Harrowing conditions including unseasonable snowstorms and spring ice conditions have cut short an attempt by two U.S. explorers at the first-ever summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean to highlight the threat of global warming.
Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen, both of Grand Marais, Minnesota, were airlifted by helicopter from the ocean on Saturday after battling the elements for 23 days. They said it had snowed heavily more than two-thirds of the time they were in the region.
Strong wind and ocean currents pushed ridged ice southward, and the explorers said they often found themselves moving away from, rather than toward, the North Pole.
"We go forward eight miles and then we'd be drifted back 12. So it was difficult, very, very difficult," Dupre said.
Their expedition began May 10 at Cape Arktichesky in Siberia, and they had planned to finish by August. But they had to call it short after deciding
"There are vast areas of thin ice and slushy leads too thick to canoe across and too thin to cross by skis," Dupre wrote in a message posted on the expedition Web site on Friday. "This combined with the unusually deep snow has thwarted our efforts to go forward."
The attempt of the first summer crossing of the Arctic Ocean was part of Project Thin Ice, an international campaign by Greenpeace to dramatize the effects of global warming.
Dogsled and ski teams have made winter crossings, but a summer crossing over a combination of open water and shifting ice floes would be a first. The men were using skis and special boats with sled runners.
Dupre said that he would consider the expedition a success, in spite of it being thwarted, "if we've changed one person's mind about global warming and to act on global warming."
Both are seasoned travelers. Larsen, 33, completed a 700-mile (1,125-kilometer) dog sledge expedition in the Canadian sub-Arctic, and Dupre, 44, has traveled through the high Arctic regions of northeastern Russia, Lapland, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.
The prospective Russian unmanned underwater vehicle Poseidon will be launched for the first time this fall