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Around Greenland in 49 days

08/25/2014

The ACCIONA-sponsored Wind Sled has covered 4,300 km to circumnavigate Greenland, propelled only by a system of kites and no other form of energy. The expedition also fulfilled its task as an ‘eco-laboratory’ running on zero-emissions in polar climes.

The first-ever circumnavigation of Greenland’s ice terrain by a wind-propelled vehicle came to an end in late June having successfully reached the point it departed from near Kangerlussuaq on the south-west of the island after covering 4,300 km in 49 days.

The five explorers led by Spanish polar legend, Ramón Larramendi, beat a record for the distance traveled by a windpowered vehicle in a single stage, reaching 427 km. During the journey, Larramendi’s team tested a new prototype for a ‘mobile ecolaboratory’ which demonstrated that it is possible to travel and research in polar territories on zero emissions.

“The objective of the expedition sponsored by ACCIONA was to test the effectiveness of the Wind Sled as an easy-to-steer, economic, sustainable vehicle for researching polar territories, which are very fragile ecosystems through which today thousands of scientists travel leaving their ecological footprint,” explained Ramón as the expedition ended. Spanish engineers Manuel Olivera and Eusebio Beamonte, Dane Karin Moe Bojsen and Greenlander Hugo Svenson joined Ramón on the vehicle. All returned to base without injuries, just tired after such a demanding journey.

Mission accomplished

Expand imageThroughout the 49-day-trip, four days longer than planned, the explorers carried out regular data collections from the snow for the Pyrenean Ecological Institute (IPE-CSIC). Their mission was to gather samples every 100 km by introducing a dipstick into the ice and at 400 km they drilled 10 trenches, each a meter deep, to perform further research.

Yet there was also a geographic challenge to tackle, on top of the scientific and environmental ones. No one before had tried to ride around Greenland like this —the world’s biggest island at over 2.5 million km2— on its ‘inland ice’. The American Lonnie Dupre and Australian John Hoelscher tried it using non-polluting transport (dogpulled sleds and kayak), but it took them five years (1997-2001). The Wind Sled did it in 49 days.

ACCIONA’s Windpowered Antarctic expedition 90˚S crossed the continent in 2011-2012, again led by Ramón Larramendi, arriving at the Geographic South Pole on an earlier version of the sled.

Follow the full Greenland 2014 Circumnavigation, as it unfurled, on the project website.

PASSION FOR SCIENCE

We at ACCIONA Reports would like to pay tribute to the great passion for adventure and immense scientific legacy left by the chemist Juan Pablo Albar, who died in July, aged 59. Albar was one of the principal Spanish researchers investigating genome proteins and scientific coordinator for the ACCIONA-sponsored 2011-2012 Wind Sled expedition that reached the South Pole, led by explorer Ramón Larramendi.

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