challenging and unwelcoming environments on Earth, and anyone new to its harsh realities has to be properly briefed on how to stay safe.

Undertaken by the polar guides overseeing life at the Ice Base, the scientists have all had specialist training. This has involved briefing and workshops on: dressing for the worst possible temperatures to prevent hyperthermia; medical training to deal with frostnip and frostbite; emergency procedures; staying in contact with the outside world via the communication tools available and even what to do in the event of an encounter with a polar bear.

2009 Survey
In Spring 2009, the first Catlin Arctic Survey took to the ice.

It sought to answer an important environmental question:
how long will the Arctic Ocean's sea ice cover remain a year-round surface feature of our planet?

Beginning on 1st March 2009, the expedition was led by highly experienced polar explorer Pen Hadow, the first and only person to have trekked solo, without resupply by aircraft, from Canada to the North Pole, and the only Briton to have trekked without resupply to both the North and South Poles.

He was accompanied by Ann Daniels, a world-class polar explorer, and Martin Hartley, the UK’s foremost expedition and adventure-travel photographers.

Together they spent 73 days on the floating sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, covering a distance of 435 kilometres.

Over 6,000 measurements and observations were made of the thickness of the sea ice cover in the northernmost Beaufort Sea area, near the North Pole. These were analysed by the Polar Ocean Physics Group, University of Cambridge. They verified the data as valid and of benefit to ice modellers to help refine their sea ice predictions.

The findings from this Survey, together with decades of existing measurements by submarines, satellites and buoys, led the Cambridge scientists to suggest there is a significant probability that, by around 2020, only 20% of the Arctic Ocean basin will have sea ice cover in the summers.

They also suggested that by 2030-40 there is a significant probability that the white 'North Pole ice', one of our planet's defining, year-round surface features as viewed from space, will have been transformed into an entirely blue, open ocean in the late summertimes. It will have become a seasonal feature only.

For more information, take a look at last year’s website
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posted by
Ice Base Team
Sat 06 Mar
Last minute modifications
After a long first day in Resolute yesterday, Chip presented to both the scientists and Ice Base staff about the role of communications in the safety structure...
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posted by
Explorer Team
Mon 15 Mar
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posted by
Ops Room
Sun 14 Mar
Talk Is Most Definitely Not Cheap
Having worked in the comms business for longer than I care to remember, I thought I knew a thing or two about the art of conveying information. But the...
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