Sustainable Svalbard Expedition Set Sail

Our Dutch Captains of Industry have arrived in Longyearbyen for our expedition to West Svalbard.
Luckily the weather cleared towards the evening.

Wind dropped and the sun came out after a day of  sleet, rain and storm.
Around 10:30 we recommended everyone to lay in bed as we headed straight Into the wind, waves formed  and people started to get sea sick.
Some opted to go outside and get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery.

Today a full program: We will arrive at the 14Th July Glacier where Mark Drinkwater (ESA) will do a talk about glaciers, sea ice and climate change.
After lunch we will sail to Ny Alysund to tour the science station – the most northern  permanent inhabitant station in the world.
Our scientist Maarten Loonen, who has been working there for 30 years will lead the tour.

After dinner tonight we are have our first sustainable workshop:
Mobility lead by the NS.

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March for Science - Huffington Post Article

Yesterday we participated in the March for Science in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
A small community of Arctic scientists from UNIS gather outside the Norwegian Polar Institute building for what is believed the most northern march on the planet.
We hung our North Pole March for Science banner on the building and joined the crowd of about 100 students and professors - all scientists in polar studies - and walked the streets of Longyearbyen shouting: “March for Science, Science not Silence”.

With the cold wind racing down from the mountains, we had to put our full body weight behind the banner to keep it in place and visible.
In the center of town, director of the international polar institute Kim Holmen gave a passionate speech about the need for objective science and the need for Arctic climate science.
Of course this is right up our alley.

We have been featured on the front page of Huffington Post, Mashable, television NOS news and Nieuwsuur and our tweet went viral.

Click here to read the article.
 about the most extreme march for science on the North Pole.


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March for Science North Pole Edition

Nobody should argue the sense of science. Science is to celebrate our brilliant minds everywhere in the world. Those who seek to understand the complexities of our planet, those who have inquisitive minds and are driven by a curiosity for knowledge. Scientists can help us move forward into solving our climate crisis that we ourselves have created. Climate change is one of the most challenging topics of science- we humans have never experienced it before. It is a moving target and  we need to get all the geniuses together to mitigate the consequences of climate change - the biggest threat to our planet.

Scientists have not been comfortable to express an opinion about climate change in the last decades. Afraid of losing funding or face in front of peers. Most have stick to facts and models not to be pushed into statements or premature conclusions. But recently climate scientists have been categorized into radicals or climate deniers if they see climate change as a reality, polarized into believers and deniers. Often unfairly cornered by media, politics and even businesses, scientists are losing objectivity - the very foundation of science.

Science is not about believing, science is about methods, relativity, models, statistically relevance, track records and sampling and more models and sampling.
Science is about objectivity but passionate scientists or those who want to warn the world are considered alarmists. Record-breaking global temperatures and unprecedented attacks on government scientists and an administration that appears unwilling to accept—nevermind act on—well-established scientific facts.
Science, evidence, facts, and reason form the very foundation of a strong democracy—and they are under scrutinized like never before.

During the last three weeks I have supported scientists by marching to the North Pole, an extreme expedition of 224 km facing -40°C temperatures while still collecting data on the ice to support NASA/ESA and arctic scientists.
Our mission was a simple one: collecting snow measurements along a transact to be flown over by NASA Icebridge on April 6th.
This invaluable data is so desperately needed to understand ice thickness in relationship to snow.
Without this kind of knowledge of data, it would be hard to validate the snow radar in the Icebridge airplane and to understand the overall ice thickness which will have implications on the maximum extent and predictions of the health of the arctic and the world’s climate.

The importance of science in the Arctic is evident- we need not to discuss its value and its merit we need to support it and allow more of our resources. Arctic science is the enigma, the most important one of all climate science.  The Arctic is the poster child of climate change - it is here were the changes are happening the fastest.

So we flew our banner of March for Science two days ago at the North Pole and we are joining tomorrow at UNIS here in Longyearbyen for the March of Science in Svalbard.

Countdown has started. We have to leave. NOW!

Last night we got a call we are going to be evacuated from the North Pole today.
Barneo (Russian Basecamp) has a crack across the runway which makes it difficult for the Anatov 74 airplane to land.
A helicopter will come and pick us up and bring us to Barneo and from there we take the Anatov plane back.

