Let’s check in on one of the most interesting Far North expeditions now underway — a boat and crew trapped on purpose in the Arctic ice.
In the deep blackness of the polar night, the research schooner Tara and its crew of a dozen well-insulated scientists have been drifting for the past 15 months and now are veering mile by mile with Arctic ice toward the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
With a rounded, flat hull, and reinforced structure, the ship embedded itself in polar ice in September of 2006. With scientists measuring ice thickness and taking observations, the boat traveled with floes about 5.7 miles per day during the first 12 months. In the end, Tara has moved about 870 miles across the Arctic — yet actually covered a more than of 2,100 miles due to the zigzag vagaries of the ice cap.
On May 28, the vessel slipped north of 88 North — within 100 miles of the geographic North Pole. Over the summer, the ship began drifting south faster than expected, and could reach open water within the next few weeks. (This emergence is a topic of keen interest to the crew.
“Despite all of the chatter, modeling, predictions and general banter, we just don’t know how things will pan out,” they wrote on Nov. 21. “That’s part of the magic of being stuck up here, to be living in a world that is not governed by bus timetables and the certitudes of what tomorrow will bring.”