World leading expedition photographer Martin Hartley used a specially tested Leica camera to beat the extreme conditions on a recent successful expedition to the North Pole with the Catlin Artic Survey project.
The photographs for the mission would normally be impossible to take on digital equipment in harsh Arctic conditions, where temperatures can reach -45°C with wind-chill factors of -75°C
Regarded as some of the world’s toughest explorers, the team of three reached the Geographic North Pole on May 12th, ending a gruelling 60-day trek across the floating sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. The team also included the artic adventurers and navigation experts Ann Daniels and Charlie Paton.
To overcome the extreme cold conditions, Hartley used a Leica MP camera with a Leica Elmarit-M 24mm f/2.8 ASPH lens.
“At the very start of an Arctic Ocean expedition, temperatures can drop below minus 50 Celsius, but generally temperatures in February and early March hover around the minus forties and low thirties” said Hartley. “At these temperatures, battery-powered electronic devices become unreliable and are prone to failure, cameras being no exception.”
“These low temperatures cause everything to shrink: auto focus lenses become too tight and have to be focused manually, aperture leafs often jam; it is during these times that photographic opportunities can be lost.”
“I carried the Leica MP around my neck in a thin waterproof bag to stop the moisture from my breath landing and then freezing on the viewfinder. The camera was instantly accessible all day every day, no matter how cold it got.”
“Every time I wanted the camera to work, it did. The focusing was fast and the shutter never failed – not once – during the entire expedition. Missing a shot because of camera failure due to severe cold was never a worry, no matter how low the temperature reached.”
The explorers collected water and marine life samples from beneath the floating sea ice as part of the expedition's leading edge science programme which is assessing the impact of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases on the ocean and its marine life.
The Arctic Ocean is the world’s smallest ocean, roughly 8% the size of the Pacific Ocean, yet more fish live along the edges of the Arctic Ocean than anywhere else on Earth. By 2030-40, scientists estimate that the white 'North Pole ice' will have been transformed into an entirely blue, open ocean in the summer periods.
Starting on the Ellef Ringnes Island north of Canada on March 14th, the three explorers travelled over 483 miles (777 kilometres) in total and faced extremely challenging conditions such as head-winds, negative drift, thin ice and had to swim across large areas of open water. It was Hartley’s twentieth expedition to the artic and antartic regions.
The analysis of the data captured during the trip and the results of the samples collected by the team will be announced in September 2010.