Friday, December 27, 2013

Science continues for trapped Australasian Antarctic expedition

Ocean researchErik van Sebille aims for cracks in the sea ice to carry out his ocean research

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Science reporter Andrew Luck-Baker is on board the Russian research vessel Shokalskiy, covering the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 for the BBC World Service programme Discovery. He recounts how the expedition spent Christmas Day trapped in sea ice.
Scientists currently stuck in dense pack ice off East Antarctica are making the most of their expected four days locked in the frozen sea.
The research programme of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) 2013 is continuing from the deck of the beset Academik Shokalskiy - although not quite as originally intended.
The science team, led by Chris Turney and Chris Fogwill, both geologists from the University of New South Wales, has decided to use the trapped vessel as a static platform for investigations beneath the pack.
On 24 December, the AAE's ice-strengthened vessel was just departing the Commonwealth Bay area in remote East Antarctica when fierce winds began tearing off the polar plateau.
The blizzard set in motion an armada of rafts of pack ice and the Shokalskiy became surrounded and trapped.
Barely a pool of water now shows in the chaotic icescape of floes and piles of shattered, brilliant white blocks. This vista extends as far as we can see in almost all directions.
Tantalisingly, a low band of grey sky to the Northeast suggests clear water lies not so many kilometres away. The grey colour is light reflected from open water. The early Antarctic explorers named this colour phenomenon "water sky" and used it to navigate their route through the treacherous pack ice.
Douglas Mawson also used this lore of the polar seas to guide his expedition in these same waters, more than a century ago. Mawson led the original Australasian Antarctic Expedition which discovered and explored this region of the White Continent for more than two years.
The first AAE studied or measured every aspect of the natural environment in and around Commonwealth Bay - such as the ice, the weather, the geology, and the animals, from penguins to leopard seals (the local top predator).
Chris Fogwill Chris Fogwill is retracing the steps of Douglas Mawson a century ago
The goal of the modern day Australasian Antarctic Expedition is to repeat many of the original measurements and studies, to see how facets of the environment have changed over the past century. This passage of time coincides with warming and climate change in Antarctica.
During the morning on Christmas Day (New Zealand time), the Russian Captain Igor Kiselev decided to send out a distress call to the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre. The pack ice was (and remains) thick; and at the time of his decision, there were two large icebergs moving in parallel to the trapped vessel on the prevailing east to west current. Those bergs were not on collision course and they have since stopped moving any closer.
According to Prof Turney: "The situation has stabilised and all on board are well. We are now trying to make the best scientific use of our time while waiting for the arrival of an icebreaker to release us in the next 24 hours. For anyone concerned at home, please check 'The Spirit of Mawson' website for regular updates."
In addition to the Russian crew of 22, the expedition team consists of 18 professional scientists from Australia and New Zealand, and 22 volunteer science assistants. They are members of the public, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. They paid to join the scientific adventure.
For scientists and punters alike, it was a Christmas Day like no other. There was some anxiety early on Christmas Day when our predicament was explained at a morning briefing by the expedition co-leaders, which in addition to Turney and Fogwill counts the veteran polar explorer Greg Mortimer.
But the otherworldly white vista from the decks and the realisation that we were not in acute peril created a communal excitement and realisation that we were going to have a most unique Christmas.
"It's fantastic - I love it when the ice wins and we don't," said expedition marine ecologist Tracy Rogers. "It reminds you that as humans, we don't control everything and that the natural world - it's the winner here. We've got several penguins watching us, thinking 'what the hell are you doing stuck in our ice?'. The sky is a beautiful grey - it looks like it wants to have a bit of a snow. It's the perfect Christmas, really."
Science volunteer Sean Borkovic also seemed to be enjoying the experience: "I'll always remember this, that's for sure. It's brilliant. We've got some lovely light and the weather's pretty mild considering. The ship looks solid. I think we'll be good."
A visit from Secret Santa and a sumptuous Christmas dinner cranked up the celebratory mood.
ExpeditionChristmas with a difference: The expedition made the best of circumstances
In response to the distress call, a large Chinese icebreaker is now on its way to free the Shokalskiy. The Xue Long (Snow Dragon) is expected to reach us at about 1300 GMT on 27 December. It is massive enough to cut a path through the ice so the Australasian Antarctic Expedition can make a break for the open waters not so very far away.
In the days before the AAE 2013 became trapped, the scientists made several significant discoveries. For instance, the expedition's ornithologist, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, discovered that the colony of Adelie penguins in Commonwealth Bay, close to Mawson's old base, now contains the smallest number of breeding pairs ever recorded there.
Findings by the AAE's oceanographer Erik van Sebille, of the University of New South Wales, are also significant. He discovered that the water beneath the extensive sea ice covering Commonwealth Bay at this time of year is much fresher, less salty than in Mawson's times.
This finding is of global interest. Commonwealth Bay is one of the metaphorical cylinders of the great heat engine of the global ocean system.
The winds and cold temperatures here normally generate great volumes of very cold and very salty water. This dense water plunges to abyssal ocean depths and helps to drive the circulation of water from pole to equator, redistributing heat around the planet.
Van Sebille's discovery of such freshwater at depths of 50m suggests the oceanic engine here has stalled. The planetary consequences of that are as yet unclear.
Although trapped for the moment, Erik van Sebille and others plan to continue their studies from the Shokalskiy. He is currently deploying instruments to measure temperature and salinity through cracks in the surrounding ice. His findings may add to the picture of freshening water which he first saw a few days ago further to the west.
Prof Rogers also plans to continue her studies of the local leopard seals.
She will be lowering a loudspeaker into the chilly waters and then playing the submarine song of a male leopard seal that she recorded elsewhere in Antarctica. With an underwater microphone, Rogers will then record the response to the singing of this apparent interloper by the resident leopard seals.
Her theory is that male leopard seals sing to define the boundaries of their territory. She's expecting to hear the locals singing louder and closer in reaction to the false stranger she's planting through the pack ice.
The fact that the Shokalskiy's engines will be quiet for at least another day is of some advantage to her experiments.
Ice all aroundThe Shokalskiy is protected against the ice but will need a Chinese ice-breaker to clear a path to freedom

