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Climate tragedy

Another polar climate change expedition has come to grief. Previous adventures have ended in farce. Unfortunately this time the story is a tragedy.

The Coldfacts organisation, funded by the Dutch arm of WWF, has sent two men to the high Canadian Arctic, to look at sea ice:

Polar explorers Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo (The Netherlands) will head for the Canadian High Arctic / Nunavut to gather valuable datasets for scientific research on sea ice in the heart of the so-called "Last Ice Area".  This is the area where summer sea ice cover is expected to be most resilient to warming and to remain for decades to come. Anticipating on this resilience, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has identified this region as an area for which special stewardship should be sought through consultation of and cooperation with stakeholders. A solid science base is needed to do this.

However an emergency message has been received and all contact has been lost. The two are presumed drowned.

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Reader Comments (43)

Let's be considerate of the families. These people were trying to do something they thought important.
They were getting real life evidence.
And they Have suffered a tragedy. We should be sympathetic.

May 1, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

It is a tragedy for their families and my sympathies are with them, but I have no doubt whatsoever that WWF will attempt to gain as much propaganda as possible from these events.

May 1, 2015 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

It is indeed sad and I don't see that including the story here adds anything to the climate debate, but it does give us a vehicle to register our sincere condolences to their next of kin.

May 1, 2015 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

Open water, "tropical" report on the 28th, drowning. They will be abused in death as martyrs of ever accelerating warming.

May 1, 2015 at 12:57 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

It is a reminder that the Arctic is no playground.

Any expeditions need to be professionally organised, with no unnecessary chances taken.

Perhaps the Dutch govt will make a full and proper investigation, and if necessary take appropriate action against WWF for endangering lives.

May 1, 2015 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

Also two sleds were found. One on the ice, partly unpacked. The other in the open water. The plane returned with no more news of Marc and Philip then that the sleds were found and that the open-water-ice conditions are too dangerous for either a helicopter or a plane to land.

Surely they wouldn't be so crass?

Surely nobody could be so crass?

May 1, 2015 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko


May 1, 2015 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

My condolences to their families.


May 1, 2015 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Paul Homewood


It reminds me of free climbers and base jumpers - as far as I'm concerned (having worked up there on various expeditions) - these folks challenged nature and you don't do that up there and think for a moment that it's a forgiving environment... Even the Inuit come unstuck 'pon occasion.

If WWF canonise these guys and offer the the deed up as selfless sacrifice - then they'll drop even lower is my estimation than the the lowly regard I hold them in already - not that that'd bother them a jot.....

May 1, 2015 at 2:01 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Yes it is all very sad indeed. I also hope the Dutch government hold a review of all circumstances that lead to this tragedy. I agree with Paul Homewood, the Arctic & for that matter, the Antarctic, are no playgrounds. We learned this recently when school children were attacked by a Polar Bear with at least one being killed. The more people who go out there to prove it's dissappearing, the more will be injured & killed, statistically this is so! My sympathies lay with their families.

May 1, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Awful news, very sad for families and friends.

But, it highlights (as the Ship of Fools expedition did) that the Poles are very dangerous places indeed.

I wonder if there will be a proper inquiry into what happened?

And if any members of the Blob try to make hay out of this tragedy, may they rot in hell.

May 1, 2015 at 2:07 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

This is very sad news. My thoughts go out to the families!

May 1, 2015 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

Two people and a dog to a wilderness of unstable ice? This was not seriousness, but is now.

May 1, 2015 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I have been trying to look at their experience and track record.

They describe themselves as 'professional explorers' and 'motivational speakers'. They run companies taking people to the polar regions, and have several 'expedition leader' items in their CVs. Most of these seem to be commercial 'extreme holiday' expeditions - skiing across Greenland or to the North Pole, for example. There is obviously a lot of WWF/Climate Change mentioned - here is an excerpt (machine translated):

...This was a result of his tireless efforts as a Ranger at the World Wildlife Fund in which all his spare time began in fundraising activities for the WWF.

Since this period is Philip regularly returned to the Arctic to include project support in the areas of climate change and making expeditions with themes in the field of corporate social responsibility are the foundation. So Philip was in 2008 a crossing of the Greenland ice sheet 2500km in 32 days completely climate neutral. This was done by using solar cells to recharge equipment, wind energy to propel and biofuels for cooking.

In addition to trips in the Arctic Philip also has a lot of (technical) experience climbing in the Alps. Thus, he now 3x stood on Mt Blanc, and over 25 4000ers (mountains higher than 4,000 meters) climbed!...

It is hard to tell whether they had adequate experience/equipment and were just unlucky, or whether they ventured into a dangerous situation which they should really have avoided. But the current mania for commercial 'science/adventure holidays', such as Prof Chris Turney's Ship of Fools in the Antarctic last year is obviously pushing the edges of safety, and will probably claim more lives if it continues.

Our commiserations to their family and friends, of course..

May 1, 2015 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Eaten by ravenous polar bears as that population explosion competed for limited food.

May 1, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

It's a dangerous place and you need to know what you are about but even seasoned explorers can come to grief, out on the sea ice is an undertaking fraught with capricious fortune for the ice shifts by the hour according to the wind and currents. It may look solid...............only big bears know what they're about - seriously, no one - no human being else does.

R.I.P. to these two lost souls.

May 1, 2015 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

My sadness at the needless death of two fellow-human beings is slightly tempered by an increasing anger and sense of frustration at the feeling that they were caused in part by WWF's besotted obsession with climate, an obsession that appears to deprive its activists and supporters of both common sense and self-awareness.
It was WWF who at exactly the time that they were encouraging us all to be aware of our "carbon footprint" were still running their "come and gawp at the penguins" cruises, select patrons only at (if I recall correctly) a five-figure fare, max 85 people, and the carbon footprint of a small American town. Maybe I exaggerate but not much.
Between them WWF and Greenpeace (and others) send ill-equipped and inexperienced people into singularly hazardous situations ostensibly to do "research", in fact to publicise some aspect of climate change that turns out not to be happening anyway.
As johanna points out, Ship of Fools was a classic case.
Normally, as Andrew says, it all goes harmlessly and embarrassingly pear-shaped and we all raise eyes to heaven at the idiocy and have a good laugh.
Not this time, unfortunately, but it will happen again sooner or later.

May 1, 2015 at 4:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Well it's too bad; the high Arctic is no place to play around. My sympathies are for the dog who will probably be left there. I can't see the self-absorbed WWF paying for the dog's rescue and I can't see the Canadian Government saving it as a freebie.

May 1, 2015 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris moffatt

There will be no dutch enquiry. The dutch and EU are big supporters of greenpiss and WWF. They will not allow a review of this accident for fear of damaging them and the greenies.

May 1, 2015 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

What about the dog?

May 1, 2015 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Sad to hear , it may well be one fell into to the water , covered by thin ice and the other in trying to help them went in.
Its an automatic reaction but a poor survival technique.

The Arctic is a hard place which many have to come to grief in , even the most experienced.

May 1, 2015 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Poor doggie. I doubt it thought (even if misguidedly) that it was 'saving the planet'.

May 1, 2015 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Fully agree with Mike Jackson.

The harsh climate of the polar regions can only be realized by experience. It is one thing to read about and conceptualize low temperatures, but it is altogether a different matter to experience them. At - 50C, the lowest I have personally experienced, one feels ones energy being dissipated at an incredible rate, even when wearing suitable clothing. Throw in water immersion at the sub zero temperatures of the arctic region and one has less than 10 minutes to live without immediate intervention.

This is a tragic loss and a totally pointless waste of life with no obvious possible advancement of science of any kind had the pair even succeeded in their mission. It seems to have been conceived as nothing more than a publicity gathering event .

WWF and their cohorts should reflect long and hard on their respective roles in this disaster. Any attempt, any, on their part to garner publicity of any form should be condemned. They, WWF and their ilk, have a lot of entries in the debit side of their social responsibility ledgers and very little to nothing in the credit side.

My thoughts are with the men's loved ones.

May 1, 2015 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

The Heart of Whiteness.

May 1, 2015 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

" A solid science base is needed to do this." Oh the irony!

May 1, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Twitter account of one of the victims

He'd just celebrated his 30th birthday, on Apr 11.

Btw the pictures show 2 dogs.

May 1, 2015 at 10:54 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Cold Facts builds on the experiences with the research expedition Pole Track (2004- 2005) and the Ben & Jerry’s Climate Change College (2006-2008).

May 2, 2015 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden


"And if any members of the Blob try to make hay out of this tragedy, may they rot in hell."..

I'm afraid they will...

May 2, 2015 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones


eesh .... ghouls hardly covers it.

The tragic deaths in the Mediterranean are precisely in line with the predictions of climate security analysts, without urgent action they could herald an era of mass migration and international tension

Maybe there's a special corner of Tartarus especially reserved for James Murray - the perpetrator of that piece.

May 2, 2015 at 10:22 AM | Registered Commentertomo

WWF and their cohorts should reflect long and hard on their respective roles in this disaster.
-- Mike Singleton
But they won't because that requires a level of self-examination and awareness that is absent from the thought processes of the environmental activist. It's a sort of institutional autism. They may well utter some words of regret and as individuals they may mean them but as a group these two (and the dogs!) will be considered unfortunate collateral damage in the furtherance of a cause.
Whether they try to make martyrs of them as TerryS and tomo suggest they could will depend on whether there is anyone in their PR department still tuned in to the real world beyond the tunnel vision.
There are causes worth dying for and I would be less upset by this incident if I could find anywhere a cogent, evidential argument that this expedition was scientifically necessary or that the aim (which appears to be the usual WWF one of interfering in nature in order to stop it from taking its natural course) was in any way desirable or even achievable.

May 2, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Hey Climate warriors it brings me no joy to hear of your suffering.It could have been me , cos we are all victims of our circumstances, and I might have taken the same lifepath as you.
- We cannot change the past, we can only change the future. So for Climate warriors, pleased don't con yourselves into thinking that there is no vast conspiracy of skeptics funded by big oil, that makes it necessary to rush and take risks with your lives. Rather I as a skeptic would wish you to take your time and gather your proper evidence and do everything in a professional and scientific manner. You don't put your life on the line, cos it's more important to stay alive and keep working for your "cause".
I hope I have not said the "wrong thing", I suspect some people hold back for fear of doing that, but both Mikes above chose the correct spirit/words.

- If I were a friend of theirs I might well feel that using their fate to highlight "the warming climate cause" is what they would have wanted and indeed a comment appears on the Blog of woman from the Irish Green Party. In the 2nd to last paragraph of her blogpost she talks about him saying the weather felt too warm and so she does naturally speculate on climate.
Some extra info
- "On Wednesday April 29, 2015, Resolute Bay RCMP were advised that a distress call had been sent out by the two expedition members"
- Coldfacts tweeted yesterday \\"recovery op will be mounted; will attempt rescue of dog, who belongs to a Ranger from Resolute #cbcnorth" // ... blizzard alerts mean recovery hasn't started

May 2, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Good to hear about the dog.

The dead were explorers more than scientists. Am not sure if they'd ever published anything in a science journal. Coldfacts describes them as explorers and CBC as skiers.

The amount of science is marginal, as can be seen in the time expected for it

Also it's unclear who was paying whom. As of now it seems wwf wanted to have some gig going in the Arctic and paid CF to organise something, with the victims as designated explorers. All pretty much meaningless, as there are already many polar scientists getting a lot done.

May 2, 2015 at 1:59 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

there are already many polar scientists getting a lot done
-- omnologos
There are indeed, and many of the many are genuine scientists with better things to do with their lives than spin their results to please WWF.
Did I really say "better things" than pleasing WWF? Go wash yo' mouth out!
So the end result as always is that WWF and Greenpeace et al cannot trust the science community to do their research right. They have a nasty tendency to come up with answers that don't serve the cause and so intrepid explorers have to be sent out to get the data that real scientists somehow can't quite see.

May 2, 2015 at 4:43 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"We heard that the winter was unusual cold, but nevertheless the amount of open water is rather unusual too. It shows that ice conditions and temperatures don’t always necessarily correlate. An explanation can be that strong northerly winds have been pushing the floating ice causing it to crack and open up."

A late realization in the ironic and poignant last post from the two lost Coldfacts skiers.

May 2, 2015 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

Truly ironic, and confirmation in a way of what I was saying above.
These two have gone out secure in the knowledge that WWF knew what it was talking about, that the "unprecedented" decline in Arctic sea ice has been all due to global warming, and not just any old global warming but man-made global warming specifically.
Only to find when it is too late that what the real scientists have been telling us for the last 10 years is correct, that at least a part of the decline is due to weather patterns and has nothing to do with temperatures, human-induced or otherwise, and that yet again WWF has been caught spouting dangerous nonsense.

May 2, 2015 at 6:49 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I support fundraising to save the dog.

Can't decide now whether I like 'Heart of Iceness' or 'Heart of Lightness' better. Mebbe 'Heart of Carbon'. Nonetheless, Kurtz lurks.

May 2, 2015 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I spent 3 months in the Antarctic and the one thing that was impressed upon us, above everything else, was that ice conditions can change very quickly, with tragic results.
Also that familiarity breeds contempt, again with tragic results.

May 2, 2015 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Name that dog.

May 2, 2015 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Those who think the have the polar regions of Earth figured out and take its risks and hazards for granted are putting their lives at risk.

May 2, 2015 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Lucky, like every three legged dog that I have ever met.

May 3, 2015 at 12:20 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Dog Rescued "02/05 - the crew were able to rescue the dog Kimnik who has been such a loyal team member, protecting the site from polar bears. Kimnik is besides a little bit hungry doing well and will be reunited with her owner, the local wildlife ranger from Resolute. "
..Jeez if that is true that dog has incredible recilience, however was it necessary to put it in danger in the first place ?

May 4, 2015 at 5:13 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I can imagine a scenario where an activist would do risky stuff in attempt to get the media event that would "sock it to deniers and shut them up once and for all"
ie there was a audio and tweet "Skiing in shorts: Tropical day in the Artic" "we think we see thin ice right in front of us.. quite smooth but thin ice"
maybe they were thinking of pressing on and getting better photos when they should have been thinking of calling for the rescue helicopter before conditions got too risky.
- MarcCornelissen is listed as the founder of Coldfacts and they'd named the mission “Last Ice Survey“ (as this place is where the ice would be expected to melt last in the Summer)
"Cold Facts was initiated by Dutch polar explorer Marc Cornelissen and received start-up funding in 2010 via crowd funding for the Dutch World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Netherlands and UK)."

May 4, 2015 at 5:37 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Thanks, sg, for the follow-up on the dog. Cool name she's got.

May 4, 2015 at 6:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

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