My FB Public Page’s header image (shown here)) depicts me swimming in an immersion suit in Arctic waters while towing my sledge. And the significance of it?
Well, on my 800km solo trek to the North Pole (2003) across the sea ice, of the 850 hours I spent hauling the sledge, 30 hours were spent swimming across the open water stretches between the ice floes. Yes, 30 hours! Often just for a few minutes. On one occasion, over an hour.
My Amphibious Option, involving the orange immersion suit and the orange inflatable sledge-skin (that converted the sledge into a boat for the crossings), was an innovation to deal with the increasing likelihood of encountering water, even back then. Every time I pulled the suit on, I had to make myself commit to the act of another swim. It was hard to do, but necessary to reach the Pole.
That I used it as much as I did made an impact on me … and quite a few others, even outside of the polar community.
The repeated need to swim rammed home the change taking place, that a new seasonally-occurring open ocean was emerging as the sea ice area reduced by the end of each summer.
That expedition was my Got It experience – major-scale environmental change was happening on the Arctic Ocean. It was time to switch my focus to contributing to the scientific understanding of the ice-reduction phenomenon.
It led to setting up Arctic Survey, sponsored by Catlin Group. That research programme was 7 years in the making and delivery. It investigated sea-ice volume, ocean acidification, and thermohaline circulation.
By 2012, I felt the science was sufficiently certain about the trend towards further sea-ice loss that it was time to go to the next stage – Ecosystem Protection. And so Arctic Mission was launched in 2017.
Arctic Mission is all about protecting the hyper-delicately balanced wildlife and ecosystem that inhabits the international waters around the North Pole, now that the region is accessible to commercial shipping, commercial fishing and other disruptive and extractive activities.
Plans are afoot for this year’s mission to the Arctic Ocean. Your interest and support is invaluable to this effort and as time goes on I hope you will find ways to work with us to secure a marine protected area around the Pole.
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