The WindSled expeditionary, led by polar explorer Ramón Larramendi, are about to enter the final stage in the geographical challenge of circumnavigating the Greenland ice cap aboard a wind driven convoy.

This week, they have hit one of the expedition milestones: crossing the Arctic Circle. They have been led by wind which in recent days has dropped intensity due to unexpected and drastic rising temperatures. The WindSled has already traveled some 2,032 mi  of the 3,106 initially planned. They expect completion in late June, leaving the ice at the same point they began from. The team, Karin Moe Bojsen, Hugo Svensson, Manuel Olivera, Eusebio Beamonte, and Larramendi himself, arrived at the ice cap near the town of Kangerlussuaq.

Recently, the expedition has handled days that have exceeded 124 mi (200 km), and others at a lower rate, which is accentuated as they near the southern tip of Greenland.

In just fifteen days, there has been nearly an 86° F (30° C) difference. ” In all my years of traveling around the island, it is the first time I am so hot on the ice; the raise has been virtually overnight and causes decreasing wind intensity during good part of sunshine hours , ” comments Larramendi via satellite phone. This heat has also led to the thawing of the ice amid the many rungs of the sled. That’s when they found out that some of them had been damaged when passing through a tough sastrugi area, ice waves that occur and may exceed 27.3 inches in height. The snow is also softer, difficulting going at high speed without causing damage.

“Fortunately, although it takes us hours to fix the sled, it is relatively simple. One of the advantages of not driving a motor vehicle which requires sophisticated parts. Everything can be solved with the materials that we placed on board without the risk of not finishing the route because of a break, ” affirms the leader of the expedition.

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Despite these difficulties, they continue on the route. Recently, they have perpendicularly crossed the route followed by traditional expeditions running from east to west of the island. “For the first time in a month and a half we found traces of other human beings on this desert of ice. There were walls of snow, those raised to protect tents, ” he explained some hours later.

They have also crossed the Arctic Circle at latitude 65º 57′ N, one of the geographical milestones marked in the expedition schedule.

With enough food to continue, they are just short of bread and cookies. They assure that the diet based on freeze-dried food, like astronauts have, is not causing them any problems. In fact, they say their health is good and their mood too, although it inevitably rises and falls with the intensity of the wind.

“The most important thing is not to despair, have patience and be ever vigilant to seize the moment in which intensity increases and start running,” says M. Olivera, responsible of scientific data processing for the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC-Higher Council for Scientific Research).


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