By EPW Blog
Monday, March 12, 2007Frostbite, equipment damage end latest Bancroft-Arnesen trek
By: Patrick Condon, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS - A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite.
The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment.
"Ann said losing toes and going forward at all costs was never part of the journey," said Ann Atwood, who helped organize the expedition.
On Monday, the pair was at Canada's Ward Hunt Island, awaiting a plane to take them to Resolute, Canada, where they were to return to Minneapolis later this week.
Bancroft, 51, became the first woman to cross the North Pole on a 1986 expedition. She and Arnesen, 53, of Oslo, Norway, were the first women to ski across Antarctica in 2001.
But the latest trek got off to a bad start. The day they set off from Ward Hunt Island, a plane landing near the women hit their gear, punching a hole in Bancroft's sled and damaging one of Arnesen's snowshoes.
They repaired the snowshoe with binding from a ski, but Atwood said the patch job created pressure on Arnesen's left foot, which led to blisters that then turned into frostbite.
Then there was the cold - quite a bit colder, Atwood said, then Bancroft and Arnesen had expected. One night they measured the temperature inside their tent at 58 degrees below zero, and outside temperatures were exceeding 100 below zero at times, Atwood said.
"My first reaction when they called to say there were calling it off was that they just sounded really, really cold," Atwood said.
She said Bancroft and Arnesen were applying hot water bottles to Arnesen's foot every night, but had to wake up periodically because the bottles froze.
The explorers had planned to call in regular updates to school groups by satellite phone, and had planned online posts with photographic evidence of global warming. In contrast to Bancroft's 1986 trek across the Arctic with fellow Minnesota explorer Will Steger, this time she and Arnesen were prepared to don body suits and swim through areas where polar ice has melted.
Atwood said there was some irony that a trip to call attention to global warming was scuttled in part by extreme cold temperatures.
"They were experiencing temperatures that weren't expected with global warming," Atwood said. "But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability."