After a week at sea on the sailing schooner the Noorderlicht (which means "northern light" in Norwegian) the 20 artists and scientists of the Cape Farewell 2010 expedition have reached the northerly apex of our journey.
Our original plan would have seen us travel to Victoria Island, one of the northernmost islands of the archipelago that is Svalbard. This northern progress has been hampered by the presence of sea ice, the result of the breakup of the polar ice cap being blown south by wind. According to our resident oceanographer, Dr. Simon Boxall, this is the second worst cap melt in human history, second only to the melting seen in 2007.
Ice conditions affect our captain's daily navigation decisions (particularly the fear of becoming trapped by it), and provides a palpable physical reminder of the climate change that is affecting the High Arctic with accelerated force--the global rise in temperature is about .8 degrees Celsius; here it is considerably higher. Today, we have almost been trapped by the melting ice cap as it fragments into pieces (some of them the size of a football field), and is swept south by the wind and east by the rotation of the earth.
Scientists are observing these changes with a combination of fascination and dread--fascination because changes this fast have never been observed in the history of human civilization. Dread because of the slow havoc the inexorable rise in carbon dioxide levels produces through the earth's rising fever and water levels. And the grim social injustice of climate change is that the vast preponderance of the carbon produced by the developed world will affect those countries and peoples who have contributed least to the problem, and who are already the most vulnerable to poverty, instability, famine and disease.
Today, Cape Farewell founder and director, artist David Buckland, interviews Dr. Simon Boxall at Kinnvika, a remote Swedish encampment around the 80th parallel, talking about the melting arctic ice cap, the changing ocean currents, and the global implications. This is Simon's fourth Cape Farewell expedition to the front line of climate change, conducting research on the health of the ocean currents and illuminating the issues with the artists as we circumnavigate the remarkable treeless landscape of fiords, glaciers and icebergs that is Svalbard.
Beth Kapusta, Cape Farewell Canada
September 17, 2010
Follow Cape Farewell voyage on the 2010 Arctic Expedition blog at http://www.capefarewell.com/2010expedition/
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