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Scientists plan to trap ship in ice to drift across North Pole

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Arctic explorers dreaded getting trapped in ice, but now scientists are doing exactly that in a bid to tackle climate change, reported Sky News.

Researchers from 14 countries will set sail on board the research ship, the RV Polarstern, which will be allowed to become stranded in sea ice so it can drift across the North Pole.

They say the insights gained from the Arctic, where climate change is occurring faster than anywhere else on Earth, could prove invaluable in measuring environmental damage.

The daring venture is inspired by the 1893 expedition of Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who allowed his boat, the Fram, to become trapped in sea ice in the hope that it would gradually drift towards the North Pole.

The 120m-long icebreaker will begin its 2,500km (1,5550-mile) journey in 2019, and is expected to be away for a year.

The crew will include armed guards to fight off attacks by polar bears.

Project co-leader Professor Markus Rex, said: "The plan is to travel in summer when sea ice is thin and sea extent is much smaller. We can travel along the Siberian coast and then make our way with our ice-breaker to the Siberian sector of the Arctic. Then we just stop the engines and drift with the sea ice.

"As the season proceeds the sea ice will grow and by late November we'll sit in solid sea ice.

"We'll have a network of stations on the ice with a central observatory. The whole thing will drift across the Arctic. During winter it will be completely dark and we won't be able to move. We'll just passively drift across the polar cap until we reach the Fram Strait."

Explaining why the ship needs to be trapped in ice, he said: "In winter the ice is too thick to travel through the ice, we can't break it. It would be way too dangerous to go on snowmobiles, and we have many many containers of big instruments for studying the climate systems which we could never bring in snowmobiles."

Data gained from the €50m (£42m) Mosaic (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) project is expected to help provide more accurate weather and climate forecasts.

"There are many, many, really small scale processes which affect the climate on a regional and global scale in the Arctic which we can't observe from a satellite," said Prof Rex.

Recorded levels of Arctic sea ice are declining much faster than computer simulations predict, suggesting vital information is missing from the models, the professor said.

Last month the extent of Arctic sea-ice was the lowest ever recorded for a January (during the satellite era), with temperatures several degrees above the long-term average.

Read more at skynews.com.

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