Carleton PhD biology student, Richard Webster, who participated in the historic Old Pulteney Row to the Pole, is proud to say the team has reached the Magnetic North Pole (MNP).
Webster participated in the expedition as a science officer based in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for 30 days while the team embarked on the historic rowing trip 723 kilometers north to the MNP, a feat never before completed. The six-member crew reached the pole on Aug. 26.
“The whole team is elated – from boat builders to ice experts, support team to the crew. It took lots of people to make this world-first expedition attempt possible,” says Webster.
A trained rower himself, Webster was part of the operations team in Resolute, where he stood by as the first reserve to replace an injured rower. Over 300 people applied for Webster’s role with Jock Wishart, British Arctic polar explorer and leader of the expedition.
“We (were) the eyes and ears of the crew, feeding them vital information about ice and weather conditions … Our job was to stop mistakes before they happened – spotting dangers beyond the horizon and advising the crew,” says Webster. “As a science officer, it has been a pleasure working with the expedition.”
Even with Webster and the operation team’s help out of Resolute, certain obstacles were unavoidable. Webster notes that while the 70-mile open-water crossing to Ellef Ringnes was a challenge, the final stretch of the crew’s journey required the men to haul the boat across an ice field more than three kilometres long.
Aside from the ambitious, and not to mention dangerous, adventure, which Webster said had a “50-50 chance of making it,” the team used the trip as an opportunity to highlight the impacts of climate change in the North. The data collected will be used by research groups, including the National Oceanographic Centre and the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science.
“There is already plenty of evidence for seasonal sea ice decline in the Arctic,” says Webster. “Our message is simple – this journey is only possible in a polar region with degraded summer sea ice.”
A few days after the expedition’s completion, Webster flew to the pole to help extract the crew and bring them back to Resolute Bay. The team is now regrouping and set to leave Resolute on Sept. 2.
Webster will return to Ottawa before the start of the 2011-’12 academic year, when he will begin planning his “next big adventure.”
But Webster is not the only team member heading home to exciting new opportunities. Crew member, Mark Delstanche, who has also climbed Mount Everest, is returning home to his wife and a new edition to his family- a baby boy.
“It has definitely been inspiring to be around this bunch of explorers,” says Webster. “I have experienced a new part of Canada that so few people get a chance to visit. It is very unique and beautiful.”
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