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Into the Record Books: Parker Liautaud Reaches The South Pole On Christmas Eve Becoming The Youngest Man To Ski To The South Pole

19-year-old Parker Liautaud arrived at the South Pole at 13:43 GMT on 24 December 2013
-- New World Record: Parker becomes the youngest man to ski to the South Pole
-- New Speed Record: Parker and Doug Stoup set new speed record for the fastest-ever unsupported walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole in 18 Days, 4 Hours and 43 Minutes
-- Live Christmas Day visual broadcast interviews from the South Pole available upon request
At 13:43 GMT on 24 December, The Willis Resilience Expedition, led by 19-year-old Parker Liautaud, polar explorer and climate change campaigner, arrived at the South Pole; achieving the goal of setting a new record for the fastest-ever unsupported walk from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and in the process becoming the youngest man ever to ski to the South Pole.

A photo accompanying this release is available at
The world record attempt began on Friday 6 December at 09:00 GMT from the Ross Ice Shelf where Parker and Doug began their 506.12km (314.58 miles) journey to the South Pole. To achieve this incredible feat of human resilience, Parker and his expedition partner, Doug Stoup, pulled sleds weighing in excess of 80kg over ice and snow, across the trans-Antarctic mountain range, through blizzards and mist in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius. The duo travelled for up to 12 hours a day for 19 days, averaging an astonishing 28km per day. Travelling that distance each day at altitude begins to take its' toll - at times Parker and Doug have had to battle on, despite suffering from physical exhaustion which can clearly be seen in this short video diary that Parker made for the expedition.
Not only has the world record attempt been achieved, but thanks to the embedded communications technologies in Ice Broker, the Willis Resilience Expedition's custom built Toyota Hilux 6-wheel truck, the venture was broadcast live to the world on the expedition website . This also meant that Parker was able to capture the imagination of the world's media, by engaging in two-way live broadcast interviews with major news channels, directly from Antarctica.
Parker will now spend the next few days in the South Pole before travelling back to Union Glacier where the team can catch a flight out of Antarctic back to Punta Arenas, Chile. While in the South Pole, Parker will be able to wish the world Happy Christmas, live on TV.
"It's an incredible honour to stand at the South Pole after a successful expedition. Over the past several weeks I have learned a lot and am very thankful for the support of the team around me that made this expedition possible. I now hope to work with our scientific partners in the next phase of the research from this expedition and continue to contribute to reigniting the dialogue on climate change."
- Parker Liautaud, Willis Resilience Expedition Leader
"I'm proud to stand next to Parker at the Geographic South Pole after just over 18 days of skiing across Antarctica unsupported. I'm also proud to be here as an ambassador for climate change. Parker showed remarkable resilience throughout this expedition. He is an inspiration for his generation."
- Doug Stoup, Willis Resilience Expedition Guide
Before starting their World Record breaking journey by foot, Parker, Doug and the occupants of Ice Broker; the driver and mechanic Eyjo Furteitsson, cinematographer Paddy Scott and communications director Nathan Hambrook-Skinner first had to reach the elusive starting point for the walk, the Ross Ice Shelf on the edge of Antarctica. To get to the Ross Ice Shelf, the team travelled in Ice Broker a total of 1,790km from Union Glacier to the South Pole down to the Ross Ice Shelf in order to undertake a coast-to-pole-to-coast transect of Antarctica.
During that bumpy crossing of the Antarctic continent over vast fields of sastrugi, or ice waves, the team were collecting snow samples for three scientific research programs, all of which aim to collect valuable data to contribute to our understanding of global climate patterns. One of the team's first jobs on the ice was to deploy the ColdFacts 3000BX, a lightweight weather station which has not been used before in Antarctica. The device has been relaying metrological data every 30 minutes. Along the way the team was also collecting snow samples for research purposes. Ice Broker was instrumental in providing the tools necessary to conduct and store the research samples.
"Christmas is often a time for reflection. Over the past 18 days, we have watched this truly inspirational young man along with his expedition partner, Doug show us all the true meaning of resilience - both mental and physical. For the first time ever thanks to the technology on board Ice Broker, the Willis Resilience Expedition truck, we have been able to share with the world the highs and lows of this incredible journey via live transmissions on the Willis Resilience website. As Parker finds the time to reflect on his amazing achievement we hope that those who were able to follow his journey have also had time to think about the bigger message. Parker set out to not only achieve a new World Record but he also wanted to create a platform to start changing the way we talk about climate change. The conversation will continue via ."
- Josh King, Chief Communications Officer, Willis Group Holdings WSH +0.20%
For all press enquiries please contact Captive Minds
Emily Conrad-Pickles | 07799 414 790
Notes to Editors
Live interviews from the South Pole are still available upon request, but spaces are limited. Please contact Captive Minds in order to book a slot as soon as possible.
About Willis: Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 17,500 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world's leading authorities on analytics, modeling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events. Find more information at our website, , our leadership journal, Resilience, or our up-to-the-minute blog on breaking news, WillisWire. Across geographies, industries and specialisms, Willis provides its local and multinational clients with resilience for a risky world.

