Archive for the ‘Polar history’ Category

Bone Analysis sheds new light on ill-fated arctic expedition

March 27, 2011

English Heritage 18.03.2011 – Original article here

New isotope analysis and forensic facial reconstruction undertaken by a team led by English Heritage has shed new light on the doomed 1845 British voyage of Arctic exploration led by Sir John Franklin, in which all 129 people on board perished.

Analysis of the only surviving complete skeleton has offered new clues as to why the expedition was lost, a mystery that has sparked debate ever since. Some have suggested that scurvy or tuberculosis may have been causes of debilitation and death on the expedition, but no evidence of these diseases was found on the bones, and DNA tests proved negative for tuberculosis. Work is still ongoing on samples from the remains to analyse for lead to see if lead poisoning from the expedition’s canned food or from their water supply was a factor.

The study has also revealed that the identity of the skeleton is unlikely to be Henry LeVesconte, a Lieutenant aboard one of the ships, a conclusion that has been widely accepted since the skeleton was first examined in 1872 by Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the foremost biologists of the age.

Daguerreotype of Goodsir (left, copyright: National Maritime Museum) and the facial reconstruction

The remains thought to be Le Vesconte’s, and those of one other sailor, were the only ones ever to be returned to Britain. The lieutenant’s bones were buried beneath the Franklin Expedition monument at the old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Renovations in 2009 of the memorial meant that the remains had to be exhumed and temporarily moved. This gave an opportunity for English Heritage to study the remains and to evaluate the twin questions of the identity of this particular skeleton and the reasons for loss of the expedition.

Henry LeVesconte grew up in Devon. However, analysis of stable isotopes from the teeth of the skeleton shows that it is unlikely that this individual grew up there, but more likely that he spent his childhood in NE England or eastern Scotland.

Moreover, 14 of the 24 officers on the expedition had their portraits taken by the newly devised Daguerreotype photographic process prior to embarkation.  A forensic facial reconstruction was undertaken using the skull of the skeleton, and it seemed to match quite closely the appearance of Harry Goodsir, an assistant surgeon and naturalist on the voyage.

Dr Simon Mays, skeletal biologist at English Heritage, said: ‘ The study of human remains and in turn our understanding of the past has benefited immensely from the advance of science and technology. The disappearance of Franklin’s heroic crew became a cause celebre in Victorian England, and the reasons for its loss continue to be debated. Our study offers some important clues to take the debate further.

‘The identity of the skeleton is difficult to ascertain but the new evidence seems to show that it is unlikely to have been Henry LeVesconte. The facial resemblance to Harry Goodsir is striking, and the isotope evidence is consistent with it being him, but the identification is not 100% certain because some officers on the voyage were not photographed.  However, tissue samples from the remains were retained so attempts at a DNA match with a living direct descendant of Goodsir can be made should anyone come forward.’

In May 1845, an expedition of two ships, commanded by Sir John Franklin and sponsored by the Royal Navy, set out from England to try and discover the Northwest Passage trade route to Asia. The expedition’s disappearance caused a sensation in Britain, prompting huge rescue efforts that helped map much of the vast and remote polar archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

The study was undertaken at the request of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College and with the consent of a LeVesconte relative at English Heritage’s laboratories in Portsmouth and at the Universities of Bradford and Surrey between 2009 and 2011. The remains have been reburied under the memorial.

Russia to ratify maritime border pact with Norway within month – Lavrov

March 23, 2011

07/03/2011 RIA Novosti original article here

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will ratify a maritime border demarcation treaty with Norway within a month, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

Last year Russia and Norway signed a deal to delimitate their maritime border in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean after 40 years of negotiations.

Both countries have been disputing the 175,000 square km area since 1970. The absence of defined maritime border often resulted in detentions of fishing vessels in the region.

The agreement has also paved the way for the lifting of a 30-year-long moratorium on oil and gas extraction in the previously disputed zone.

“We were discussing the vital issue for our states [maritime border demarcation pact]…Norway has ratified the pact. Russia has just started the ratification. We are planning to settle it within a month,” Lavrov told a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia, however, is still in a dispute with Canada over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, with both countries trying to persuade a UN commission that it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The sides have agreed that scientific evidence should resolve the dispute.

