Northeast Greenland Caves Project
During the summer of 2015, a highly-motivated 5-person team will aim to visit the Arctic Circle to explore, survey, photograph, and sample caves of Northeast Greenland for the purpose of climate-change research. This much-needed record of past climate change will be the first of its type from caves in Greenland, and will contribute significantly to our understanding of long-term climate change in Greenland and the Arctic.
We are crowd funding in order to raise the remaining funds that we need to undertake the expedition and collect the samples for climate-change research.
We are aiming to undertake the expedition in the summer of 2015. Our team comprises five highly-motivated and experienced explorers. Once we have arrived in Northeast Greenland, we will cross a 10 km wide lake in an inflatable boat, and then trek for three days over difficult terrain in order to reach the caves. Our research group leads the way in terms of working conservatively in caves. We will sample cave deposits by drilling cores and then patching up the holes afterwards so that damage is kept to a minimum. Take a look at some examples below; the photographs show the whole sequence from drilling the core, to the sampling hole, to the site after patching.
During our expedition we will also be continually looking out for previously undiscovered caves. Any caves that we find will be mapped, photographed, named, and sampled if cave deposits are present.
Besides the project leader Dr. Gina Moseley, our expedition team comprises polar explorer Clive Johnson (2001 Polar Medal recipient), National Geographic photographer Robbie Shone (see website, instagram, facebook, twitter), Industrial Rope Access expert Mark Wright, and Petzl's V-Axess Chris Blakeley. Our team has had many positive experiences in the past with national and international media, and we are hoping to repeat this success with this project.
Why is there a need for records of past climate change?
Figure 1. This is one of the most up-to-date figures from the climate-change community. The right panel on this figure from the 5th IPCC report shows the temperature response by the end of the 21st century for two predictive models using the highest and lowest levels of greenhouse gas concentrations. (For the complete scientific caption, please see "credits and captions" at the end)
The Earth’s climate is changing. How will it develop in the future? What will the effects be on environmental, ecological, and socio-economic systems? These are simply a couple of questions related to our future. Climate modellers are currently trying to answer these questions, but inevitably there are still uncertainties about how the climate will respond. Take for example figure 1 (above); two different models were run for high and low levels of greenhouse gas concentrations, but the results, whilst similar in some places are quite different in others.
Figure 2. The Earth's natural warm (interglacial) and cold (glacial) periods over the last 1 million years.
Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
The Earth goes through natural cycles of warm periods (interglacials), and cold periods (glacials). One way of trying to understand what scenarios are possible in a future warmer climate is to look at past warm periods. The last warm period took place about 130,000 to 118,000 years ago, and during this time air temperature in Greenland was about 3-5°C higher than today. Some of the best records of past climate change come from the deep Greenland ice cores, however, they do not completely cover the last warm period or any other prior to that. Records of past climate change are available from many other parts of the environment as well, e.g., deep ocean cores, lakes, tree rings etc. However, because previous warm periods were followed by cold periods in which vast volumes of ice built up, the major ice sheets eroded away much of the landscape, leaving behind few materials for us to work with. Consequently, there is still a lot that we need to learn about past warm periods and the need for this information is becoming an increasingly important concern.
How will this project advance our knowledge of climate change?
Caves are fantastic resources for scientists working on past environments because they are connected to the surface but are not directly affected by the erosion processes that take place there, for example, from ice sheets or glaciers. Caves can therefore store and protect records of past environments for long periods of time.
Caves that were formed from water carving its way through rock were first reported from Northeast Greenland in 1960. Today this area is completely dry, so the mere presence of the caves tells us that at some time in the past, the climate must have been warmer and wetter. Furthermore, the caves were reported to contain sediment and calcite deposits, which are further testament to a previous milder climate in Northeast Greenland.
Using modern scientific techniques, we have a fantastic opportunity here to tap into the records that are preserved in these cave deposits. Calcite cave deposits are formed from drip waters that have drained from the surface, through soil and limestone, and into the cave. Since the drip waters were once connected with the atmosphere and soil above the cave, they contain valuable information related to temperature, moisture, and vegetation processes, which are then locked layer upon layer (similar to tree rings) into the cave deposit. The climate record is created by analysing the chemical signature of each layer. We will analyse between 4-10 samples per millimetre, thus allowing us the greatest chance of capturing rapid climate-change events in our record. Understanding how fast the climate is capable of changing from one state to another is currently one of the key questions that climate-change scientists are working to answer.
Our project needs your help
We are very lucky that our scientific project partners, the University of Innsbruck and the University of Minnesota, have agreed to cover the cost of all of the scientific analyses. We do still however need to raise the funds for the expedition to collect the samples. We are really grateful for the financial support that our project has already received from the following organisations: the Petzl Foundation, the Transglobe Expedition Trust, University of Innsbruck Nachfuchsforderung, British Cave Research Association, National Speleological Society, the Ghar Parau Foundation and Andy Eavis.
