WITH A FINAL RECORD: 265 MI (427 KM) IN ONE GO!
The First Circumnavigation of Greenland aboard a wind vehicle has just concluded by successfully attaining the point where the expedition began from near Kangerlussuaq, southwest of the island, after traveling a total of 2,672 mi (4,300 km) in forty-nine days.
The five expeditionary led by the polar explorer Ramón Larramendi have surpassed the record of distance traveled with the WindSled, by accomplishing 265 mi (427 km) in one single stage.
On the journey, the team has tested a new prototype of the ‘eco-mobile laboratory’ and demonstrated the possibility of travel and research in polar regions with zero-emissions.
On board this convoy vehicle traveling with Larramendi: the dane, Karin Moe Bojsen, the Greenlander, Hugo Svensson and two Spanish engineers, Eusebio Beamonte and Manuel Olivera, who have all made it to the “finish line” without any physical problems, except the fatigue of an expedition as demanding as this one.
The penultimate stage of this pioneer expedition, was preceded by two days in which the wind was not favorable. Since Friday, at the southernmost point of the route, Latitude 63º 55′ N, and during the entire weekend, there was no way to turn west to catch a northward route towards nearby Kangerlussuaq, where they had been deposited by plane on May 3rd.
” Those last three days were quite desperate because we’re near the end, food is becoming scarce and, nevertheless, we can not move because there is just no favorable wind. Patience is the greatest of virtues for explorers, but after almost two months on the ice, it’s inevitable to desire reaching the destination and these stoppages whilst “at the doors” are pretty harsh, ” states Larramendi.
However, on Sunday afternoon the situation changed (as recounted in the expedition diary) and a strong, stable and good wind direction was inflating the WindSled’s largest kite, 861 sq ft (80 sq m), until it reached 19 mi (30 km) / hour. Although changing to a smaller, 646 sq ft (60 sq m), the WindSled continued its pace, with speeds of up to 28 mi (45 km) / h, and poor visibility. At times they reached the incredible speed of 34 mi (54 km) / hour.
“We had a very strong wind and the terrain was flat, an infinite plain, so the sled was bumping less than other days advancing at 7 mi (12 km) / hour. It was really spectacular. In the end, we even passed some miles from the starting point, and we could have continued, but the snow got very heavy, with water due to melting, and we finally broke a string, so we decided to stop, ” explains Larramendi, the expedition leader.
In total, the last day of the expedition, they navigated twenty-one hours without rest, strictly following the shifts they had established throughout the trip. The last navigator to handle the controls was Manuel Olivera.
At the location they stopped Monday afternoon, 67º N, they have been collected Tuesday by a Greenland.Net company helicopter, which returned them safely to Kangerlussuaq, where the adventure began.
“We are all very happy. It’s been hard, especially since we thought to have better terrain and better wind and we have endured many days of little progress, but in the end we have accomplished the goal and we have demonstrated that the WindSled, although in need of some adaptations, is a great added value to doing science in the poles, ” affirms Larramendi.
The expedition left Kangerlussuaq on June 2nd and climbing west, reached 79° N, the closest to the North Pole the expedition attains. At that point, they turned east and then descended to the Greenland National Park, one of the most unexplored areas of the planet, finally reaching the south.
Throughout this time they have not come across any living being, except some Arctic bird that has hovered near the kite. Only in the southeast, on June 15th, they found traces of other explorer’s camps, and three days later, on the 18th, they visited the spooky Cold War radar station, Dye-3, abandoned twenty-five years ago.
SCIENTIFIC DATA PROCESSING AND COLLECTION OF SAMPLES
Throughout the forty-nine days, four more than initially planned, the expedition has periodically conducted snow gathering and data processing for the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE/CSIC-Higher Council for Scientific Research). On the 16 June, for the first time they detected 1º C, when they had been to -25º C in the north. ” We had higher than expected temperatures,” they recognize.
Their mission was to obtain data every 62 mi (100 km) inserting a rod into the ice and every 249 mi (400 km), drilling and digging ditches 10 ft (3 m) deep, until the obtainment of a dozen samples. ” This data will have to be analyzed by the geographer Mr. Juan Ignacio Lopez, IPE, but we can say there are interesting variations between data collected and processed in the north and that from the south,” remarks Mr. Olivera, chief scientific responsible of the expedition.
The conclusions on the data collected in the previous WindSled adventure in Antarctica, were presented at the SETAC 2014 Congress in Basel (Switzerland), illustrating the fact of existing and persistent organic pollutants in Antarctica´s air: