Another stupid polar publicity stunt – "Row To The Pole"

I thought when I saw the Catlin expedition and their faked biotelemetry on their website I had seen the epitome of stupid when it comes to polar publicity stunts. I was wrong.

Enter the new candidate:

Not only is it pointless, but misleading to nearly (see update below) the point of pushing a lie with the expedition name. Why?

Well you see they know they can’t make it to the real north pole at 90N, 0W, since there will be a formidable ice pack they won’t be able to row through. So what do they do? They aim for the magnetic pole and will tweet some caterwauling about the northwest passage being open (maybe) along the way.

Look at the proposed route:

I had to laugh though, when I clicked “The science” link on the homepage and read what the scientific justification was. Its as if nobody ever took salinity and temperature measurements in the Arctic before. Here’s what they say:


A chance for gathering ‘world first’ data

The extreme weather conditions and its remoteness make field research in the Arctic difficult, so chances to gather data are relatively rare. That is why The Old Pulteney Row To The Pole voyage provides a vital opportunity to conduct much needed research.

David Mans, one of the crew, is an oceanographer and he will be leading the science programme to capture data on the open water crossed during the expedition. This will be first data captured from these waters and will provide a base line for all future studies.

Using specialist equipment, David will be measuring the salinity and temperature of the water at different depths. This data will then be sent to the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton where it will help researchers piece together a more detailed picture of the changing Arctic.

Once processed, the data will be useful for modellers seeking to project the pace and pattern of changes which are likely to occur in the future: not only in the Arctic, but in other parts of the world.

How the research will be undertaken?

  • Data will be collected every 10 nautical miles throughout the voyage.
  • A small probe, is lowered into the water down to a depth of 50 metres
  • The probe will be lowered over the side around 8 times a day
  • The probe will measure the conductivity, temperature and depth levels of the water
  • The probe’s readings will be recorded along with the exact location from the vessel’s GPS system at each sampling position

Research Diagram

  1. Boat GPS system accurately

    records the location.

  2. The probe is lowered over the side of the boat

    on a line released from a drum.

  3. As the probe descends it measures the conductance of the water,

    indicating salinity and records the water temperature at each depth.

  4. The probe can take measurements every few metres

    down to 50 metres or more.

With temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Centigrade, this will be hard and sometimes painful work to undertake as wet equipment in these temperatures can quickly freeze over.


Gosh, “data useful for modelers”. And how do they reconcile this statement on the science page:

With temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Centigrade, this will be hard and sometimes painful work to undertake as wet equipment in these temperatures can quickly freeze over.

With this one at the top of the very same science page:

This once ice locked destination is going through rapid change as Global warming brings a great thaw to the region.

Hmmm. Too much Old Pulteney when they wrote this?

With the ‘world first’ data, I suppose this means the data gathered by NOAA drifting buoys and webcams since 2002 aren’t useful for modelers?

They actually start at the true North pole and relay thousands of data points as opposed to the few hundred points at best the row boaters might gather on the way to the magnetic pole.

In fact, there’s a whole bunch of satellite linked buoys in the Arctic operated by the US Military via the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory:

They measure data at depth too.

And then there’s the International Arctic Buoy Programme, which has a number of satellite linked buoys measuring sea water temperature and salinity, much closer to the actual North Pole:

So when the rowboat guys say:

A chance for gathering ‘world first’ data

I have to wonder what the “world first” aspect of the data is. It might be they mean this:

“Worlds first Arctic data gathered by a bunch of guys in a rowboat on a publicity stunt”

In case anybody thinks this isn’t a publicity stunt, meet the sponsor showcased on this page,    Old Pulteney:


UPDATE: I didn’t see this, because I was focused on the route map,  but our sharp readers did. Not only is the expedition pointless, it’s now an outright lie. They aren’t even going to the North Magnetic Pole!

Under the route map, they say this:

The expedition to the Magnetic North Pole (as certified in 1996) will set off from Resolute Bay in July/August 2011, the crew plan to row for 450 miles before finally reaching the Magnetic North Pole at 78 degrees, 35.724 minutes North, 104 degrees, 11.915 minutes West.