We are crowdfunding to try and raise the rest of the money that we need to undertake this expedition. Your money will be spent on: fuel for our inflatable boat and stoves; transportation of the samples; high energy expedition food for 5 people for 25 days; equipment rental (inflatable boat, boat repair kit, survival suits, tents, bear fence, flares, cook box); a field guide specialised in polar bear safety; transportation to Northeast Greenland; and crowdfunder fees (5%).
1. Can I join the expedition too?
It's great that you share our enthusiasm, but unfortunately we do not have room to accommodate any more people on the expedition. You can join us in a virtual sense by keeping up-to-date with the project at www.northeastgreenlandcavesproject.com
2. I would like to financially support the project but cannot do so right now.
No problem! We are also fundraising through easyfundraising.org.uk. This is a great platform in which every time you make an online purchase with one of the 2700+ retailers on the site (including Amazon, ebay, Tesco, Sainsburys, M&S, Argos, the Trainline, Debenhams, Next), the project receives a small donation. Apart from the purchases that you make for yourself, it costs nothing extra. Please consider our project every time you make an online purchase, by signing up to easyfundraising.org.uk and choosing Northeast Greenland Caves Project 2015 as your cause.
3. Can I help in other ways?
Promoting our project and getting the word around will be key to making it happen. Please share our project with everyone you know!
4.Travelling to Northeast Greenland is already quite damaging to the environment.
Yes, we are aware that our research in itself has an impact on the environment. We are trying to minimise these impacts as much as possible, e.g., rather than helicopter in to the valley of caves, we will trek for three days over difficult terrain carrying all of our equipment. We will be: sharing our resources as much as possible with other research groups working in the area; working with solar power to charge batteries as far as possible; carrying all our waste with us; and offsetting our carbon emissions by contributing to tree planting schemes in the UK via The Woodland Trust. Our website is powered entirely by renewable energy via Kualo. Any rewards that require printing e.g. postcards and prints will be done so using the most environmentally friendly methods that we can find and sustainable resources.
5. Why are you hiring equipment?
CASP (formerly the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme) have agreed to loan us their equipment, which is already in storage in Greenland. This is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way of doing this, removing the need to purchase new equipment and transport it to Greenland.
6. Are there any risks associated with the expedition?
Yes, but our expedition team comprises highly experienced cavers and explorers who are aware of the risks. We have undertaken a thorough risk assessment and consider the risks acceptable.
7. Are there any risks associated with the research?
Yes. At the end of the day, research is research. If we knew the answers already, we wouldn't be doing it. We know the caves are there, we know the caves contain samples, we just don't know what the samples contain. There is a possibility that the samples will not be suitable for the techniques that we wish to apply to them, however, there are so many analytical techniques available that hopefully some of them will work out. There is also a possibility that even if the samples and techniques are compatible, that the results will be, well, for want of a better word, boring (though scientifically this is valuable and interesting information in itself). What we do know however, is that we won't know unless we try. So please support us!
8. I would like a print by National Geographic photographer Robbie Shone, how do I choose it, and I would like it before December 2015 please.
No problem. Take a look through Robbie's website (www.shonephotography.com), choose your print, and let us know which one you would like. Please give us 4 weeks notice as we are often away with work, and cannot always respond immediately to requests. If you would like a print from the expedition, please wait for our return, and we will contact you with a selection of photographs.
9. Can you tell me more about the Gouffre Berger - L'esprit d'equipe coffee-table book please?
The book has been written by Northeast Greenland Caves Project expedition members Mark Wright and Robbie Shone. With 250+ pages and over 100 high quality photographs it takes the reader on a guided tour to the bottom of the fantastic Gouffre Berger cave in the Vercors, France. Discovered only days before Hillary and Tenzing summited Mount Everest in 1953, within three years the Berger became the first cave to be explored beyond the magical -1,000m establishing it as the deepest cave in the world.
The book’s title, Gouffre Berger – L’esprit d’equipe (team spirit) is in recognition of the support from the many cavers, non-cavers, caving clubs and speleological associations from around the world who have been involved in the project and supported our aims of supporting cavers into the future.
Please visit the book's website for further details.
10. Where and when will the post-expedition presentations take place?
We shall give a number of presentations towards the end of September/beginning of October 2015 in the Bristol (Avon) area, Cannock (Staffordshire) area, and Buxton (Derbyshire) area. Crowdfunders are expected to cover their own transport and accommodation costs.