How they are going to find us is beyond me: we have zero visibility, full cloud cover, simply foul weather in the Arctic today.
Apparently when the helicopter gets close to the ground they throw down a tire for contrast.  Victor Serov, compassionate to our science mission, will try to postpone the pickup as long as he can but sometime today we will be back in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

This is 4 days ahead of schedule.
At this point we feel lucky we pushed ahead of schedule to be at the North Pole because there are always surprises like these developing with consequences out of our hands.
A huge warming system is heading our way -25 degrees plus of what we have here- and the ice is reacting.
With a full moon on the horizon the Arctic sea ice will react to the tides and potentially crack the runway to the point it is unusable.
The thought of being stuck here here with 4 days worth of food and fuel is not so compelling.

The Arctic sea ice melts every year sooner then before.
This year with the ice being so thin due to its late freezing cycle, a whole other set of factors could be at play.

One of them is the impact of waves.
Waves break up the largely seasonal ice pack - like last week in the Fram Straight  - and this can  accelerate the drift with quite frighteningly quick response of the pack ice to storms.
Historically, the ice was compact and kept in place with fast ice from coastlines, little room to move.
But now the ice has become mobile, drifting all over the place.
We noticed how hard it was to capture the North Pole, the actual 90 degrees.
We did it with a GPS, imagine how one can do this with a sextant when it is on the constant move.

Barneo saw it first seagull this morning and the ice is cracking and open water all around them.
It is time to leave, the tipping point has been reached, it will be too risky to stay.
The wait is for another expedition that has been  stopped by a big lead close to the North Pole.
If they can’t find a way around it, they will have to get picked up and transported back to Longyearbyen.
They are currently trying to ski to the East to get around it but the lead is widening, so Victor reports.

As for us, we are still drifting on a solid plot at 89’55 North and 45W, already 9 km away from the pole now in the western longitude.

The North Pole. Worlds best treasure hunt.

When Peary allegedly arrived at the North Pole in 1909 his comment was: “At last the pole is mine”.
He had lost all this toes during his polar exploits and made many enemies among other explorers with his self absorbed and ruthless behavior.
He then continued to ski back to Canada where he returned in June.
All that time for 6 months he skied on the frozen Arctic Ocean, in a record 34 days, supposedly because the dogs smelled their own scent from their trail North and knew they were going home.

Many people have challenged his expedition as being impossible to do in the amount of time he claimed.
If Peary would be alive today he could not copy his achievements from a century back because he would simply run into water.
That is how fast the Arctic has changed and continues to change.

Some are surprised how fast we have skied to the North Pole.
We have no dogs to blame but featureless one year ice which allowed us to ski rapidly across its frozen surface.

Yesterday we arrived at 16:35 at the geographic North Pole.
Henk-Jan, our Basecamp manager among others in our team already knew this well before we did.
Our Iridium Rock Star, a tracking device, was sending GPS coordinates continuously when we were 100 meters from our target.

With every transmission an email with our coordinates was sent to those who follow us closely.
What is amazing is that you can only really step on the North Pole for one second before it has moved somewhere else and yesterday with zero wind, we theoretically should find it without difficulty.
With GPS and Rock Star in hand we scouted for “True North”.

We counted down the meters to go but when we got to 1 meter the North Pole had already taken a turn.
We worked on a grid: two steps left, right, one foreword and then backwards waiting for the GPS to catch up with our movement.

GPS is not entirely accurate so we don’t really know if we are chasing the pole to the 90 degree mark or if we are meters from it.
Only once after skiing in giant circles did we get the 90 degrees on the screen but when Ann pressed ‘mark my waypoint’ the North Pole had come and gone.
My GPS blurbs a message: “You have arrived at the North Pole” so we took this as a the moment to celebrate.
We hug and congratulate each other with our victory.

The North Pole is so elusive, such a hard objective.
The entire expedition we are trying to get to it, we risk frostbites, polar bear attacks, injuries and fatigue and then moments from being so close, she runs away and let you chase her and you may never find her again.
Perhaps that is most fascinating about being here, the North Pole is the best treasure hunt in the world.
This morning we drifted already 7 km from the pole, on the western longitude - somewhere towards the USA or Canada.
We have crossed 150 time zones and circle around Russia, Greenland, Alaska and Canada.
We stay on the North Pole until the Russians pick us up on Friday night.
Until then we continue our snow measurements and document our expedition.
Stay tuned for more.

This expedition was made possible by the generous support of all our sponsors.
Without you we won’t here.
See our sponsor page for more details.

Persbericht: Team van Bernice Notenboom bereikt de Noordpool

Amsterdam/Noordpool, 18 april 2017, 20:30 uur - Poolreiziger Bernice Notenboom en haar expeditiegenoten Martin Hartley en Ann Daniels hebben vandaag de geografische Noordpool bereikt. Ze zijn in vijftien dagen van de 88-ste naar de 90-ste breedtegraad geskied met zwaarbeladen sledes. De omstandigheden zijn vandaag met -21 graden Celsius gunstig, zodat Notenboom het tempo kon opvoeren voor een eindsprint.

De laatste dag van de reis naar de Noordpool begon om 07.00 uur. Na een aantal pauzes om te eten (ca 5000 calorieën per dag) ging om 14.00 uur het tempo omhoog zodat het team om 16:34 uur de Noordpool kon bereiken. Bernice Notenboom is tevreden over de expeditie maar bezorgd om de staat van het Noordpoolijs. Notenboom: “Veel oud ijs is verdwenen, we zien vooral eenjarig ijs. Er is meer sneeuw, dat eerder smelt dan ijs. Ook het ijs verdwijnt daardoor in een gevaarlijk tempo.”

March for Science 22 april
Aanstaande zaterdag op Earth Day wil Bernice het vaandel van March For Science op de Noordpool uitrollen. Daarmee steunt ze de internationale oproep van een brede groep wetenschappers om feiten en cijfers uit de klimaatwetenschap te respecteren en ernaar te handelen.

Sneeuwmetingen voor NASA en ESA
Het team van Notenboom ondersteunt het arctisch onderzoek van NASA en ESA met 1250 metingen van sneeuwlagen. Satellieten en vliegtuigen maken momenteel zeer gedetailleerde nieuwe beelden van de Noordpool, maar de apparatuur is niet in staat om alle zachte sneeuwlagen van hard ijs te onderscheiden. Dankzij de gelijktijdige metingen vanaf het ijs door Expeditie 2Dgrees kan de ESA zijn CryoSat satelliet nauwkeuriger afstellen en worden de ijsdata nauwkeuriger.

Expeditie 2Dgrees
In het klimaatakkoord van Parijs hebben wereldleiders in 2015 afgesproken om ruim onder de twee graden opwarming te blijven. Maar de gemiddelde temperatuur stijgt in de extreme Arctische kou veel sneller dan in gematigde gebieden. Er voltrekt zich een klimaatcatastrofe. Notenbooms expeditie vraagt aandacht voor deze stille ramp en voor de dringende noodzaak van klimaatmaatregelen. Eind april vertrekken 66 Nederlandse topmanagers met Bernice Notenboom naar Spitsbergen om de gevolgen van klimaatverandering met eigen ogen te aanschouwen en aan de oplossingen te werken.

Time to kill, time to enjoy, time to leave

We are camping  8.8 nautical miles (16.3km) from the North Pole tonight.
Most expeditions would dash for the pole just to grab it, to make sure all your efforts are paid for when you punch in the 90 degrees of latitude in your GPS.
You end up skiing 20 to 30 miles in one go to get there.

But the old saying that it is not about the destination but about the journey is very true for us.
We do our snow measurements, we film, analyze crystals, have 45 min lunch breaks and simply enjoy the magic of the Arctic Ocean whenever we have a moment out of our zone and military discipline.
So no big rush to get to the pole except the risk of getting harassed by 3  polar bears that are reported  wondering around here and have been visiting other expeditions.

Despite the cold, the weather has been exceptionally great and leads frozen and very little movement in the compact ice.
We see pressure ridges but they are formed at night while we sleep, in the morning when we strap on our skis everything is usually solid.

The only complaint we have is that the terrain is flat and a little boring because it is first year ice.
We feel blessed to have a few more days at the pole before we are heading back to Longyearbyen.
More time to soak up the scenery, do some filming and be in the Arctic without a schedule to follow.

In  2007 when I wrote a piece for National Geographic Traveler about doing the last degree to the North Pole, most of the clients on the trip were corporate executives from London with a week off from work to ski to the pole.
On Friday night we reached to North Pole and Monday they were back to work in their offices.

When I called one of them the following week he actually believed the trip didn’t happen.
His mind and body had only just adapted to the pace of the Arctic but now he is already absorbed by the daily routine.
The pictures he took were his only memory.

Not for us though - having time at the pole after we will reach it feels like a blessing from the North Pole.

Cap for tonight:


Arctic sea ice predictions

There is huge uncertainty among scientists when the Arctic sea is going to be ice free in the September low minimum.
Some models predict this century while others may suggest it will be closer to next century.
There are some predictions that it may even be this summer since we already know that 2017 will go down as the lowest year of sea ice on record, after 2015 and 2016.

People have been wondering why we have suddenly a 30 degrees temperature difference in a week but perhaps the temperature we experience now is the normal and the extreme cold was a temporary event caused by colder ocean current coming in fed by more fresh cold water.
The Arctic Ocean is  slow to react to forces coming in but once set in motion it is difficult to stop it.