Monday, December 2, 2013

OPINION: Is WeatherNet or Free GRIB Files Cheaper Over Satellite Phones?

Is WeatherNet or Free GRIB Files Cheaper Over Satellite Phones?

One of the most frequent questions we receive is how to get weather information while out at sea. If you're looking at how exactly to get the weather, here's a blog post on how to get GRIB files to your iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile device.
But what about cost? 
Getting GRIB files comes down to two main options. 

WeatherNet Weather On DemandGRIB File Option 1: WeatherNet Weather On Demand Subscription

WeatherNet is a subscription service that sends compressed GRIB files to your email inbox. You configure WeatherNet to send you exactly the GRIB files you're looking for, with whatever complexity you need, and you will receive them in an incredibly compressed, compact form. 
WeatherNet has a vast library of weather information - far beyond basic wind and wave GRIBs. Whether you're looking for ice flow information, currents, NOAA updates, satellite imagery and more, WeatherNet has you covered. 
WeatherNet is a subscription service. You then need to buy a WeatherNet data card to purchase the individual GRIB files (they get deducted from your prepaid data card until you run out of money on the card. You would then need to reload the data card, much like you reload satellite airtime minutes, for example). 
At the time of writing, WeatherNet costs $99 for one year. You can buy the prepaid data cards for either $75 or $250.  

GRIB File Option 2: Free GRIB Files via Email

There are services out there (Global Marine Networks offers a free GRIB service) that send you GRIB files, for free, over email. The service offered by GMN is done as a public service for mariners the world over and offers no tech support for any of the free GRIB files or weather data obtained through this service. 
The GRIB files available for free are wind and wave files for every region on the planet. For many sailors, this is exactly the information they're needing - no need for anything more complex. 

GRIB File Free ServiceSo Which Costs More? 

Right off the bat, those free GRIB files are looking, well, free. 
And WeatherNet GRIB files are paid, on top of the subscription! 
But which one really costs more? 
Those free GRIB files use valuable satellite airtime to download and, more importantly, they require 2 data connections to download. One connection to send the email request to the service and another data connection to actually receive the GRIB file.
If we assume a typical GRIB file (typical, here, is a bit hard to pin down, since GRIB files can change dramatically depending on where you are and what kind of information you're looking for), we can say that a 3-day wind forecast for an area the size of the Caribbean is about 15kb. 
Over an Iridium handheld phone it will take about a minute to download. Let's look at the difference in cost between downloading that GRIB file from the free GRIB service and from WeatherNet. In either case, we assume you're using XGate satellite email service for compression and optimization of weather files and looking at doing this over an Iridium handheld phone (for IsatPhone Pro, you can inflate these numbers as data speeds are slower, connection times longer, and billing increments more).  
GRIB File With Free GRIB Service
$0.48 - Initial Connection to Send Email Request
$0.48 - 1 billing increment to send request
$0.48 - Second connection to see if GRIB has arrived
$0.48 - 1 billing increment to check if GRIB has arrived
$1.00 - Airtime to download GRIB File
Total Iridium: $2.92
(Total IsatPhone Pro: $4.20) 
GRIB File Over WeatherNet
$0.48 - Initial Connection to Send Email Request
$0.48 - 1 billing increment to send request
$0.80 - Cost of GRIB download from WeatherNet
$1.00 - Airtime to download GRIB file
Total Iridium: $2.76
(Total IsatPhone Pro: $3.50)

GRIB Explorer GRIB File viewerOne Last Thing: Ease of Use

Downloading GRIB files over email is very delicate work. You have to get the request exactly right for it to go through. This means that there are often added costs in the final cost, because more often that not you end up sending (and checking) if the request went through okay more than once. 
WeatherNet is really easy. You draw a square over a map of the world (the area you want to get weather from) and then you check off which GRIB files you want for that area. 
If the weather information you are looking for isn't available as one of the easy-to-find buttons, you can access libraries that have weather information for everywhere on the planet. We're talking GRIB files so obscure, so detailed, that it's highly unlikely that you'll find them as part of a free GRIB file download service. 
So yes, WeatherNet costs money (remember you also need to factor in the $99 per year subscription fee), but just in terms of ease of use, richness of data, and integration with XGate, it beats free GRIB files by far.

In Conclusion 

In general, we say that if you are downloading basic weather once a week, or less, you'll probably save more money with a free GRIB service. If you are downloading weather more frequently, and especially if you are downloading complicated weather information like currents, you will probably save more money with WeatherNet (and have a much better user experience). 
Have questions about getting weather information over satellite? Feel free to contact us and ask.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Explorer Parker Liautaud Departs for the Willis Resilience Expedition

Teenage polar explorer Parker Liautaud is packing his bags this week before setting off for the start of the Willis Resilience Expedition, a 40 day expedition to collect scientific data, pilot a new model of weather station and attempt a speed record from the Antarctic Coast to the South Pole. Parker, a sophomore at Yale University will be packing his pulk (the sledge he will use to take all of his expedition kit). Weighing in at around 80kg, Parker’s kit will keep him alive in the world’s most inhospitable continent.

A polar expedition on this scale means planning for every eventuality, so everything Parker takes with him is geared towards survival and performance. Among other things, Parker will pack polarized goggles to protect him from snow blindness and an insulated jacket which has been tested to keep him warm and dry in temperatures as low as -60ºC. Parker’s pulk will carry everything he will need during his 22 day trek to the South Pole, including all his food, tent and supplies plus essentials such as a crevasse rescue kit containing carabiners, slings, ice-screws, pulleys and ropes.

At just 19 years old Parker will trek 640km from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and attempt to set a new world record. The invaluable scientific research that he will undertake before he aims to set this record will be aimed at exploring the impact of climate change by uncovering new scientific data and enhancing our understanding of our changing world.

Backed by leading insurance, reinsurance and risk managers, Willis, the expedition is deeply entwined with Willis’ core business values; offering risk management solutions and strategies to help their clients overcome challenges and build resilience for a risky world. To allow people to follow Parker’s remarkable journey to the South Pole and learn more about the importance of the data collected during the expedition, The Willis Resilience Expedition website – – invites people to not only learn more but to feel part of the journey as it unfolds. The expedition is supported by the Ice Broker, a 2.6 tonne, custom built truck – in essence, a science-gathering and communications center on wheels – which will provide logistical support to the scientific phase of the expedition as well as live streaming video and data to a global audience throughout. The video footage will be transmitted via Iridium Pilot systems and a remote camera rig built into the truck.

“It feels surreal that the expedition is about to begin. After two years of careful planning and preparation we are finally ready to start our journey to the South Pole. We are not only aiming to set a new world record, but more importantly we will be collecting data that will contribute to understanding our changing world. I am excited about taking on the challenge that lies ahead and I know that with the support team I have around me this expedition will be a huge success. Although I will have no contact with the incredible Antarctic truck ‘Ice Broker’ while attempting the ski record, it will be tracking my every move and allowing you to follow our journey with a live stream via”

Parker Liautaud, Willis Resilience Expedition Leader

As one of the world’s leading risk advisers and insurance and reinsurance brokers, Willis is supporting this inspirational journey to test the limits of human endurance and resilience in the harshest of environments and to promote greater understanding of our changing climate and the risks associated with it.

Notes to Media

About Willis: Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 17,000 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world’s leading authorities on analytics, modelling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events. Find more information at our website,, our leadership journal, Resilience, or our up-to-the-minute blog on breaking news, WillisWire. Across geographies, industries and specialisms, Willis provides its local and multinational clients with resilience for a risky world.

An unsupported expedition: The Willis Resilience Expedition will have a vehicle tracking the explorers however, the team in the truck will provide no support to Parker along the way. The vehicle is tracking the team to provide round the clock footage and imagery along the way and will not carry any equipment for Parker with them.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mars Society Seeks Volunteers for 1-Year Mission in Canadian Arctic

FMARS (Credit: Mars Society)

The Mars Society is seeking six volunteers to participate as members of the crew of the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) during an extended simulation of human Mars exploration operations on Devon Island in northern Canada (August 2014 through July 2015).

As currently planned, the crew will consist of four individuals chosen primarily for their skills as field scientists in areas including geology, geochemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, and paleontology. Two additional crew members will be chosen primarily for their skills in engineering areas. The ability of crew members to support both roles is considered a strong plus.

For 12 months, these six crew members will conduct a sustained program of field exploration on Devon Island, 900 miles from the North Pole, while operating under many of the same constraints that will be faced by explorers on an actual human Mars mission. For example, no one will be able to go outside without wearing a spacesuit simulator. The crew will be responsible for all of its own field work, lab work, reportage, repair of equipment, and chores of daily life. They will work in telescience collaboration with a Remote Science Team, a Mission Support Group, and an Engineering Support Team located in the continental United States. In addition to the six person Mars exploration crew, one field support person will also participate in the expedition in and out of simulation role. This person should have excellent field mechanic and wilderness skills.

Both volunteer investigators who bring with them a proposed program of research of their own compatible with the objectives of the Flashline Station (see below), and those simply wishing to participate as members of the crew supporting the investigations of others, will be considered. Volunteers may submit applications as individuals, couples or both. Applications will be considered from anyone in good physical condition between 22 and 60 years of age without regard to race, creed, color, gender, or nationality. Scientific, engineering, practical mechanical, arctic, wilderness, first aid, medical, and literary skills are all considered a plus. Applicants should have either a four-year college degree or equivalent experience.

Applicants will need to pass a physical exam and must be cleared by their personal physician to participate. Applicants must be non-smokers and should state what, if any, food allergies and/or dietary restrictions they may have. Dedication to the cause of human Mars exploration is an absolute must, as conditions are likely to be very difficult and the job will be very trying.

Those selected will be required to act under crew discipline and strict mission protocols during the Arctic simulation. Prior to the mission, the selected crew members will take part in a two-week training mission at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah, and will also participate in other evaluation, training and preparatory sessions. Applicants should state whether or not they require salary. Applications including resume, character references, proposed research program (if any) and a brief letter explaining why you wish to participate should be sent to: The total length of application should not exceed four pages, and the deadline for submitting applications is November 30, 2013.

Mission Science Agenda

The overall purpose of Mars Society simulations is to investigate field techniques that would be relevant to the scientific exploration of Mars. The approach of our investigations is to have real science goals in Mars analog environments and to conduct field work under simulated Mars mission constraints. Relevant field activities include geological surveys, search for evidence of past life, search for extant life, and environmental and meteorological observations. In addition investigating the role and optimal combination of human exploration, telepresence, robotic exploration and the use of remote sensing tools are all part of these simulations.

The MA365 mission simulation opens up additional focused science enabled by the long stay in Arctic conditions. The mission-long scientific focus of MA365 will include coupled physical and biological studies of the Arctic active layer over the transition from hard winter freeze to summer thaw, other natural science investigations of interest, as well as extended crew psychological, food science, engineering and human factors research. Examples of science activities include (but are not limited to):

1. Temperature and flow relations in the active layer of the permafrost across -20 to 0C and applications to models of fluvial feature formation over permafrost on Earth and Mars.

2. Experiments with manipulation of the snow cover thickness and monitoring of the effect on the thaw of the underlying ground.

3. Measurement of melt generation in snowpacks and application to models for the melting of dusty snow packs on Mars as the mechanism for creating gully features.

4. Measurement of in situ biological activity and changes in diversity and abundance as temperatures increase from -20 to 0C.

5. Measurement of the release of CH4 – an important greenhouse gas – from permafrost and possible applications to the source of CH4 on Mars.

6. Carbon release studies of permafrost as temperature changes with applicability to global warming.

7. Deployment of interactive sensor networks to achieve science goals and human factors studies of the human-sensor network interface.

8. Isolation and confinement of this expedition enables research on human performance under extreme conditions analogous to space mission conditions.

9. Deployment and utilization of remote instruments, including telescopes during the long Arctic winter night.

10. Climatological studies.

11. Geologic studies.

12. Studies of human exploration field operations.

13. Tests of prototype Mars exploration equipment.

Science team members selected for this expedition are expected to have a track record in a science area listed above or a related activity. They are also expected to supervise a field research project leading to peer-reviewed publication working in collaboration with the Science Advisory Group and the Remote Science Team for the expedition.

Equipment to conduct field exploration will be provided, but team members may also propose to bring field equipment and instruments as part of their activities.

If you want to get humans to Mars and have the skills and temperament to help make this mission a success, please step forward. This is your chance to make history!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Willis to launch Antarctica expedition to study climate change impact

Willis Group has launched a scientific program in Antarctica, beginning this fall, with the goal of reaching a better understanding of climate change and to build resilience to weather-related risk.

Beginning in November and running to January 2014, the Willis Resilience Expedition will include three research projects focused on how the climate is changing in Antarctica, a region it says provides an important signal for the rate and scale of global environmental changes.

The expedition will be led by 19-year-old Parker Liautaud, a polar explorer and student at Yale University.

As part of the project, the team will test an automatic weather station called the ColdFacts-3000BX, which has never been tested in Antarctica. The station will be tested over five weeks. “This light and relatively inexpensive model could pave the way for additional cost-efficient and extensive surface observations in the Antarctic region,” Willis says.

The expedition will also include a “coast-to-pole-to-coast” survey of Antarctic stable isotope trends, with those observations providing new information on the rate of change in temperature in Antarctica over recent years, Willis says. Samples will be sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency Isotope Hydrology laboratories for analysis.
The team will also conduct a transcontinental study of the deposition rate of Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. “The relatively short half-life of Tritium means it can be used to date snow and ice up to around 150 years old. The data can then be used to better understand the global water cycle, which is intrinsically linked to changes in climate,” Willis says.

The company says this will be the first large-scale study of Tritium in Antarctica since Tritium returned to normal levels following the spike caused by thermonuclear tests in the 1960s. The samples will be sent to GNS Science, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, for analysis.

“We need to model the insurance industry's exposure to climate related risk to fulfill the stringent requirements of financial regulation,” Rowan Douglas, chairman of the Willis Research Network, noted in a statement about the expedition.

“We hope that the Willis Resilience Expedition's science and survey programme will provide scientists with important data to inform their models which, in turn, provide inputs to our own systems to estimate the risk of extreme events. The Antarctic is the canary in the cage for the pace and thresholds for wider global processes and impacts.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Sarah Outen, a woman aged 28 from Britain, has finished her solo journey from Japan to Alaska, after rowing for 150 days. Outen set a world record by becoming the first person in the history to row from Japan to Alaska, the expedition’s project manager said.

It is not the first time when the woman includes Japan in her adventurous expeditions. In 2011, she traveled more than 17, 700 kilometers by kayak and bicycle across Europe and Asia to Japan, following her multi-year mission of going around the world by using her own body’s power.

Outen got to the island of Adak island late on Monday and was greeted by about half of the 320 residents. “It was pouring down rain. But we were happy to see her,” Smiloff, the community’s former harbormaster, said.

She traversed over 3,200 kilometers from Japan to Adak Island, according to her website. She stopped within almost a kilometer of land and had to be towed the rest of the way to the island because of winds and current pushing her toward rocks, her Website’s blog section said.

At the moment, Outen is not available for comments, as she is exhausted and needs rest, according to the expedition’s project manager.

The young woman plans to go round the globe by bicycle, kayak and rowboat, according to the international press. She is using the expedition to raise money for four charity projects.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lessons Learned The final dispatch from the Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition


Congrats to Pete Marshall and his trip-mates Winchell Delano, Steve Keaveny and Matt Harren from this summer’s Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition, whose video teaser above just earned an IMAX Award and a $25,000 prize, presented by IMAX, Newsweek & The Daily Beast, for exhibiting the keen “ability to take audiences on an adventure through explorations in filmmaking.” The 130-day, 2,600-mile expedition from the Pacific Ocean to Hudson Bay was documented in a four-part series on [Click to view the dispatches from STAGE 1, STAGE 2, STAGE 3, and STAGE 4].

Attendees at this weekend’s Canoecopia show in Madison, Wis., can check out Marshall’s presentation, 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the BWCA Room. In the meantime, we caught up with Marshall for a couple quick questions to talk about the film project capper to the expedition, titled, “2600 above 60″ and detailing the crew’s desire to see the world “as the first people did” by paddling through “the world’s last great wilderness.” So part of the criteria for the award was gauging the film clip’s “social resonance.” How best would you say the video, and the expedition, resonates with people?