11. Please can you give me more details about the Virgin Balloon Flights?
The balloon vouchers are "National 7 Day Anytime" and are valid for 12 months beginning October 18th, 2014. For specific information about launch sites and what happens on the day, please see http://www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/vouchers/7_Day_Anytime.
12. Please can you tell me about the size of Robbie Shone's social media fanbase.
At the time of writing...Shone Photo Instagram: 10,688; Robbie Shone Photography Facebook: 2,786; Robbie Shone: Twitter: 1,357. Total:14,800+. This is expected to grow substantially next year when his first article is printed in National Geographic Magazine.
13. Where and when will the 1 on 1 cave photography tuition take place?
The main areas in the UK for caving are the Mendips, South Wales, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales. You can choose one of these areas and arrange a time with Robbie that suits you both. Note Robbie can be extremely busy at times, and so it may be difficult initially to find a time to suit you both. This offer has no time limit though, so do not worry about it expiring. It is the responsibility of the person taking the workshop to ensure that they are fit and healthy enough to do so, and it is expected that they will provide their own photographic equipment and suitable clothing, though we may be able to help out in some instances.
14. Please can you tell me more about the timing of the delivery of the rewards?
Since some of the rewards have many things on offer, the timing of the delivery gets a little complicated. Anything that can be delivered as soon as the crowd funder has finished will be done so in January, 2015 e.g. delivery of the Gouffre Berger book and Virgin Balloon Flights vouchers, placing of names, logos, bios etc. on the website. Expedition postcards, reports and prints will be delivered after the expedition in December, 2015. Expedition presentations will take place at the end of September/beginning of October 2015.
15. In which scientific and popular publications will the results and expedition be presented?
At this stage, we cannot specify which scientific journals will be publishing the results. Publication of the results will be subject to the discretion of the particular journal editor at the time of submission. We will endeavour to publish the results in the highest-cited, highest quality, and most popular journals possible.
At present, first rights for the the popular publication of the results is held (but not confirmed) by National Geographic who have over 32,500,000 "likes" on Facebook alone. If National Geographic do not run the story then we will work with Robbie Shone's contacts, which includes: Red Bulletin, Science Illustrated, Intelligent Life, Outdoor Fitness, BBC Focus, GEO, Terra Mater, plus the national and international press.
16. Can you tell me more about the FIA Formula E Championship Tickets please?
The tickets will be picked up on site by the race goers up to a maximum of three days before the race date.
Follow Formula E:Twitter: twitter.com/FIAformulaE (@FIAformulaE) #DrivetheFutureFacebook: facebook/fiaformulaeYouTube: youtube/fiaformulaeWebsite: www.fiaformulae.com
About FIA Formula E Championship:Formula E is a new FIA championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy. It represents a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades, serving as a framework for research and development around the electric vehicle, accelerating general interest in these cars and promoting sustainability. Commencing in September 2014, the championship will compete in the heart of nine of the world's leading cities including London, Beijing and Buenos Aires racing around their iconic landmarks. For the inaugural season, 10 teams, each with two drivers, will go head to head creating a unique and exciting racing series designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans.
Credits and Captions
Whilst reproduction of the figures from the 5th IPCC report is authorised, there is a requirement to provide the complete caption.
Figure 1 Global mean temperature change averaged across all Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models (relative to 1986–2005) for the four Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios: RCP2.6 (dark blue), RCP4.5 (light blue), RCP6.0 (orange) and RCP8.5 (red); 32, 42, 25 and 39models were used respectively for these 4 scenarios. Likely ranges for global temperature change by the end of the 21st century are indicated by vertical bars. Note that these ranges apply to the difference between two 20-year means, 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005, which accounts for the bars being centred at a smaller value than the end point of the annual trajectories. For the highest (RCP8.5) and lowest (RCP2.6) scenario, illustrative maps of surface temperature change at the end of the 21st century (2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005) are shown for two CMIP5 models. These models are chosen to show a rather broad range of response, but this particular set is not representative of any measure of model response uncertaint Global mean temperature change averaged across all Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models (relative to 1986–2005) for the four Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios: RCP2.6 (dark blue), RCP4.5 (light blue), RCP6.0 (orange) and RCP8.5 (red); 32, 42, 25 and 39 models were used respectively for these 4 scenarios. Likely ranges for global temperature change by the end of the 21st century are indicated by vertical bars. Note that these ranges apply to the difference between two 20-year means, 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005, which accounts for the bars being centred at a smaller value than the end point of the annual trajectories. For the highest (RCP8.5) and lowest (RCP2.6) scenario, illustrative maps of surface temperature change at the end of the 21st century (2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005) are shown for two CMIP5 models. These models are chosen to show a rather broad range of response, but this particular set is not representative of any measure of model response uncertainty. Source: Collins et al., (2013) doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.024.
Figure 2: Source Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/iceage/timeline.html