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Expedition Greenland ICE makes history with 1st circumnavigation of the Greenland icecap


After 55 days, Belgian Dixie Dansercoer & Canadian Eric McNair-Landry become first polar explorers to complete the full circuit of Greenland icecap by kite.

Brussels, 13 June 2014 – After 55 days, Belgian polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer (51) and his Canadian colleague Eric McNair-Landry (30) succeeded in becoming the first polar explorers to fully circumnavigate the Greenland ice sheet. They completed the expedition with a total distance of 4,044.9 km.

 

On April 10, Dixie Dansercoer (Belgium) and Eric McNair-Landry (Canada) began the Greenland ICE Expedition. Their goal: to be the first unassisted, non-motorized team to circumnavigate the Greenland icecap. At 23:35pm on June 3rd, on Day 55 of this ground-breaking expedition, they did just that.

After 56 days on the ice, and 4,044.9 km (2,513.4 miles), the milestone and bar have been set. They returned to their original starting coordinate (N 66.02771, W 39.26409) at 23:35 on Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Dixie and Eric completed the Greenland ICE Expedition at Greenspeed Ridge (Coordinates N 65 48 22, W 38 37 11) at 03:40 on Wednesday, June 4, 2014.

Dixie Dansercoer stated: “After the Antarctic ICE expedition with Sam Deltour, a circumnavigation of the Greenlandic icecap was on the menu. Driven by the same katabatic winds but in opposite direction Eric and I combined forces and found ourselves in a similar habitat. Maybe a slight bit warmer, but far less predictable in respect of the weather. It was wonderful moment to close the gap and find ourselves back at that same departure point and see that circular trajectories are truly possible. We have the feeling that this will now become a new classic route.”

Before their departure, Dixie and Eric meticulously prepared an expedition route that could last up to 80 days on the ice and were prepared to progress over 5,000 km if necessary to accomplish their goal. Working with weather and terrain impositions, strategic adaptations were made to guarantee the circumnavigation. This ultimately shortened the traveling distance and travel time. Along the way, on Day 47, they hit the 3,166.4 km mark, surpassing the recognized Arctic distance world record of 3,120 km previously established in 2009 by Adrian Hayes.

Eric McNair Landry: “With our tired bodies rested we now reminisce of our time on the Greenland ice-cap. The beauty of kiting through slow sunsets and the days of powder snow when the miles effortlessly passed under our skis. The challenges of broken equipment, sastrugi and the unrelenting oppressive cold, were easily circumvented by excellent team work and ingenuity. Never has such an experienced team ventured to the Greenland ice-cap, to take on a challenge never before tried and to travel through areas where no human had set foot.”

In addition to setting the bar for circumnavigation attempts from now on, Dixie and Eric were able to collect valuable scientific data on climate change. This information will be used in ground-breaking research and managed by a dedicated scientific research committee.

In order to celebrate this Belgo-Canadian achievement, Dixie and Eric were invited to the Belgian Embassy in Copenhagen on June 11th, where Belgian ambassador, Pol De Witte, Canadian ambassador, André Giroux, and Kim Falck-Petersen, Representative of Greenland in Denmark, held a reception in their honour. 

Ground-breaking scientific research on the vast Greenland icecap

As with every Polar Circles expedition, a sportive goal is not enough to complete such a rigorous adventure. Dixie and Eric carried scientific equipment with them to collect much needed data on global warming for global climate experts – this information will be used in ground-breaking research which affects us all. The research will be monitored and managed by a dedicated scientific research committee.


The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass with an accelerating speed. The mass lost, due to melt water run-off and iceberg calving, will strongly increase the global sea level: if all Greenland will melt, the sea level would rise by approximately 6 m. The atmospheric circulation over Greenland, which affects the air temperature and ice melt, is strongly controlled by katabatic winds - downslope flows of cold air over the ice sheet. Knowledge on the katabatic winds is incomplete due to rarity of observations. Observations from Greenland are mostly available from weather stations, where measurements are made in the lowermost 10 m of the atmosphere. Upper level observations are only made at six locations, which, except of the Summit station, are all located in the coastal zone. Finally, observations of the snowpack erosion by wind (occurring in winter/spring) have not been yet performed over Greenland until now.

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