How do you go to the toilet at the North Pole?

Well, this question has been coming up a lot!  But we suspect that it has been thought about more than we have been asked about it.  So we wanted to try and explain and make things clearer.

Its about the pees and the poops.

How does this happen when we are on our expedition? When we are hundreds of miles away from the nearest toilet? When the ground is sea ice and the air is freezing cold?

Well here to give you an insight into expedition toileting is Steph:

 

What would you ask an explorer?

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Before leaving for Longyearbyen, Asma, our team member from Qatar, visited two schools to talk about the journey she is about to make to the North Pole. Students from class Pre 4B at Qatar Academy Sidra and students at Park House English School were able to try out some of Asma's equipment as well as ask some burning questions about the Arctic.

If a polar explorer came to your school, what would you ask them? If you think of a good question be sure to send it to us - we might be able to send you a really good answer back!

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Do other women do this?

YES! There is a large and distinguished community of women and explorers who are out in the field making scientific discoveries and providing new knowledge of our planet. And they have always been there; history is full of inspiring women explorers - you just have to look for them.

WINGS WorldQuest is a US-based organisation that works to promote women scientists and explorers who are active in the field. They maintain a database of Fellows so that anyone can find more information about the work and travels of this select group....try searching for Ann Bancroft, Liv Arnesen or Helen Thayer for some great Polar stories.

The Euro-Arabian Expedition is delighted to be carrying WINGS WorldQuest Flag #27 into the field with us. We look forward to taking it to the North Pole and returning it to WINGS with another great story to tell of women exploring our world.

You can see where other Flag Carriers have been on the website here: http://www.wingsworldquest.org/flag-carriers/

Is Sea Ice Salty?

Newly formed sea ice is often salty because as it freezes small pockets of salty water called 'brine' are trapped between the ice crystals.

The older the sea ice the less salty it becomes as all the 'brine' drains out of it. So, if you are on the Arctic Ocean and looking for some ice to melt down to make drinking water, you are better off looking for the oldest ice you can find......

.....but wait, how can you tell what is old and what is new ice?

The clue is in the colour of any melt pools. If the melt pools are a dark blue then this is new, first year ice. If the melt pools are lighter or turquoise in colour, then this is older ice that has been around for more than one summer season. Easy!

What is the North Pole?

The team will be skiing to the Geographic North Pole. This is as far north as it is possible to go on planet Earth and is designated as 90N. It is the point around which the Earth rotates (or - more officially - the point at which the Earth's axis of rotation meets the surface).

But this is not the only 'North Pole' - in fact, there are five of them!

The Magnetic North Pole is the spot that your compass needle points to and it is quite a long way from the Geographic North Pole. Formally this pole is defined as the place where all of Earth's magnetic field lines are vertical.

Then there is the Geomagnetic North Pole and no-one really understands what this one is. If we imagined the Earth as a ordinary dipole bar magnet, the Geomagnetic North Pole would be one end of it....there we are, that's our best attempt at explaining it!

The fourth is the Celestial North Pole. A lot of people don't include this one because it isn't real location at all. It is a construct used by Astronomers when they imagine the night sky to be the surface of a sphere surrounding the Earth. The Celestial North Pole is the spot on this sphere that is directly above the Geographic North Pole.

And finally, there is the town of North Pole in Alaska. This has no geographic distinction but it does receive a lot of letters addressed to Santa...

How much sea ice is there?

Sea ice is the frozen surface of the ocean. The amount of the ocean's surface covered by sea ice varies throughout the year - it forms in the winter and partly melts away during the summer - but it also varies from year to year.

Since 1979, scientists have been monitoring the area covered by sea ice using satellites. They have seen that this area - called sea ice extent - has reduced year on year, and that this reduction is accelerating.

You can see how much sea ice is in the Arctic Ocean RIGHT NOW by looking at the maps published daily on the website of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in the US:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Where do the Polar Bears go?

Most Polar Bears live very isolated lives. Apart from mothers with cubs, Polar Bears rarely spend any time with other polar bear. Instead they can roam vast distances on the Arctic Ocean and surrounding territories looking for prey. One satellite-tracked female bear trekked 4,796 kilometers (2,980) miles !

Polar Bears International track 12 different Polar Bears in the Hudson Bay area of Canada. You can see the wanderings of each bear in almost real time on a dedicated website map here:

https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears/tracking/

For Teachers: If you would like to use the Polar Bear tracker in the classroom, Polar Bears International have produced a lesson plan and associated powerpoint which is free to download here:

https://polarbearsinternational.org/media/1119/pbi_bear_tracker_lesson_plan.pdf

Where is Longyearbyen?

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Longyearbyen is the capital of Svalbard, a cluster of islands roughly half-way between the top of Europe and the North Pole. It is looked after by Norway.

Roughly 2000 people live in Longyearbyen and in many respects it is a normal small town with shops, cafes, bus routes, taxis, schools, a swimming pool, a library and so on. But there are lots of things that make Longyearbyen different.

At 78 degrees North it is the most northerly 'town' in the world, meaning that everything here is the most 'northerly' of its type....most northerly newspaper, most northerly sushi restaurant, most northerly petrol garage etc. However, most unique are the neighbours. Svalbard is home to more Polar Bears than people. Anyone venturing beyond the outskirts of Longyearbyen must carry Polar Bear protection but there are also strict laws protecting the Polar Bears from the residents of Longyearbyen too.

Right now the temperatures in Longyearbyen are around -20C, this is a similar temperature to the inside of most home freezers. At midnight it is not dark here, the sky is light 24 hours a day. By June it will be as bright and sunny at midnight as it is at midday - and in December there will be no sunlight at all. Weird!

And what about its strange name: Longyearbyen? Well, byen is the Norwegian word for town and Longyear was the name of the American who founded the town in the early 1900s and who established the successful coal mining industry in the surrounding area. He named the town after himself.

Ask the team a question...

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