Page last updated at 03:39 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 04:39 UK

Polar trio on ice cap expedition

Pen Hadow: Pic Martin Hartley
The team will have to pull sledges and swim between ice floes

A pioneering 3m expedition to help plot the future of the Arctic ice cap will go ahead with two Devon explorers, it has been confirmed.

Pen Hadow, who lives on Dartmoor, and Ann Daniels, of Whimple in east Devon, will help scientists calculate how long the dwindling ice cap could last.

A specially-built radar will take 10 million measurements of the permanent Arctic Ocean sea ice early next year.

The third team member is specialist polar photographer Martin Hartley.

During the Catlin Arctic Survey, the team will measure the water column under the sea ice and record density measurements of the snow and ice over a three-month period starting in February.

Samples of the water, snow, ice and air will also be taken.

The team will manually drill through the sea ice to take supplementary measurements of the thickness and density of both the ice and overlying snow layers.

A data uplink system will transmit findings to scientists direct from the ice via satellite.

Once completed, the project's findings will be made available for the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, Denmark, next year.

Ann Daniels (centre)
Ann Daniels was a member of the first female team to trek to both poles

Current estimates of how long ice will be a year-round feature around the North Pole vary considerably - with scientific predictions ranging between five and 100 years.

Mr Hadow - the first explorer to trek solo and unsupported from Canada to the North Pole - said the Arctic Ocean was "not only an astonishingly beautiful place but a globally unique environment of immense significance to the balance of the Earth's whole eco-system."

"Experienced explorers are the only people who have the expertise to undertake a survey of this magnitude and help science in this way," he added.

Ms Daniels, a mother of 14-year-old triplets and a five-year-old daughter, was a member of the first all-women teams to trek to both the North and South Poles.

Millions of readings of the floating ice's thickness will be taken over a 750-mile route.

The trio will pull sledges and swim between ice-floes from their start-point - 470 miles offshore of northern Canada to the North Geographic Pole - in temperatures from 0C to -50C.

The US Naval Postgraduate School, the Nasa IceSat Mission and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge are all involved.

Royal patron

The project will help fill the current gap in existing measurement studies by satellites and submarines - which cannot differentiate between ice and snow layers.

Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, from the US Naval Postgraduate School, said the data would enable them to test the accuracy of their modelling and re-assess projections as to how long the surviving ice was likely to last.

The project's patron is the Prince of Wales. It is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme and World Wildlife Fund International.

Last year saw record melting of the Arctic ice cap to 39% below the average minimum, causing experts to predict the Arctic ocean could be ice free in summer within 25 years.

Explorers' quest for key ice data
16 Oct 07 |  Science & Environment
Explorer plans new adventure
03 Feb 04 |  Devon

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