The countdown begins
The countdown begins
Posted by Dominic Hilton

Friday, 08 May 2009 11:07
With the floating sea ice now starting to break up around Ward Hunt Island, it is only a matter of time before the summer melt begins further out into the ocean, including around the Ice Team’s location.  As such, the countdown to the end of the expedition phase has now begun.

Here in the UK Ops Room we are able to monitor the state of the ice using high resolution Radarsat 2 satellite imagery.  We are also able to identify potential ice runways with pinpoint accuracy and direct the Ice Team accordingly.  Once the team arrive at the runway, they are then able to measure the thickness of the ice along the edge of the airstrip, using their drill and tape measure, and confirm that it is thick enough to support the weight of a Twin Otter.  

The UK Ops team are also in constant dialogue with Kenn Borek Air.  It will, after all, be the pilots’ decision as to when exactly the team will be extracted.  When the time comes (quite possibly within the next 7-10 days), KBA will on this occasion use two Twin Otter aircraft, instead of the usual one.  Of these two planes, one will be carrying nothing but fuel, allowing the aircraft to venture far out onto the ocean.

Additional fuel is also still cached out on the ice, at the halfway point between Eureka and the Ice Team’s location.  These barrels will also be picked up and used, either on the outward journey or on the return.  Caching fuel is a standard part of operating out on the ice.  Barrels are always marked up with the owner’s details, to avoid them being simply abandoned.  Since the ice is at the mercy of the winds and ocean currents, barrels are never likely to be in the same position that they were left, and as such, fuel caches are also always tagged with a locator beacon.

All previous Catlin Arctic Survey flights out of Resolute have headed straight out over the ocean, usually flying over the abandoned High Arctic weather station at Isachsen.  Since the team are now operating far out to sea, however, the pick-up flight will on this occasion go via Eureka, a manned, fully functioning weather station just 1,110km from the North Geographic Pole.  Given the time it takes to fly from Resolute Bay to Eureka, then out to the Ice Team, back to Eureka and then back to Resolute, the extraction will most likely take two full days in total.
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