Pen Hadow’s attempt to sail to the North Pole has been rather embarrassingly brought to an abrupt halt by sea ice!
The furthest North they got was 80 degrees 10 minutes, and after being moored to an ice floe for a day, the decision was made to turn tail and head south.
The Arctic Mission website tries to put the best spin on it:
Arctic Mission’s furthest North was 80 degrees 10 minutes North, 148 degrees 51 minutes West, reached at 22:04:12 (Alaskan Time, GMT-9hours) on 29 August 2017 by yachts, Bagheera and Snow Dragon II.
Arctic Mission moored its yachts to an ice floe on 29 August to conduct one of its 24-hour marine science surveys, while drifting with the sea ice. The strategy for any future northward progress had been to monitor the sea surface currents, sea ice, and weather conditions (both observed from the yachts and through satellites imagery downloaded onto our computers), and decide how to proceed as we approached the end of the 24-hour survey.
A meeting of the four skippers was held led by Erik de Jong, with Pen Hadow present, and it was agreed further northward progress would increase considerably the risks to the expedition, with very limited scientific reward. The decision to head south, back to an area of less concentrated sea ice in the vicinity of 79 degrees 30 minutes North, was made at 18.30 (Alaskan time).
Arctic Mission has demonstrated that commercial fishing and shipping vessels can now access and exploit a new, unexplored and vulnerable ocean region on the planet, the Central Arctic Ocean, due to the melting of its sea-ice cover. Approximately 1 million square kilometres of the Central Arctic Ocean is likely to have been ice-free this summer, having had year-round ice cover throughout human history until the 1980s, and likely has had for many tens of thousands of years.
The commercial activities made possible by this loss of summer sea ice puts at risk the extraordinary wildlife that has evolved to survive in this extreme environment. Polar bears, whales, seals, fishes, seabirds, invertebrates and microbes all contribute to a unique and special ecosystem which is unlike any other on earth.
Arctic Mission has undertaken an extensive oceanographic, wildlife and ecosystem research programme during the voyage, led by Tim Gordon of the University of Exeter (UK). This has included work on acoustic ecology, copepod distributions and physiology, microplastic pollution surveying, inorganic carbon chemistry, seabird range expansion and microbial DNA sequencing. Scientific findings will be released following comprehensive data analysis and formal publication in peer-reviewed journals in 2018/19.
It is believed Arctic Mission has sailed further north from the coastlines surrounding the Arctic Ocean than any vessel in history without icebreaker support.
Its vessels were the first to reach the international waters surrounding the North Pole (aka the Central Arctic Ocean), without icebreaker support and without freezing in.
Its vessels have set the first furthest north within the Central Arctic Ocean without icebreaker support.
Arctic Mission’s northernmost position was 590 nautical miles (678.5 statute miles) from the North Pole.”
Much of what they claim is sheer drivel. There is absolutely no evidence that this part of the ocean has not been ice free many times in recent human history. We do know that the Arctic was been much warmer in the Middle Ages, for instance.
They also claim that they have sailed further north without ice breaker support than anybody else. But I am not aware of anyone who has actually tried to. And certainly not in boats specially built to sail in waters with sea ice.
Despite repeated claims of ice free seas, the writing has been on the wall for the expedition for several days, during which they have been meandering around the same area of ocean, presumably trying to find a way through the ice.
2-Hourly Plots from 26th August
They are now retreating to 79 degrees 30 minutes North, and it is possible they may make another attempt if the ice miraculously disappears. However, there is no sign of this, and NORSEX even show the sea ice extent increasing in recent days, and well above last year’s levels.
The ice to the north of them is very thick:
And Arctic temperatures are well below zero:
Hadow will doubtlessly return home to be feted by the BBC, where he will claim that the objective was never to reach the North Pole, but only to do scientific research.
But let’s not forget what the headlines on their own website say:
Just one more abysmal failure, which will join the list of all the other failed attempts to walk, row and sail to the North Pole.
Where were they actually planning to go, sorry SAIL?
Top Gear Polar Special
.. ENOUGH SAID!