The demand to prepare for humankind's inhabitation of space and other extraterrestrial bodies requires that analog research strive for the highest fidelity available here on Earth. To that end, considerable data (primarily physiological) has been collected during expeditions in extreme environments over the last century in environments as diverse as Antarctica, submarines, simulators, mountaineers, undersea aviation) and space. While these measurements have provided an understanding of the body's response to the stresses of extreme environments, the physiological measurements have only recently been examined in association with the emotional or behavioral state of the subject Establishing this psychophysiological relationship is essential to understanding fully the adaptation of humans to the stresses of extreme environments. It has been noted that Mars bears an uncanny climatic resemblance to Greenland where Martian daytime temperature averages 15 degrees C and plummets down to -70 degrees Celsius at night. Greenland offers a similar temperature flux due to geographic location and seasonal variation; therefore making it an ideal analogy to Mars - climatic, physiological and psychological. This study simultaneously collected physiological, psychological and behavioral data from a two-man Greenland expedition in order to identify specific relationships between physiological and psychological adaptation to a polar environment. Data collection provided needed descriptions of changes in adrenal activity, psychological functioning and behavioural activity levels in responses to environmental and psychological challenges inherent in the polar crossing with potential applications to future Mars expeditioners.
The aim of this expedition is to cross the Greenland Ice Cap from West to East on the Arctic circle on skis. The expedition will consist of two teams of 3 people who will travel unsupported from external supply and the groups in isolation from each other. Informed consent for research will be obtained prior to expedition. Only applicants agreeing to the research protocols will be considered for the expedition.
During the middle of April 2001 the 6 members of the Northern Cross Expedition will leave from the town of Sondre Stromfjord on the west coast of Greenland (Inuit name of Kangerlussuaq) on the Arctic circle to ascend from sea level the polar ice cap via the Russell Glacier. Climate at that point will reflect that of the brief polar autumn. By this time the Russell Glacier will theoretically have been frozen. The whole of the glacier starts melting during the warmer summer months and makes this approach during that time of the year impossible - May/June/July/Aug. During the ascent of the Russell Glacier the 6 NCE members will function as a completely functional unit. Only after a 2 day ascent reaching the top of the glacier and reaching the ice cap will the next stage of the expedition commence.
The next stage involves splitting the 6 man group in a pre-set randomly selected process whereby the group will prior to actual opening of a sealed envelope be unaware of who goest whither (who goes with who). In essence this means that a group of 6 will be split into 2 groups of 3. One may think that groups of 2 may work better, however previous experience may show otherwise. The Danish Polar Center decrees that no solo efforts are allowed onto the ice cap. In the unforeseen event that a member of the expedition may have to be evacuated the sole remaining member of a 2 man expedition would not be allowed to continue his trek. Hence 3 members. Ration and supplies will be worked out prior the expedition and accordingly so that both groups will leave the point of departure (called point 660 geographical reference) with exactly the same rations, sled weight and equipment. Thus, no advantages to either groups. All gear and rations will be standardised. All the participants will be carefully examined to deem if they are indeed physically and psychologically able to undergo this expedition. The groups then split, moving towards 2 GPS reference points and in opposite directions about 3kms opposite. They will within minutes disappear from each other. Then, on set times they will start off from the 2 points. Continuing across the ice cap to the Isortoq glacier 660 kms to the East coast. Due to the lack of contact between the 2 groups they will operate in a completely independent fashion. Should a serious emergency arise this silence will be breached whereby coordinates will be shared and groups will merge.
Expeditions of this nature provide us with the opportunity to examine group and individual response to harsh daily activity, environmental extremes and isolation, group interaction and goal achievement. To my knowledge this will be the first expedition of its kind. Other than normal physiological parameters e.g. continuous heart rate monitoring, core body temperature monitoring, biochemical analysis of blood samples, muscle biopsies, arterial wall biopsies, VO2 Max, CYBEX, Virological specimens and immune response etc.
Psychological parameters as followed during previous Greenland Expedition of 1999 re individual assessments of behavior, stress and discomfort will be integrated with stress hormone profiles, perceived personality traits of other participants and problem solving. Every 5th day both groups will open sealed envelopes containing pre-set scenarios that will need input from all members to solve . Audio-recordings will be done of allotted time to solve issues. At expeditions end both groups will be analysed according to the aforementioned physiological and psychological parameters as well as to the actual distances traveled, most effective group interaction etc. This should hold several practical implications for expeditions of this harsh nature, i.e. space expeditions, underwater, mountaineer, rescue, office interaction etc.
Cross Country Skiing