Eco explorer alarmed by ice crask

It might seem like a vast frozen wasteland but the Arctic is teeming with life. And the fact that this unique ecosystem is warming at twice the global rate makes it an ideal place for scientists to study the effects of climate change.

It might seem like a vast frozen wasteland but the Arctic is teeming with life.

And the fact that this unique ecosystem is warming at twice the global rate makes it an ideal place for scientists to study the effects of climate change.

UEA PhD student Neil Jennings has just returned from the trip of a lifetime where he spent eight days about 50 miles away from the North Pole.

The 26-year-old describes the experience as "amazing" and said he is even more convinced now that action needs to be taken to prevent further damage, not just to the Arctic but the rest of the world.

"It was an amazing experience. When I got off the plane it was just white as far as the eye could see but instead of being flat as I expected there were ridges of ice and big cracks," he said.

"It caused a problem because a crack appeared in the ice used as a runway and the Russians that run the base came out with a bulldozer to make another one, but it sank into the ice, although the driver managed to get out. They decided to just use the old runway and make sure the planes took off before the crack."

Most Read

The field trip came after Mr Jennings won a place at a coveted Climate Change College organised by ice-cream giants Ben and Jerry's and endorsed by wildlife group WWF. Six climate ambassadors are chosen each year; two places are available in the UK and Netherlands and one each in Ireland and Germany.

"As a scientist, I was interested in the research being carried out there but I also learnt a lot from the explorers who use the camp as a sort of stepping stone before heading home.

"One of them said at this time 20 years ago it was cold but there were blue skies and if you were on an expedition you knew roughly what to expect but these days it is much more unpredictable with more stormy weather and white outs, which makes it even more dangerous," he said.

"While I was there temperatures were about -25C to -30C and because the ice is moving, even though we stayed at the base camp, we were about 50 miles away from where we started."

Mr Jennings impressed the judging panel with his campus competition, The Student Switch Off, currently running at UEA but set to roll out elsewhere, to reduce energy in halls and see which will save the most power with various incentives.

So far the initiative has saved UEA about £15,000 and when he completes his PhD in a few months Mr Jennings plans to concentrate on the scheme full time.

For more information visit www.studentswitchoff.co.uk.