Until today any journey in the ice-infested waters of the Arctic Ocean was a journey into the unknown with no up-to-date detailed map of the ice conditions readily available in such a remote region of the world.
Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) are now able to provide the latest satellite image from the European Space Agency satellite, Envisat and the Canadian Radarsat-1 satellite to any International Polar Year (IPY) expedition in the Arctic Ocean.
Users will be able to connect to KSAT in Tromsø using an Iridium phone to access the latest radar satellite image of the sea ice conditions immediately ahead of them.
The transmission of detailed satellite images over a very low bandwidth has become possible due to software developed by ITT Visual Information Solutions. Coupled with KSAT's ability to deliver the latest satellite image within half-an-hour of acquisition, users can receive the very latest information on the sea ice conditions.
The technology, first used during Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen's expedition, has been described as unprecedented, adding a measure of understanding and safety which was simply not available before.
ENVISAT ASAR (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar) wide-swath scene available to the Bancroft Arnesen Explore team showing the extent of ice fracturing on the Lincoln Sea on 4th March.© raw data ESA 2007 /processed by KSAT 2007
The satellite images, analysed by the Canadian Ice Service (CIS), revealed unusually extensive fracturing of sea ice in the Lincoln Sea. However, Ann and Liv would have known the extent of any leads that crossed their path and they would have been able to decide whether they should swim or walk around open areas of water, known as leads that obstructed their path.
This month K/V Svalbard, the Norwegian Coastguard's icebreaker, is receiving the latest radar satellite images which, together with other essential resources, play an important role in the day-to-day planning as she participates in a joint expedition with the Bi-polar Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation (BIAC) and Ice Load Monitoring (ILM) projects in the waters around the Svalbard Archipelago.