Pete Marshall: For the general non-paddlers, I’m often asked how this expedition even began, how the idea for a 2600-mile trip ever dawned on me. A big part of the trip was about imagination, about wanting to see what the possibilities of a canoe, to see where a canoe can take you and connect rivers and lakes in a way that people had never done.

Here’s a tough one: What paddling tips did you take away from paddling all that distance?

One gear factor was the Kokatat drysuits we used to wade through water still filled with ice and not get a touch of hypothermia. Most trips you look forward to going down river, but some trips require going up 500 miles of flooded, mountainous river before you get to the good downstream portion. Here’s a good one to take away otherwise: More than physical endurance, you just have to be stubborn on a trip like this.

Check for updates on the film HERE.


An adventure of canoeing above 60º across Canada takes the win


This is the map of our route, each mark indicates where we camped. CHECK BACK SOON! THE MAP WILL BE UPDATED WITH ANECDOTES AND PICTURES FROM THE LOCATIONS WHERE WE CAMPED. 

The route of the 2012 Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition

           A few years ago, as summer was coming to an end, I was looking over some maps, curious to see if it was possible to paddle from the Pacific Ocean, across the Territories, and into Hudson Bay. To my knowledge, no one had made such a journey by canoe. But with some hope and imagination, my curiosity was rewarded: There was a route. Once again Canada’s vast wilderness, its rivers and lakes that have for so long excited my imagination, beckoned.
            Our expedition is the first to undertake this 4000 kilometer route. Our journey will take us from one ocean to another, through mountain valleys and into barren tundra. It involves arduous upstream travel, dangerous lake crossings, and exhilarating whitewater. We begin on the Pacific Ocean, at the historic Chilkook Pass, where during the Klondike Gold Rush prospectors began to make their way into the interior. We will journey down the Yukon River then ascend the Pelly and Ross Rivers to the height of land where we portage onto the legendary splendors of the Nahani River. As the Nahani rushes into the lowlands, we resume upstream paddle on the Mackenzie River, canoe across The Great Slave Lake, and on the eastern extreme of this enormous lake portage onto the Thelon River. Now in the treeless tundra, we paddle through the traditional hunting grounds of the Caribou Inuit until our expedition ends on the shores of Hudson Bay. 

           click here for more details on the route

Crew Bios

Pete Marshall


Since he went on his first canoe trip at age sixteen, Pete has paddled over 7500 miles through Canada. In 2005 he and his brother Andrew canoed 2700 miles over the course of 122 days from their home state of Minnesota to the Arctic Ocean. He is currently working on a film and book that recounts his and the other team member's experience on the 2012 expedition.

Steve Keaveny


A lifelong believer in the healing power of wilderness, Steve has been working with troubled teenagers in the wilderness of Utah for the past five years. Steve has felt the need of the human spirit to connect with wild spaces since he was a teenager and first began to canoe through the Canadian wilderness.

His many trips include expeditions on the Kazan, Missinaibi, Moisie, and Back rivers. In addition to canoeing, Steve is an accomplished kayaker and has made runs on challenging rivers from Alaska to Terra del Fuego.

 Winchell Delano


Growing up with Minnesota’s lakes and rivers as his backyard, Winchell extended his passion and knowledge of canoeing by working as a guide for Les Voyaguers, Inc., a non-profit outdoor leadership program operating in Ontario and Manitoba. Since then he began organizing personal expeditions and has paddled numerous classic routes throughout Canada.

 Matt Harren


A passionate student of cinema and wilderness, Matt has spent many summers canoeing waterways throughout Canada, dreaming of how he could capture the experience on film. He has spent several summers guiding for Les Voyageurs, where he gained the skills and experience he now brings to his job working with troubled youth in the wilds of Utah. Matt envisions the expedition will provide, among many things, an opportunity for him to craft a film that will explore the importance of human’s impact on nature, and in turn its impact on us.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The cost of climbing Mount Everest Scaling the Mt Everest ranges from US$30,000 to 65,000 per climber, plus other costs

