• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 10:04am

Go earlier in the year, Arctic explorer advises

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am

Expeditions across Greenland are now best made in the early summer thanks to global warming over recent years, says leading Arctic explorer Ben Saunders.

The British long-distance skier, who has made three expeditions to the North Pole, said the Hong Kong team's expedition fell well within the Danish Polar Centre's approved period of April 1 to October 15 for gaining a permit to explore Greenland.

'However, temperature trends for the past 20 years or so have been rising pretty continuously throughout the Arctic but certainly in Greenland,' he said. 'This means explorers need to start their trips earlier in the season and preferably in early to mid-May. I last went to Greenland last year and I found it was almost too warm in June.'

Teams attempting a first expedition in Greenland should seek as much advice as possible, and speak to people who had been there recently - ideally the year before - because climatic conditions were changing so fast.

'The ideal conditions are around minus 10 to minus 20 degrees Celsius,' Saunders said. 'It is not dangerously cold but equally it is cold enough. The visibility tends to be clearer when it is colder and the surface conditions are often better. You ski over the surface rather than going through it.

'It is not unreasonable to attempt to cross the field of crevasses on the northwest coast of Greenland. That is part of the challenge. There was an all-female team last year that took 16 days to cross Greenland. And a friend of mine took a similar route about a year ago and they had a girl with them who was a paraplegic. They managed to find their way through a series of crevasses on the final leg.

He said the Hong Kong expedition had not been reckless. 'But they obviously misjudged the conditions ...with the crevasse. It should be fairly straightforward to rescue someone from a crevasse. And normally, in a crevassed area, I would expect a team to be roped.'

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