According to scientists the CO2 we put in the atmosphere will have a direct effect on the Arctic melt.
“We can directly estimate that the remainder of Arctic summer sea ice will be lost for roughly an additional 1000 Gt of CO2 emissions based on the observed sensitivity of 3.0 ± 0.3 m2 September sea-ice loss per ton of anthropogenic CO2 emissions” according to the University of Colorado.
“Since this estimate is based on the 30-year running mean of monthly averages, it is a very conservative estimate of the cumulative emissions at which the annual minimum sea-ice area drops below 1 million km2 for the first time” but models still vary as to when the certainty of when this is -  around 20 years as to the first year of a near-complete loss of Arctic sea ice.

For current emissions of 35 Gt CO2 per year, the limit of 1000 Gt will be reached before mid century.
On the other hand if any measures are taken to mitigate CO2 emissions, it  will  directly and immediately  slow down the ongoing loss of Arctic summer sea ice.
“In particular, for cumulative future total emissions compatible with reaching a 1.5°C global warming target, i.e., for cumulative future emissions significantly below 1000 Gt, Arctic summer sea ice has a chance of long-term survival at least in some parts of the Arctic Ocean”.


The sound of a locomotive in the middle of the Arctic

In the last few days we have been getting messages from Mark Drinkwater from ESA to veer to a radical  easterly direction instead of going straight North to the pole.
Apparently spring has arrived in the Arctic somewhere in the 7 million square km and the ice is starting to break up as it transport  ice from the Arctic into the Fram Straight between Greenland and Svalbard.
The last days the wind has been hauling 12 knots or more from the east blowing us to the west.
Before that is was blowing from the west and transporting us to the East.

The wind shifts around the pole and we are governed by its randomness.
According to Mark if we get into the critical low east coordinates we may get caught in a southerly drift, and have difficulty reaching the pole.
All this wind shifting in combination with the current makes the Arctic sea ice suddenly mobile.

The temperatures are still cold -25C with windchill but today for the first time we see that spring has arrived.
Wind doesn’t do much for freezing leads but a shift of 10 degrees does.

Within minutes after leaving our tent this morning, we passed over previously frozen cracks now filled with water.
Brand new pressure ridges are formed and today we watched two plates collide minutes after passing through.

With all this comes the sound: some have described it as squeaky styrofoam or a pressure cooker going off, a diesel locomotive coming to a screaming halt.

The sound of moving ice, its force, the power of all this mass put into motion at once is amazing and terrifying.
We will see open water in the next days, the first signs are here.
Temperature is going up and the Arctic will react.

So far the trek has been easy but it could very well be possible that our last 70 km to the Pole may the be most challenging.

A life in the tent

People have asked what our camp life is like and what we do once we crawl in the tent.
Our tenting routine is quiet laborious but also very disciplined because by the end of the day we are not only tired but extremely cold, so we need to get warm in a hurry.

We all do our jobs when we arrive at the campsite.
We set up the tent together and while Martin and I finish securing the tent with skis, ice axes and other equipment, Ann goes inside and sweep the tent clear of condensation and loose snow on the tent floor.
This is important because nothing on the North Pole ever dries and you don’t want to start the stove in a wet tent It would increase more moisture and everything will get wet including your sleeping bag.

Martin cut snow blocks for water - very dense and dry blocks ideal for melting water in a very efficient way.
Then Ann and I have usually our girl moment in the tent while Martin fiddle around with his camera equipment.
Once we have our belongings inside and the stoves lit, the undressing starts.

Our frozen jackets hats, face masks and mitts, down jackets and ski pants all has to come off and dried on our makeshift laundry line where we hang things from safety pins.

Then the most painful moment of all: taking off our boots.
We quickly put on dry socks and down booties and finally have time for a hot chocolate.
That is when we say life is good in the Arctic!

We turn on our GPS write down our position for the night that I have to report at 20:00 sharp to our base camp at Barneo in case of an emergency.
We make 10 liters of hot water for drinks and for a hot water bottle inside your sleeping bag to stay warm and to be ahead of the melting cycle in the morning.
After my check in I call a sponsor on the list - every night a conversation about our findings on the North Pole and lastly I call Henk Jan our Basecamp manager for the final update.
Around 21:30 I can start to write my blog.

By then Ann is asleep and Martin and I have just selected a picture to accompany my blog.
Somewhere in between we manage to eat.
We carry expedition food meals, just add water wait 10 minutes and ready.
Meals are not the highlight of our evening but just necessary calories to function here in the cold.

After sending a blog I go to bed immediately.
No time for reading or chatting because the alarm will go off at 6 am when Ann lit the stove.


Position camp: