Catlin Arctic Survey 2009
In 2009, Ann was asked by Pen Hadow to be his head of ice operations for the Catlin Arctic survey, a ground breaking expedition, working with some of the world’s foremost scientific bodies to help determine how long the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover will remain a permanent feature of our planet. As well as navigator and pathfinder, Ann was also head of communications and cooked for the team, always rising first and retiring last.
On 28 February in sub zero temperatures the team including expedition leader Pen Hadow and world renowned photographer Martin Hartley were put down on the sea ice to begin a journey that was to last for 74 days.
Although they had problems with their scientific, navigation and photography equipment from the outset they did not let this get in the way of their objectives and returned to old fashioned methods of exploration. Pen physically measured the thickness of the sea ice with a huge ice drill and tape measure, took snow density measurements and manually profiled the sea ice. Ann packed away the compass that did not work so close to the magnetic North Pole and used the sun, her watch and the wind to find the path north while Martin caught amazing imagery with the smallest compact camera.
The expedition had setback after setback, with failing equipment, huge drift in the sea ice, difficult terrain and severe frostbite of Martin’s big toe and yet each day they dealt with whatever problems the ice threw at them and together they travelled over 400kms, made over 16000 observations and measurements of snow and ice thickness and density and reached an audience worldwide of over 6 billion.
Scientists analysed the unique data that the survey brought back and the results suggest that the sea ice is thinner than expected and therefore more likely to melt in the summer season.
Catlin Arctic Survey 2010
Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 was focused on what is widely considered to be the ‘other’ carbon problem beyond climate change….that of ocean change. The Survey undertook 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. The expedition also continued the work of 2009 and measured the thickness of the sea ice during the expedition, adding vital data to that already being worked on by emminent glaciologists worldwide.
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 studied 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.
Ann’s role in the expedition was team leader of the Explorer Team. Ann, together with Charlie Paton and Martin hartley braved harsh Arctic winter to spring conditions to collect vital water samples and measure sea ice thickness. After a day of hauling 120kg in temperatures as low as -38°C (-36°F), they manually drilled through ice up to five metres thick and kept water samples from freezing.
Their epic trek culminated after travelling over 400 kilometers in the worst conditions to drill a ‘Hole at the Pole’ – a hole drilled through to ice at the North Pole for final water samples.
Ann and the team reached the North Pole on 12th May 2010.
Take a look at this video to get a sense of what the team went through on their epic 60-day trek.
Visit www.catlinarcticsurvey.com for more information.
Catlin Arctic Survey 2011
Ann returned to the Arctic in 2011 for the third and final Catlin Arctic survey. The only member of the ice team to complete all three expeditions.
At the end of this expedition Ann completed a world record of her own, sledgehauling over 380 days in the area of the North pole region. This is the most number of days any woman has hauled a sledge without the aid of dogs in this region of the Arctic Ocean and will be her 10th polar expedition.
She co-led the current expedition, with American explorer Tyler Fish, who, in 2009 skied unsupported to the North Pole from Canada, with fellow American John Huston. This years team included a scientist, Adrian McCallum and film maker Phil Coates. A collaboration between explorers, scientists and the media world to try and make a difference.
The Catlin Arctic survey 2011 examined the surface layers of the Arctic Ocean, to find out how changes within the seawater may be affecting powerful ocean currents that influence climate and weather patterns worldwide.
They travelled in sub zero temperatures hauling sledges weighing over 200 lbs and at the end of each arduous day stopped and completed a full science programme. Aided by the team, Adrian McCallum drilled through the ice and deployed three oceanographic instruments: two salinity, temperature and depth instruments and a current profiler that measured ocean currents to depths of 100 m. They also measured the thickness of the sea ice and the covering snow and profiled the surface features as they travelled throughout the day. Each day was fraught with difficulties as the moving pack ice, shifted and split with the wind and ocean currents. It required dedication and teamwork to complete the transect and achieve the results they did in their constantly changing environment.
Throughout, the expedition was filmed by camerman Phil Coates with a view to making a T.V. documentary.