KALININGRAD, March 7 (RIA Novosti)

US Demolishes Old Antarctic Bases

March 22, 2011

Softpedia. com, March 11th, 2011 – Original article here

Since the American flag was planted at the South Pole, on October 31, 1956, the United States constructed three research facilities in Antarctica. Recently, two of them were demolished, and the only structure remaining is a high-tech, latest-generation lab that is perched on stilts.

[I have to add here that the Norwegian flag was planted on the South Pole on December 14th 1911, 45 years before the Americans… and 100 years ago this year. Hornfar]

Image showing the destruction of the Old Pole station. Image credits: Robert Schwarz

For the past 55 years, the US has had a constant presence at the South Pole in terms of science. Its stations were ahead of their time as far as the engineering complexity and technology needed to build them went.

But, with the construction of the new facility, it became clear that there was simply too much effort to manage the separate stations, when a single, advanced one was enough. The costs of maintaining a crew in the Antarctic are very steep, and researchers often deal with lack of appropriate funding.

The Dome Station was disassembled in 2010. The US Antarctic Program had made the announcement some time before, mentioning that the structure had far outlived its shelf life, and that it was becoming a menace for people venturing within.

During this season’s austral summer, construction workers also demolished the original Antarctic station (the Old Pole), which was built for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58.

“It took a lot of effort and a lot of people. But we got it done in a timely fashion,” says of the effort Andres Martinez, who is the South Pole Technical Support manager. He is now based in the new research station, which isn’t actually new, since it was opened in January 2008.

He explains that the first South Pole Station remained occupied for nearly 20 years, even if it was put together hastily, and was buried by Mother Nature under feet of snow. The ice that subsequently formed endangered its crew constantly, and maintenance work needed to be conducted at all times.

“The old station, no longer the object of structural or mechanical improvements, gamely carried on. It showed its years in the distortion of buildings, metal arches, and shoring timbers,” wrote Dick Wolak.

“Its generators were a constant problem, and often irregular in their output. The patchwork of devices used to heat buildings and provide water was notably inefficient in its use of costly diesel fuel.” he added.

The expert was the civilian South Pole Station manager between 1974 and 1975, as researchers were in a period of transition between the Old Pole station and the then-new Dome Station.

Following a series of accidents involving heavy equipment falling through the unstable ices covering the Old Pole station, the US National Science Foundation decided to implode it during the austral summer.

The support beams that held the structure together were blown up, and snow is now forming new ice where researchers worked nearly 20 years for unraveling the mysteries surrounding the Antarctic, SpaceRef reports.

Navy Vet: Antarctic Mission Gave Sailors Cancer

March 5, 2011

Navy Sent Crews To Antarctica For ‘Operation Deep Freeze’ In 1960s

10 News, San Diego on March 4, 2011 Original article here

A retired San Diego sailor told 10News he knows why thousands of Navy veterans are suffering from or dying from cancer.

Bill Vogel said he believes the cancer many fellow veterans have been stricken with was caused by a mission to the Antarctic called “Operation Deep Freeze.” Vogel said the mission was for scientific research.

10News learned at least 15,000 military personnel were a part of the mission over the course of nearly a decade and all of them worked near a malfunctioning nuclear power plant.

The McMurdo Nuclear plant was built in Antarctica in the early 1960s and provided power to the base until it was shut down in 1972.

The Navy’s final operating report found the plant suffered from 438 malfunctions during its operation, including leaking water surrounding the reactor and hairline cracks in the reactor liner.

The plant was dismantled when “possible stress corrosion cracking” in the piping system was discovered.

The Navy’s final report didn’t find evidence of excessive radiation exposure.

Vogel’s friend, Charlie Swinney, died a year ago from cancer. Swinney was one of many naval veterans who had similar concerns about their service at McMurdo after being diagnosed with cancerous tumors.

“Charlie had over 200 tumors in his body,” Swinney’s wife, Elaine, said from their Cleveland home.

“He kept saying, ‘This isn’t right. Why are there so many of us in this close group getting sick like this,'” she said.

Naval veteran Jim Landy lives in Pensacola, Fla., and fights stomach, liver and brain cancer.

“Word leaked out, we heard, that the soil around the facility was contaminated,” Landy said.

10News learned the Department of Veteran Affairs denied medical coverage for some of the veterans who worked at McMurdo Station, including Charlie Swinney.

“Charlie just felt like he got kicked to the curb,” Elaine Swinney said. “He felt like he didn’t count. He felt betrayed.”

“You owe them the truth of what happened,” Vogel said. “Then you deal with the truth from that point forward.”

To see the Navy’s final operating report for the McMurdo Station nuclear power plant click here.

 

Arctic survey bid hits snag over Franklin ships

February 17, 2011

CBC News – original article here

An Alberta archeological firm’s proposal to test survey equipment in an Arctic waterway has hit a roadblock over concerns about the long-lost ships of Sir John Franklin. ProCom Marine Survey and Archeology had asked the Nunavut Impact Review Board to approve its proposal to conduct work in Larsen Sound, 195 kilometres northwest of Taloyoak in western Nunavut.

The company’s project, called Polar North, would use autonomous underwater vehicles to “develop solutions relating to offshore surveying for oil and gas in Arctic conditions,” according to proposal documents. If approved, the work would take place in April and August this year. But in a letter to territorial Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, the review board recommends that he modify or abandon ProCom’s proposal on the basis of the project’s location and “unacceptable potential adverse impacts to cultural resources.

” National historic sites Larsen Sound is considered to be the final resting spot for one or both of the famed British explorer’s ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared during a doomed expedition to chart the Northwest Passage more than 160 years ago. “It was primarily the location of the project, and the fact that there are recognized national historic sites that are believed to be in Larsen Sound,” Ryan Barry, an official with the review board, told CBC News.

“The concerns, primarily from the [Nunavut] Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, were such that they saw the potential for impact to these historic sites.” ProCom’s latest proposal does not mention Franklin’s ships, but the company ran into trouble with the Nunavut government when it tried to look for the lost ships last fall without the necessary permits. Concerns raised Barry said the board reviewed ProCom’s Polar North application in consultation with community organizations in the hamlets of Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk, as well as with officials from the federal and territorial governments and Inuit organizations. Major concerns about the project were raised during those consultations, with the proposed location being most significant, Barry said.

According to the review board, the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth recommends that ProCom relocate the project to another body of water north of Larsen Sound, excluding Lancaster Sound. In a letter to Shewchuk, ProCom president Rob Rondeau said his group is prepared to make changes to its application. “Given the size of Larsen Sound, ProCom would be prepared to relocate the project, from the survey area as proposed, providing an alternative site can be selected, so that it can continue to be based from Taloyoak,” Rondeau wrote. Rondeau told CBC News he would prefer not to comment on the matter until Shewchuk has decided whether ProCom can resubmit its application with changes.

Film from Amundsens 1925 aviation expedition restored and released on DVD

February 16, 2011

“Roald Amundsen – Lincoln Ellsworths flyveekspedisjon 1925” is a new DVD release of film footage from the nearly disastrous 1925 aeroplane expedition led by Norwegian polar hero Roald Amundsen. Financed by american businessman Lincoln Ellsworth, who also was a member of the expedition, the aeroplanes were registered as N24 and N25 and subsequently equipped for polar flights. They took off from King´s Bay in Svalbard on May 21st in an attempt to carry out the first transpolar flight of the North Pole, in order to establish once and for all whether there was in fact land in the area.

After only eight hours in the air, engine trouble caused them to make an emergency landing at 87° 44′ north, in which the N24 was broken beyond repair. Trapped on the constantly moving ice, the crew of six did not know if they would survive. The film shows them struggling to make a temporary runway long enough for the remaining aeroplane to take off, which took them more than three weeks. It was the northernmost latitude reached by plane at that time.

Shoveling over 600 tons of ice while consuming only 400 grams of daily food rations, the crew finally managed to take off in the N25 piloted by Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, barely becoming airborne above the cracking ice. They managed to reach a fjord on the coast of Nordaustlandet at Svalbard before running out of fuel,  making this one of the most exciting episodes in the history of aviation.

The newly restored film is released by The Norwegian Film Institute and The National Library of Norway as a feature length documentary and has a new soundtrack by Matti Bye and Kristian Holmgren and a choice of norwegian, russian, german or english text.

You can buy the DVD from the Norwegian Film Institute here.

Short clip from the film here

I have not seen this DVD yet, but several short clips have been featured in documentaries before. As an owner of a copy of the excellent release “Roald Amundsens South Pole Expedition 1910-1912” also by the Norwegian Film Institute, I am certain this release holds up to the same high technical and historical standard.

Jonas Qvale/Hornorkesteret

Sources:
Aftenposten article

The Nansen-Amundsen-Year article

Wikipedia article

A detailed account of the expedition can be found here

Norwegian parliament ratifies Barents Sea agreement tuesday February 8. 2011

February 8, 2011

Today, the Barents Sea agreement between Norway and Russia will be ratified in Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament. It was in October last year that the delimitation deal for the Barents Sea was signed by the Norwegian and Russian Foreign Ministers in Murmansk, after decades of disagreeing on this border.

Norwegian minister of foreign affairs Jonas Gahr Støre said this on the matter to his Facebook friends yesterday:

“Historical day in Stortinget tomorrow, as the delimitation agreement with Russia in The Barents Sea and the Polar Sea is being processed with unanimous recommendations from the Foreign affairs and Defense comittees.”

Hornorkesteret congratulates both countries with a piece of the arctic!

Russia was originally set to ratify the agreement at the same time as Norway, but the processing of the agreement is still not scheduled in the Russian State Duma.

Read more here, at Barents Observer.

Look at an interactive map of the agreement as of april 2010 here, at Dagbladet.

Jonas Qvale

Dispute over Hans Island nears resolution. Now for the Beaufort Sea

February 6, 2011

JILL MAHONEY
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Original article here

Negotiators are now confident that Canada and Denmark will resolve their dispute over Hans Island, and sooner rather than later.

Relations between the two countries have grown irritable at times in recent years because of their competing claims to the barren bit of rock perched halfway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Also in dispute is a patch of the Lincoln Sea even farther north.

But the two countries are in negotiations and have embarked on a joint mapping exercise, and both Canadian and Danish officials, speaking on background, said they were confident of reaching an agreement before Canada deposits its claim over the Arctic seabed to the United Nations in 2013.

Shared jurisdiction of the island is one possibility; another is running the border down the middle of the uninhabited, 1.3-square-kilometre knoll, which would give Canada a land border with Denmark.

In a recent poll, a large majority of Canadians said that asserting and protecting Arctic sovereignty should be Canada’s foremost foreign policy priority. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that it was.

“We continue to exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic while also making progress on outstanding boundary issues,” Mr. Cannon said.

In fact, negotiations are beginning to bear fruit after years in which Canada refused to discuss competing claims. The United States and Canada have long disagreed over where the border between Alaska and Yukon should be drawn, as it projects into the Beaufort Sea. While the Americans have sought a negotiated settlement, Canada preferred to agree to disagree.

But there is oil under the seabed, and petroleum companies are anxious to get at it. Last year, the Conservative government declared its willingness to reach a deal. The two countries have embarked on a joint mapping expedition of the ocean floor.

That exercise may not be completed until 2013, because the ice is too thick for much of the year, and a Canadian government official speaking on background said it might not be possible to complete an agreement until after then. In the meantime, a bilateral “dialogue of experts” is underway, with the next meeting scheduled for Washington in the spring.

Some Arctic-watchers believe the slow pace of the talks over the Beaufort is frustrating an impatient Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The people at Foreign Affairs already have very full plates,” said Michael Byers, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia who specializes in Arctic issues. “They don’t see the urgency of negotiations now when a solution probably isn’t doable this year or even next year. So you have this tension between the Prime Minister’s Office, which wants to see progress, and the department, which doesn’t see it as a top priority.”

But Canadians officials maintained the pace had been agreed to with the American government. The Americans and Canadians “are committed to a win-win” agreement that satisfies both sides that their interests have been protected, one official said.

The U.S. government agrees. “Our technical teams have held productive meetings on the Beaufort boundary in the past,” the embassy said in a statement. “We look forward to continued discussions in the future.”

The nations that encircle the Arctic have agreed, under the Law of the Sea convention, to submit their claims over what they believe is their fair share of the Arctic seabed to the United Nations for arbitration. Canada’s deadline is 2013.

The UN will not arbitrate in areas where there is a border dispute, and an agreement over the Beaufort border is unlikely before 2014. But officials say this is only a minor impediment, especially since the U.S. hasn’t ratified the treaty anyway.

As for the biggest dispute of all, who controls the Northwest Passage, none of the players has even agreed to talk about it, and no resolution to the question of whether it is in Canadian or international waters is expected in the foreseeable future.

Roald Amundsens diary: 100 years ago today

February 4, 2011

From Roald Amundsens diary of the South Pole expedition 1910-1912 which is being published continuosly by the Fram Museum at Bygdøy near Oslo.

