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UK team sets sail for first carbon-neutral Greenland crossing

Guardian Environment 18th April 2009

Research expedition on three-week, 2,000-mile crossing of Greenland ice cap

A British team sets sail tomorrow from Plymouth to attempt the first ever carbon-neutral crossing of the Greenland ice cap.

The physiotherapist Richard Spink, landscape gardener Raoul Surcouf and skipper Ben Stoddart hope to complete a three-week, 2,000-mile crossing of the north Atlantic to the port of Nuuk on the west coast of Greenland. As well as drawing attention to green travel by avoiding planes, they plan to take air temperature, wind speed and snow depth measurements for the Danish Agency for Science Technology and Innovation.

Spink and Surcouf will spend four days on arrival in Greenland carrying their supplies up on to the glacier. They will then set off on a 560-mile round trip, each dragging 100kg of supplies on sledges across the ice cap, following a route pioneered by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen in 1888. This part of the expedition is expected to take 40 days, during which they could encounter temperatures of -25C (-13F) and winds of up to 80 mph.

"Expeditions often achieve impressive objectives and carry out vital research, but few take into account their environmental impacts," said Surcouf, 40, from London. "By making our expedition carbon-neutral, we wanted to show that it is possible to visit incredible places and preserve them for future generations."

The expedition boat, a 40-foot Island Packet yacht, has been fitted with a wind generator and solar panels to reduce reliance on the battery and motor. Much of the expedition food has been donated by FareShare, a charity that collects out-of-date but edible food that would otherwise end up in landfill and distributes it to vulnerable people across the country.

Clothing has been sourced from the greenest suppliers possible with an emphasis on local outlets to reduce delivery miles.

Carbon Neutral Expeditions, the organisation behind the crossing, is also working with 40 schools to promote climate change education in classrooms. Pupils will be following the team's progress on daily blogs from the ice cap. "When we came up with the idea for this expedition, we really wanted it to have an educational angle," said Spink, 32, from Bristol.

"We are thrilled that to have so many school children supporting us and learning about climate change."

The team, which is also raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, hopes to return to Plymouth in July. Earlier this year, British explorer Pen Hadow led an expedition to the Arctic to measure the depth of ice and snow being affected by climate change.

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