Friday, 26 February 2010

A slight diservice

Yet again the brave adventurers of the Catlin Arctic Survey are heading to the wilderness of the icy Arctic ocean to do things no one has done before. Or are they?

The expedition will also be the first to take water samples from the sea ice in winter, as all previous Arctic measurements have been taken from ships in open water in summer.

Starting with Nansen's nutjob voyage in the Fram, a specially designed oceanographic research ship. Once Nansen left for the pole this was lead by Sverdrup, who now has a unit named for him which battles with the Tesla for being really quite big. This research continued through the fifties with countless drifting ice stations (think Ice Station Zebra, without the excitement) and present day ice camps or research cruises along with visits by nuclear submarines and flown in scientific parties. A slightly shorter but still long history of investigations on winter sea ice and oceanography in Antarctica also exists, in which I'm playing my small part.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing more research in the Arctic. There's no doubt that ocean acidification is one of the more pressing problems when it comes to understanding global changes, and our stock of winter measurements of the polar oceans is still incredibly small and very patchy. But it's quite wrong to suggest that no one has even started looking. While this might drum up interest in what is essentially a glorified holiday for Ann Daniels, it's important that a measured message finds its way to the media, and to the public. Science gets to say big things about climate change because those big things are based on over a hundred years of careful measurement by many thousands of people, it's important we don't forget them...

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, that's kind of funny. I was on an ice breaker in the Arctic in 2004 and we took water samples - after breaking the ice to get to it! Well, and then it was 'open' of course :)