Amundsens diary/blog in English

Amundsens dagbok/blogg på norsk

February 4 – Saturday

Great commotion! When we drove down to the vessel this morning, instead of our dear lonely Fram, there were two ships at the barrier. The latest arrival, a large barque, Terra Nova.

We were told that it had come in at midnight last night. Lt. Campbell, leader of the eastern party, immediately paid a visit on board. Nilsen received him. They had been eastwards and tried to come into King Edward VII land, but without result. They were now on their way back. Would go first to the main station in McMurdo Sound and later to Cape North to look for new land. Lt. Pennell was in charge of the ship. Both these and the doctor came up to the hut and ate breakfast with us. Later, Nilsen, Prestrud and I went on board their ship and ate lunch with them. They were exceptionally amiable and offered to take post to Fullerton. They left at 2pm. Made a round trip this morning. Have used the rest of the day to tidy up. Have had a strange experience.

We have all had colds after meeting the Englishmen. We are all sneezing and sniffing.
Posted: 04 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 3 – Friday
Drove up 24 newly shot seals this morning. Set up a 16-man tent. Divided them up and stuffed the meat in. All the fillets and sirloin removed for human consumption. All of us here in the hut are much fonder of seal meat than tinned food, and prefer not to taste anything else.

Posted: 03 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 2 – Thursday
It was -21.5°C last night. Wonderful summer temperature. This morning the whole roof was covered with tar insulation material and we are now almost finished with the unloading. These are tiring days.
Posted: 02 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

February 1 – Wednesday
This evening while we sat and ate, Lindstrøm reported a seal had come right up to the hut on the barrier. Helmer Hansen welcomed it and tomorrow we shall make use of the fillets.

Posted: 01 February 1911 by Roald Amundsen

January 31 – Tuesday
We get more and more organised every day now. Today, Lindstrøm has mounted the Lux lamp, a wonderful furnishing which will give us much pleasure.
Posted: 31 January 1911 by Roald Amundsen


Terje Isungset åpnet Nansen-Amundsen-året i Tromsø

January 25, 2011

Nansen-Amundsen-året ble offisielt åpnet i Tromsø 23. januar ved at Terje Isungset spilte på 100 år gammel is fra Sydpolen.

Instrumentet, som han kaller sørpolofon, bestod av fire issylindre av ulik lengde med en diameter på 8-10 centimeter. De var montert etter xylofon-modellen på en resonanskasse av is, og han spilte på dem med mindre isklkubber.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen etter konserten.

Sørpolofonen tålte ikke mildværet i Tromsø, og sylindrene ble tydeligvis ganske porøse av en halvtimes venting etter lydsjekken. De hadde mista en del klang, og brakk opp under sydpollåten, som isflak i vårsola. Det var likevel en stor opplevelse å høre og se dette instrumentet. Kanskje akkurat disse snøflakene landet på Amundsens bare hode da han hilste flagget ved polpunktet?

Det var en flott konsert Isungset leverte sammen med sangeren Lena Nymark. De har funnet en nydelig formel med klangfull isperkusjon og lett, spretten kveding.

Lena Nymark og Terje Isungset

Lena Nymark (sang) og Terje Isungset (Svalbard-is).

Isungset hadde mer gammel is i å by på. En annen melodisk-perkusiv variant var biter av 500 år gammel is fra Svalbard, som han hadde plassert på et isbrett og spilte på med andre gamle isbiter. Han spilte også på hengende stemte isplater av klar is, som med en smule delay gir lange, dype og varme toner. Til slutt, eller var det midt i, tok han opp isluren, og blåste kalde, rå og forlokkende toner, som vindens evige jag over polisen.

Isungset og luren.

Isungset blåser i luren.

Med vakker sang og lyden av arktis og antarktis ble det en konsert verdig en polfarer eller to. Isungset er en kreativ musiker og instrumentmaker, og bringer tradisjonene fra Amundsen og Nansen videre i sin utforskning av isens musikalske egenskaper. Det er underlige og vare toner han får ut av istrumentene. Enkelt, skjørt, evig og uhørt.

Isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Fra venstre: isperkusjon, islur, Svalbard-is og hengende isglockenspiel.

Tromsøs ordfører Arild Hausberg og Norges utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre bidro også under åpningen.

 

Erlend Lien