Wednesday, March 05, 2008

RADARSAT images - irreplaceable on the way to the North Pole!

The travellers keep us posting about their “no royal” road. Severe arctic conditions, permanent darkness of the polar night, biting frost and drifting ice under the feet – all this requires perfect physical training and cutting-edge technologies to ensure trip safety. Special batteries capable of operating under extreme temperature conditions (flashlights, navigation and communications gadgets are powered by these batteries), as well as updated space images from the Canadian RADARSAT-1 radar satellite help the travellers. The thing is that only radar imagery can provide safe data in the conditions of intense darkness and regardless of clouds.

ScanEx R&D Center being the sponsor of this risky endeavour, supplied the “Priklyuchenie” (Adventure) Club with RADARSAT-1 images. They are processed at the expedition Coordination Center.

What kind of vital data can space images give to the travellers?

The images allow determining the age and thickness of ice, fresh water sources locations and open water areas. This information is required for the optimal route selection. Let’s dwell on some of these parameters:

Ice age impacts the passage speed of the explorers: young ice, unlike old one, has increased salinity that gives more friction. As a result, the travelers’ speed decreases 1.5-2 times. The itinerary is prepared with due account for these characteristics.

Knowledge of fresh water location – multiyear ice and icebergs – turned out to be crucial at the beginning of the expedition. When the travelers ran out of water, the indication of the nearest iceberg (“starmukha” - stranded hummock) with fresh water sources, detected by space images, was quite on time (Fig. 1).

Definition of open water areas, clearly seen on the images, enables to lay the detours. And the most important, the images were used to lay the shortcuts to old ice, which the boys reached three days ago and started to feel much safer.

This expedition shows that it is hard to overestimate the importance of space images for drawing the most optimal itinerary and for survival in general!

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