Article

“They failed because there was too much ice. We failed because there was not enough ice.” – The Jubilee Expedition 2022

In 1872, Swedish professor Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld and a crew of intrepid explorers set out to become the first humans to reach the North Pole. They did not reach that destination but instead became the first to explore the Nordaustlandet, the North East Land, the second largest island in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
This spring, 150 years later, an expedition team of scientists and filmmakers attempted to journey the same path as Nordenskiöld — this time to record evidence of the changing climate in the Arctic and compare findings to those of Nordenskiöld’s team 150 years ago.
Three members of the Jubilee Expedition team presented earlier this summer at the STHLM+50 Climate Hub — with Erik Huss, glaciologist and earth system scientist, and Susana Hancock, climate researcher, presenting photos and findings just days after the journey’s end. Our film director, Awi Rabelista Nijhof, also linked in from the far north.

Erik Huss, Susana Hancock, Awi Rabelista Nijhof and Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson on June 5 at the STHLM+50 Climate Hub
Erik Huss, Susana Hancock, Awi Rabelista Nijhof and Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson on June 5 at the STHLM+50 Climate Hub

Nordenskiöld’s expedition did not continue beyond the Svalbard archipelago because there was simply too much ice. And in the end, our expedition could not follow his specific footsteps — or ski tracks — because there was not enough ice.
“Two expeditions, two explorations — two extremes,” described Susana.
Two years ago, when planning began for The Jubilee Expedition, following Nordenskiöld’s 1872–1873 route was possible. By early this spring, in the weeks before our team embarked, that route was already looking doubtful.
“We were forced no fewer than five times to change the route that we took, due to the exponential grasp that the climate crisis has on the Svalbard archipelago — a region not just warming faster than the rest of the Arctic but seven times faster than the rest of the world,” said Susana.
“[In the village of Longyearbyen] we recorded a temperature of 12.9 degrees centigrade, according to the newspaper — more than 55 Fahrenheit. Not only was this a record temperature for May, exceeding that which was set 46 years earlier, but it was higher than at any point last year,” said Susana. “This wrapped up not just what was the warmest May on record — the warmest spring on record — but when we returned, this rapid warming was so evident that there were snow scooters strewn all over the village. And when asking people about that, they said that the warming happened so quickly they didn’t even have time to get their snowmobiles to the side of the driveway.”
Erik presented some of The Jubilee Expedition’s findings, speaking of recently collapsed glaciers among other startling, gross signals of climate change.

Extinct Glacier. Photo: Erik Huss
Extinct Glacier. Photo: Erik Huss

“[The glacier] is not just melting. It’s not just small. It’s completely extinct,” he explained. “The melting is so rapid here that it’s totally extinct. There’s nothing left — just rocks.”
Susana showed a photo (below) of Polhem, a narrow peninsula where Nordenskiöld’s crew had a base camp. She described the extreme contrast between Nordenskiöld’s experience and her own.
“What you see here is the land and then the sea ice,” she said. “This is where, nearly 149 years to the day that Nordenskiöld and his crew were iced in, I walked down, standing on the shore, reached over and took water samples. Fresh water. Liquid water.”

The Jubilee Expedition team at Polhem
The Jubilee Expedition team at Polhem

She went on. “This is a spot 300 kilometers to the nearest town, nearest human settlement, in one direction,” she described. “In other directions, it’s a thousand — several thousand — kilometers to the next community. This is a place, if there’s one in the world, where you want to say the water should be clear, the air should be clean. If not here, where? Yet that water — not only was it liquid, but it was full of human residue. It had our trash in it — pieces of our fleece jackets, of our face washes, of our fishing gear. Some of them a fraction of the thickness of my hair, to some of them bigger than me, are in the water here. They’re in the snow. They’re in the ice.”
Susana and Erik also spoke of their final night of the expedition, in which the team gathered to reflect on their findings, both external and internal.
“What did we learn from the pandemic?” said Erik. “Many people feel that there is no way we can take care of the environment and the climate in due time. Then Mother Nature — she replies, ‘Here’s a virus. Practice.’”
“And this might be a thought to think about, because we decreased our emissions by about five and a half percent during 2020,” he said. “That is about as much — plus a little bit more — than we need to do every year until 2050. So it’s a perfect rehearsal.”
Watch Erik and Susan’s full presentation below, along with a discussion with Awi about the distinct challenges of filming in the Arctic — from sleeping with batteries to operating a camera with thick mittens on — and opportunities uncovered for all environmental communicators.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoD4OFLz4hY&t=24080s



  • Melissa Bergendal

    78 w

    What is the connection between the rapid melting of ice in Arctic to the drought that we are experiencing? Should the melting increase the sea level?

    • Sharon

      79 w

      Instead of Bezos taking a joy ride into space he should have been there. That’s the type of wanna-be world leaders like these…who take joy rides instead of taking living seriously. This is the result of having too much…life gets boring so that everything has to be extreme to feel…to FEEL anything.

      1
      • Price Floyd

        79 w

        Scary with such a difference in 150 years. https://flagle.onl

        1
        • Susana Hancock

          79 w

          Thank you so much, We Don't Have Time team, for this great article and for inviting us to share some of research from our expedition. It was an amazing opportunity!!

          4
          • Naomi Ní Shíocháin

            79 w

            🎶"Where words fail, music speaks."🎶 Hans C. Anderson "🧊An Elegy to the Arctic" https://youtu.be/2DLnhdnSUVs

            • Christina Carlmark

              79 w

              Scary with such a difference in 150 years.

              1
              • Marine Stephan

                79 w

                This was one of my favorite segments at STHLM+50 Climate Hub. Very worrying

                • Susana Hancock

                  79 w

                  @marine_stephan Thank you!! It was really great to be there, and indeed, I've been having nightmares.

                  2
                • Patrick Kiash

                  79 w

                  Insightful, very well written article. Uncovering alot.

                  1
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