Dubai: Scaling the world’s tallest peaks doesn’t only require iron resolve, extensive mountaineering experience, and a bit of luck. It also requires a hefty sum of money.
The summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth at 8,848 metres, continues to lure mountaineers from all walks of life from various part of the globe. In the region, the dream to conquer the mount has been strongest over the past three years.
This year alone witnessed record-setting victory for Shaikh Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, as the first Qatari man, Raed Zidan as the first Palestinian man, Raha Moharrak as the first Saudi woman and youngest Arab, and UAE resident Maria Conceicao as the first Portuguese woman to have successfully stood on top of the world.
But the high climb also comes with high costs, literally. Asked how much she had to spend for the expedition, Moharrak said it was “very expensive.”
“One could spend between US$70,000 (Dh257,110) to 90,000 (Dh330,570), depending on the services they would like to avail. In my case I spent roughly US$75,000 (Dh275,475). But this can be paid on instalments,” Moharrak, whose father sponsored the trip, told Gulf News.
British expatriate Mark Shuttleworth, who has conquered Mt Everest and the world’s six other tallest peaks in all the continents with his daughter, Leanna, said the climbing cost per person for Mt Everest would be around US$ 65,000 from top-of-the-line guide houses for Everest expeditions. The bill covers permits, accommodation costs, Sherpas, porters, yaks, food and supplies.
“With this, you are paying for a huge amount of experience and a better quality of lifestyle through the expedition. You have a very very strong team or support network with you,” Shuttleworth told Gulf News.
While there are guide houses that offer as low as US$30,000 (Dh110,190) for their services per climb, Shuttleworth said this rate won’t give you the same quantity and quality of support network.
“You need to minimise your risks and maximise your chances to reach the summit and the way to do that is to find the top outfitters. It really comes down to asking yourself, ‘how much is your life worth?” he said.

For the father and daughter duo, their climb was fully self-financed.
Getting sponsorships for the climb is one way to foot the bill, especially if you’re doing it for charity like what Conceicao, founder of the Maria Cristina Foundation, did in May. The flight attendant-turned-charity worker’s climbing cost of US$58,000 (Dh213,034) plus the airfare and other costs were shouldered by nine corporate companies. Through the climb, she hoped to be able to raise funds to send four slum children from Dhaka to a top UAE school. “The climb certainly gave my charity exposure and visibility, which I wouldn’t have otherwise received. Credit crunch has hit our foundation really bad and I needed to do something that could potentially help me build a platform to globally receive support,”Conceicao told Gulf News.
But don’t go seeking sponsors or breaking your piggy banks just yet. Before even contemplating climbing the Everest, consider a word of advice: “Do not even view to go on Everest if you have not at least climbed an 8,000-metre peak, or Denali/Mt McKinley, which is extremely tough. You need to have the necessary skills and experience in order to be able to tackle Everest because all of these mountains are dangerous,” Shuttleworth cautioned.
Breakdown of Costs OF Climbing Mt Everest:

Guide houses typically have all-in packages for the whole climb per person, except for the airfare and the climbing gear. The breakdown roughly goes this way:

Travel expenses: Dh8,700 - Dh22,900

Getting to Everest Base Camp: Dh7,900

Climbing fees and deposits: Dh72,400 - Dh138,500

Equipment and cooks: Dh34,200

Oxygen and climbing Sherpas: Dh31,300

Gear: Dh25,700

Miscellaneous (medical kits, communications, evacuation): Dh30,300 - Dh44,000


Friday, July 19, 2013

Record number of climbers summit Mount McKinley

Bill Kittredge (left), Steve Gruhn and Tom Choate at the start of their Denali climb. Choate, 78, became the oldest person ever to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley on June 28, 2013.

Read more here:

A record number of climbers summited North America's highest peak this season.

The National Park Service said 787 of the 1,151 registered climbers reached the summit of Mount McKinley in Alaska this year. That's a summit percentage of 68 percent, the highest since 1977, when the summit percentage was 79 percent. In 1977, 284 of the 360 climbers who attempted to scale the peak did so.

The number of climbers to reach the summit has topped 700 in only four other years: 1994, 2001, 2005 and 2008, according to park statistics. The previous high was 775 in 2005.

"It was a well-above-average year," said Maureen McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Denali National Park and Preserve. "The major factor in a strong summit year versus a not-so-strong one is good weather, and this past May and June saw "long stretches of warm temperatures, clear skies and mild winds."

The actual number of registered climbers this year was the lowest since 1997, when there were 1,110 attempts.

Mount McKinley — widely known in Alaska as Denali — is never closed to climbing, but the primary season typically runs from the end of April through the middle of July, with mid-May to mid-June being the most popular, McLaughlin said.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain's 20,320-foot south summit. That was accomplished by Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Harry Karstens and Robert Tatum. Descendants of the four men reached the summit during this centennial season, McLaughlin said.

This season also saw an Alaska man set the record as the oldest person to reach the summit, at 78 years.

There was one fatality, a man who in May suffered a heart attack on the mountain.

Read more here: