Airship Flight Will Measure Arctic Ice

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A French explorer says the best way to measure the effects of global warming on the Arctic environment is from the comfort of an airship. Jean-Louis Etienne intends to fly an airship more than 6,000 miles from Spitzberg, Norway, over the North Pole, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska from April to May of next year. He told a news conference that the airship can cover a lot more area than surface ships but are much more stable platforms for scientific equipment than other types of aircraft. "The airship will allow us to fly over vast areas and it will give our measuring equipment the stability that a helicopter cannot give," he said. The airship is being built in Russia and is about 175 feet long and 50 feet in diameter.

Arctic ice is reported to be shrinking at unprecedented rates, not only threatening the Arctic environment but also wreaking havoc with weather patterns in the rest of the world. There are also fears that enough ice will melt to raise ocean levels, potentially inundating low-lying coastal areas. Etienne won't be the first to fly over the area in an airship. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen did a similar trip in 1926.