From Wikipedia:

The Canadian government has made several measurements since, which show that the North Magnetic Pole is moving continually northwestward. In 1996 an expedition certified its location by magnetometer and theodolite at 78°35.7′N 104°11.9′W / 78.595°N 104.1983°W / 78.595; -104.1983 (Magnetic North Pole 1996).[8] Its estimated 2005 position was 82°42′N 114°24′W / 82.7°N 114.4°W / 82.7; -114.4 (Magnetic North Pole 2005 est), to the west of Ellesmere Island in Canada.[9] During the 20th century it moved 1100 km, and since 1970 its rate of motion has accelerated from 9 km/year to approximately 41 km/year, or 1.3 mm/sec (2001–2003 average; see also Polar drift). If it maintained its present speed and direction it would reach Siberia in about 50 years, but it is expected to veer from its present course and slow its rate of motion.

Even drunken sailors could get closer than this:

click image to enlarge - Image from Google Earth, annotated by Anthony



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Oh here we go, here come the vitriolic debates about having a little water with your scotch…

I appreciate the way you keep up with these things, but sometimes I wish you wouldn’t even give them the attention of mockery. Often I don’t even hear about these “publicity stunts” outside of WUWT.


Unfortunately the general public (in the UK at least) equate the the magnetic north pole with the terrestrial north pole. This is probably a marketing coup for the CAGW team.


Old Pulteney is very nice , but anyone want to take a guess on what the ‘findings’ will be ?
Open water at the magnetic pole during the summer , perfectly normal , indeed read the stories of explores in the Arctic and you will see how open water can be found all over the place quite often during large parts of the year .
Now lets remember how the TV program TOP Gear ‘drove ‘ to the North Pole.


Wonder what is their exit strategy? They might need it sooner than they think.

Jeroen B.

“Scotch on the Rocks instead of a tot of rum at the end of the day boys, keep rowing,remember It’s For The Planet!”

Doug in Seattle

They will at least have the services of the Canadian government ice breaker based in Resolute should they need it. And helicopter rescue services from Resolute make this expedition somewhat less stupid than the last one.

Buffy Minton

I spent 2 months last year somewhat north (81 degrees) doing CTDs (conductivity temperature depth) down to about 3000 metres from a research vessel, so I’m not sure what is unique or interesting about a dodgy 50m profile from a rowing boat but…hey…they’re saving the world. The word “wankers” really is in context here.


While I generally don’t wish harm on anyone, I hope they freeze their arses off.

the Rossshire Mannie

Huh? I know about Old Pultney…. But… never heard a squeak on the local ( Scottish ) or englandistan wireless media. silly fools……… giving us a bad name
Good night!


I was looking for some information the other day and noticed that there is an expedition, including researchers from the University of Southampton, going around the British Isles measuring ocean acidification so I guess the university staff will be too busy doing their own thing to be too interested in the results coming back from the North Pole. It looked like the British Isles expedition was using a lot more sophisticated equipment that the odd bottle in a rowing boat. I was just wondering whether it was safe to go swimming in the waters around the UK anymore as it is probably so acid it’ll burn off my swimming costume but I suppose it’ll be good to have a skin peel at my age – cheaper than going to a beauty parlour.


You just don’t understand data and data processing. If you manually gather data you can computerize its processing. If you automatically gather it with machines then you have to manually process it. Please catch up with modern Climate Science. 8>)


Maybe they will have a chance to test they can outrun a swimming, I mean drowning Polar Bear 🙂


Jeremy says:
June 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm
Oh here we go, here come the vitriolic debates about having a little water with your scotch…
….. well they won’t be able to find any ice, I’m sure !!


Do they row behind an icebraker ?

Driving may have been a better option.


If they are collecting “world first data” how do they know that it reflects a changing environment?
Of course they don’t. What a crock. Any bets on how far they will get before they are blocked by ice and forced to abandon their trek due to “unseasonably cold” or “conditions more harsh than forecast”?


When did we start breeding such pillocks in the UK?


This will be first data captured from these waters and will provide a base line for all future studies.
Once processed, the data will be useful for modellers seeking to project the pace and pattern of changes which are likely to occur in the future: not only in the Arctic, but in other parts of the world.

Which they will compare to? WTF! This is even worse than looking at Arctic sea ice extent (on the satellite record – 1979 to 2000) and projecting.
Ice-free central Arctic ocean during the last ~ 12,000 years
USS Skate surfaces at North Pole in 1959
Historic variations of Arctic ice
Now, on the subject of projectons here are a few that have been observed.

Reading Eagle – Apr 5, 1959
“The ice mass covering the pole is slowly melting. The Arctic ice pack is 40 per cent thinner and 12 per cent small than it was at the beginning of he century. Experts predict that in not too many decades the region will melt altogether in the summer months.”

Sarasota Journal – May 16, 1972
Expert Sees Iceless Ocean By Year 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) Arctic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2,000.

Exclusive: Scientists warn that there may be no ice at North Pole this summer
Independent – 27 June 2008
“It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year. ”
By Steve Connor, Science Editor

CBS News – Dec. 13, 2007
scientist Jay Zwally said:”At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

ABC News – April 7, 2008
North Pole could be ice-free in a year: scientist

BBC – 12 December 2007
Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013
Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years. …….” So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.”

New York Times – August 20, 2000
The last time scientists can be certain the pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago.


Actually, the term “Scotch on the Rocks” immediately comes to mind. I expect that even in mid summer they will encounter many small ice bergs and growlers. Not how I want to spend my summer vacation!

Les Johnson

Its not even the magnetic north pole. These gits are rowing to where the pole was in 1996.
The magnetic pole is currently more than 7 degrees north of where it was in 1996. This is over 700 km.


I’m a whiskey drinker. That is one I believe I will ignore henceforth.
Given the way the pole is moving, I’m thinking Vodka would be a better choice for a sponser anyways.

Laurie Ridyard

The theme tune for this

John F. Hultquist

If they will send a case of Old Pulteney to me I will subscribe to their updates and say something nice. Otherwise there are several sayings that come to mind, including “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein


It’s much worse than a “marketing coup”. They’re actually traveling to the “1996 Certified” North Pole, which is over 500 miles closer to their starting point than the current actual magnetic north. They might as well row to the 1961 position of magnetic north, in which case they would be done before they ever started.


Why don’t they just drive there like Clarkson, May and the Hampster?

Theo Goodwin

They are sponsored by an inferior whiskey. The best whiskey is Bushmills’ Ancient which is a single-malt that is aged 25 years. It is made by Scots in Ulster.


I look forward to these events each year. I think of them as “ABABS’ Annual British Arctic Boondoggles. Still, if it must happen, Old Pulteney is a single malt without which no Scotch collection is complete. No doubt the mission objectives were written by ad men.

Andy G55

Question.. will their physical exertions release more or less CO2 than using a motor ?
Also, note that they are doing it in summer, not winter. Still, I hope they iced in and have to be rescued !!

Al Gored

Perhaps it will be the world’s first fool-powered icebreaker.


Actually the general public is vulnerable to all sorts of lame lies because they are products of their nation’s compulsary Public Un-Education System.

CRS, Dr.P.H.
Arizona CJ

Ummm… Are they proposing to do this journey in 1996? If not, they aren’t heading for the magnetic pole! They aren’t just being “clever”, their title is an outright fraud.
Their destination appears to be Elef Rignes Island.. where the magnetic north pole was in 1996. But, perhaps hey don’t know it moves? By about 40 miles a year lately.
They won’t come within 250 miles of its current location, even if they reach their destination.

golf charley

Last year Catlin sponsored a dash through the ice free north west passage, with a high powered RIB. Fortunately they had an ice breaker as a support vessel

Colin Porter

As a once proud Brit, may I apologise in advance to intelligent people around the world for this latest stunt, which follows those of other “intrepid” British explorers, Pugh in his kayak and Pen Hadow’s Catlin Expeditions.
I feel deeply ashamed that a once great exploring nation with its great history in scientific endeavour, should these days be represented by these mirthful excuses for humanity, not just once, but for the last four consecutive years.
Perhaps Jock Wishart will follow in his predecessors footsteps to become a successful after dinner speaker. It is about the only valuable spin off that this present survey will have.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Perhaps the polar bears are hungry and would like a snack…
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been running lots of “Stop animal cruelty” fundraising ads lately. Many pictures of apparently abused and neglected cats, dogs, cats, dogs… Then they slip in the NatGeo photo of a cute white fluffy baby seal minding its own business on the snow and ice, happy in its native territory.
Well then, if they want to help out these cute baby seals, might as well give their predators something else to eat so the big-eyed baby seals won’t get devoured. Volunteer Arctic explorers will make the polar bears very happy.
Gee, after all the talk of drowning polar bears due to the melting Arctic sea ice, with the “poster child” image of a bear Stranded! on a small chunk of floating ice, do they even know the polar bears can swim right up to their puny little row boats? Are they planning on sleeping in them at night?


One would hope that their sponsor have booked the Russian or Canadian rescue party in advance, so not too much Scotch would be wasted on rocks in this misadventure.


Isn’t that a coal-fired steam ship right on the bottle? 🙂
Old Pulteney appears to be a cheap, salty highland single-malt scotch with a lot of buzz in the “alternative” crowd. Yet, it doesn’t have any smoke (not made with peat), and, people are comparing it to Johnny Walker black (not good company). Probably not for me,but, I’m going to have to try it now. So, as a publicity stunt, this works out great for the company.

Bill Marsh

Well thanks Anthony. Thanks for ruining what was otherwise going to be a decent dinner. 😉
This is almost beyond belief. Do these ‘scientists’ have no sense of pride or honor? I have no idea how a self-respecting ‘scientist’ could possibly associate himself/herself with an endeavor that is obviously a publicity stunt to advertize liquor.

Green Sand

I think I might be able to help.
Instead of these poor guys expending all there energy rowing uphill to the North Pole we have a helicopter that can drop them off at the actual North Pole and they can then take their time coming back down on the tide.
Let me know if you want a lift, Non-Virgin Flights.Com

Billy Liar

Perhaps they should take a look at N N Zubov’s book ‘Arctic Ice’ published in May 1943 and based on observations in the 30’s and early 40’s
Plenty of depth vs salinity discussion and graphs in Chapter XII.


@Bill Marsh. Between an insurance underwriter (Catlin) and a Scotch whiskey (Old Pulteney), my choice of sponsors for the ABABS (Annual British Arctic Boondoggles) pseudo-scientific venture is clearly the Scotch. The tone of this expedition is not self-righteous, these guys are out to have some fun. Careful they don’t catch you being a little stiff.


Everybody! Sing along!
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Gently down the stream.


Here is some more water based insanity sponsored by Old Pulteney, the sponsors of “row to the pole” stupidity.

The Spaniard set a new world record for successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a jetski in 2002 with the expedition ‘Atlantik 2002’. …………During this time, Alvaro spent on average 12 hours per day standing up and this expedition represented the first ever attempt at travelling 10,000 nautical miles of open ocean by a person on a watercraft.
Daily Telegraph



Despite my vitriol towards these scammers I do hope this does not end in tragedy. Catlin have had lucky scrapes.


Every 10 nautical miles or 8 times a days? How far apart is 8 times a day? I bet most of the “data”is useless anyway.


Yea, right, Scotch for a sponsor. Actually that makes perfect sense given you’d have to be three-sheets to the wind to believe their dribble (pun intended).

Jeremy says:
June 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Oh here we go, here come the vitriolic debates about having a little water with your scotch…

I have to say I used to shun any kind of water in mine. I then was pretty much forced to when drinking v good single malt in the tropics, as you need some ice to cool it. Tried those granite cube things, but found out it’s the melting, not the coldness, that cools it, so suffered the ice cubes…..
And came to thoroughly enjoy the ‘thinning’ of the scotch as you drink it. The flavour changes throughout, and is well worth the experience. I now almost always have a little ice, preferably from spring water, unless it is too cold (ie below 20C from me).
OK, OK, OT, but he started it!

I don’t get it, apparently they’re only returning data, not water samples. They could’ve been so green – drink a bottle of Old Pulteney, recycle it as a water sample bottle.

Moderate Republican

Funny how the point being that this wouldn’t have been possible until very recently is totally missed in the comments….
REPLY: Oh puhleeze. Read your history buddy, start with Nansen – Anthony