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The ice. of the Arctic Ocean i» melting •o rapidly that more than one-third of it has disappeared in fifty vears.

This is the conclusion that may be drawn from the remarkable drift of the Russian ica-breaker Sedov last winter, first detailed reports of which have just twen received in Uio United States.

In the autumn of 1939 the Sedov was caught in the ice of the Laptev Sea between the northern coast of Siberia ■nd the new Siberian Inlands. She began to drift northwards and westward and. on /anuary 1, 1940. In oka out on the' edye of the Greenland Sea between the northernmost point of Spitzberpe-n and' Greenland. Then she returned to Mur-! man«k with complete reports of the] remarkable experience which were placed in the hand* of the Kussian meteoro-l J"pi>t, X. X. Zubov, for detailed analysis.

The significance of the record* of this iiivoluntary voyage come* from comparison with those taken by the Norwegian explored, Fridtjof Nanaen, in 1893. Hi* specially constructed ship, the Frain, followed a roughly similiar course. Nansen recorded a maximum ice thickness of centimetres. In similar positions the captain of the Sedov found the greatest thickness was 218 centimetres. The lowest temperature he recorded wasj 41 degree* below hero. Naxwten ran into

'a minimum of o2 below. Nansen's ship drifted for nearly two years over a course that was covered by the Sedov in about six months.

The Sedov records are also lx'tfer than the. less reliable ones taken during the winter of 1937-38 by the Russian North Pole flyer Papenin and his companions, who drifted on an ice. floe and are very similar to those of the Russian icebreaker Lenin, which was caught in lh:' same Laptev Sea a little earlier than the Sedov, but soon made its escape.

The higher winter temperatures, American experts sav, might be considered a temporary fluctuation, but the ice thickness measurements show clearly that the trend to warmer weather in the Arctic basin must have, been continuous for some vears.

The Sedov evidence, it is pointed outj in a report of the voyage in the current journal of the American Geographical: Society, confirms indications from; several other sources which have been! accumulating during the past few! years, including the rejxirts of the! United States coastguard ice patrol inj the North Atlantic. " Even allowing for gross inaccuracies in the Russian measurements, the geographic journal explains that the speed of the Sedov compared with that of the l'ram, which can be verified beyond question, shows that the Artie is getting much warmer.

It means that the ico is moving much,' .faster from tlie Arctic I><<~i11 int > the! I<ireeuland Sea. This could he accounted; ifor by an increase in the How of warm! |Atlantic water* into the Polar basin.i which in turn would briny about a reduction in the volume of ice in the i Iseas bordering the Arctic, a decrease, in! Ithe volume of Polar ice and the size of .glaciers, and a ri*e in the winter! temperature of the air. ' The analysis of the Sedov results, it! is explained, confirms some of the lawsj of Arctic circulation first laid down bv Xansen and makes possible the state-j ment of several other laws. Dr. Zubovl confirmed especially that drift of ice is) in the direction of the prevalent winds.! The gradual melting of the Arctic has not yet been confirmed by sea-level measurements on the Atlantic and Pacific coast lines. Great Climatic Fluctuations. There have been speculations that if this should take place suddenly it would •result in flooding some of the big Atlan-

tic coast line cities of North America. > There is also speculation as to whether the course followed by the Sedov is a fair sample. It is known from geological and historical evidence tiiat the Arctic climate is subject to great fluctuations. Great [coal deposits in Greenland and Spitz-! berpen indicate that the climate was! |onco semi-tropical. It is also known! |that a prosperous Norse colony wax! 'established in Southern Greenland, but' (after about .'{oo years was starved out,! I probably bv a climatic change. I ! The reports of the captain of the] Isedov are supported. it is said, by the; ! report just issued of a University ofl Cambridge expedition in the winter of j 1 il.'W to .lan Maycn Island, off the ern coast of Greenland. This is a Norse! jpossession. It is extremely desolate.j jand in the past it has been used only! las a sentry post of the Arctic through! hi. weather observing station maintainedj jthere by the Norwegian Government. i'J'lms has now stopped operations. | Study of the scanty flora of the; | island, compared with the collections! made by previous expeditions, convincedi the Cambridge explorers that Jan Mayeni was having definitely better winter tern-! peratnres. They were the first to cliiubj the island's chief volcano, 7<Moft high,' which they named in honour of the now| !exiled King Haakon as a tribute to his! /sovereignty over the desolate spot. I '' The Sedov traversed » little known; ..region and found a great, impassable i|no man's area of hummoeky ice extend,ii 11 -r for many miles between the northern share* of Franz Josef Land and; • the Vo*th Pole. It separates the younger] II ice formed mainly on the continental shelf from the thicker ice near the Pole. ■i (N.A.N.A.) j

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Bibliographic details

WARMER ARCTIC, Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 297, 14 December 1940

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WARMER ARCTIC Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 297, 14 December 1940

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