Ottawa: Three British explorers have set
out on a skiing expedition across 500 kilometers of floating
sea ice to investigate rising acid levels in the Arctic Ocean
that threaten marine life.
The team led by polar explorer Ann Daniels headed
northward yesterday from a remote staging area in Canada's far
north to collect data and samples for the Catlin Arctic
Survey, an international scientific mission.
Over the next two months, they are to haul sledges
weighing up to 120 kilograms over pressure ridges and rubble
fields, and swim across leads of open water, as wind chills
push temperatures down to minus 75 Celsius.
Eventually, they will meet up with other scientists
who will fly ahead to an "ice base."
Results from the expedition will be made available to
scientists in Europe, Canada and the United States.
"The expedition focus is on ocean acidification which
some scientists describe as the Earth's 'other carbon dioxide
problem,'" said Daniels in a statement.
Although most international attention has focused
on the effects of carbon
dioxide emissions in pushing up temperatures, scientists
levels of ocean acidity are a problem that also needs
But there is scare research on its effects.
This expedition is believed to be the first of its kind.
Some scientists believe that, based on current projections, the world's oceans' pH could reach levels by 2050 not seen for 20 million
And if this occurs it may become corrosive to shelled organisms such as lobsters, crabs and oysters. Rising acid levels in sea water reduces the availability of the carbonate mineral -- used by many marine organisms to form their shells.
Carbon dioxide is absorbed into cold water more easily than warmer seas, making the Arctic Ocean particularly vulnerable.
The Catlin expedition is the second in as many years. In 2009, survey director Pen Hadow led a mission to map out thinning Arctic sea ice as part of a larger study of global warming.
First Published: Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 09:36