The Polar Ocean Challenge crew received a heroes’ welcome when they returned to Bristol Harbour, following their successful circumnavigation of the North Pole.
The expedition, led by British adventurer David Hempleman-Adams and skippered by Russian Captain Nickolai Litau, with a seven-person crew, took place in the 15.2m (50ft) aluminium sailing boat Northabout, following four years of preparation.
The crew spent 18 weeks at sea between 19 June and 20 October 2016, reached a latitude of 78 degrees and travelled 13,500 miles through five countries.
The expedition’s purpose was to draw attention to the progressive recession of sea ice in the summer due to climatic changes in the Arctic, , and the issues born out of this changing Arctic landscape. Two areas used to remain icebound throughout the summer, the ‘NE passage’ (Russia) and the ‘NW passage’ (Canada’s Nunavut territory), but are now melting during this period – raising huge concerns over global warming.
David said: ”On 19 June 2016, we left Bristol in our boat Northabout to circumnavigate the North Pole anticlockwise. By doing this we have demonstrated that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months, that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through.
‘Permanent irreversible change in the sea ice landscape of the Arctic seems inevitable. This will/is already having global economic political, social and environmental implications. A significant change in my lifetime.
‘I see this possibility to circumnavigate the Arctic as one I wanted to take despite the risks associated with it in order to increase the world’s attention on the effects of Arctic climate change.’
This highlights an extraordinary loss of sea ice in the Arctic in the 30 years that David Hempleman-Adams has been visiting the area.
He added: ‘Whilst we are all delighted to have succeeded, it is extremely worrying to see this lack of ice so starkly.’
Scientists expect commercial traffic in the NEP and NWP to grow in the coming decades as the region continues to warm.
David highlighted the need to ‘navigate the future of the Arctic responsibly’: ‘The lives of people living in the normally year-round icebound communities will change drastically, as will the habitats of walruses, whales, seals, polar bears, the whole ecosystems within the sea. We can try to make sure that this change is handled carefully, sustainably, responsibly.’
David has launched a new charity called Wicked Weather Watch to let young people (primary schools), know about climate change and inspire them to take action. Schools and individuals can sign up via the website wickedweatherwatch.org.uk to learn more about climate change and how we can all make a difference.
Read the expedition logs at www.polarocean.co.uk
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