From the Calgary Herald:
By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service, February 13, 2010 7:53 AM
Citing the "perilous" frailty of the polar ice cap, a British team's bid to trek from the edge of Arctic Canada to the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility -- the most remote place in the Arctic Ocean -- has been scuttled just days ahead of the planned departure from Nunavut's Ellef Ringnes Island.
Warned by Environment Canada that the High Arctic is experiencing the "worst conditions" for winter ice cover in decades, the leader of the proposed 1,100-kilometre journey said making the attempt would be "foolhardy" and "endanger lives unnecessarily."
Jim McNeill has been thwarted in his quest to complete what's been called exploration's "last true world first" -- a slog to the spot in the Arctic Ocean that lies the greatest distance from any point of land.
The cancellation follows last week's release of a landmark Canadian study that highlighted unprecedented expanses of open water in the polar sea and predicted ice-free summers in the central Arctic Ocean much sooner than previously forecast.
The risks of early failure, of cold injury and of needing to be rescued are too high to justify setting out," said the 49-year-old McNeill, a former firefighter who organizes endurance trekking tours. "I believe to venture out in the current conditions would be foolhardy and not achieve any of the scientific and adventurous aims we have, and could possibly endanger lives unnecessarily."
The Northern Pole of Inaccessibility lies about 400 kilometres farther out to sea than the North Pole itself, and is by definition the hardest place to get to on the planet's polar ice cap.
A pioneering aviator first flew over it in 1927, and a Russian icebreaker is believed to have passed by in the 1950s. But no man or woman has ever made a foot crossing to the point over the treacherous expanses of heaving ice and fatally cold water that lead to the centre of the Arctic Ocean's outback.
An Environment Canada meteorologist advised against the trek, citing horrible deterioration of the ice cover.
The Ice Warrior team had just completed four weeks of training on Norway's Svalbard Islands. McNeill said another attempt will be made in 2011 if ice conditions permit.
"This change of plan is intensely frustrating and can be deeply depressing," he said. "But when pitching yourselves against Mother Nature, we must realize when she has the upper hand and react accordingly."
Mother Nature? Well, I guess. No mention of why Mother Nature is suddenly so nasty...
Don't you just love that word "unprecedented"?
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