Beware global warming, says Arctic explorer

Global warming in Greenland may not seem like an issue for Cape Codders, but polar explorer Lonnie Dupre says Cape Codders will notice if the ice sheet melts and the ocean rises.

"That means no more Florida, no more ... I won't go there," he said Tuesday night in a speech sponsored by the Students for Sustainability club at Cape Cod Community College.

Dupre is fresh off a May attempt with Eric Larsen to complete the first summer trans-Arctic Ocean crossing, a trip which failed due to polar bears, unexpected heavy snow and drifts that pushed the two men backwards.

They will try again in April, leaving from a different spot to avoid bad ice.  "It was a real heart-wrenching decision to do that, but it was getting dangerous out there," Dupre said.

The inspiration for the trek - designed to draw attention to global warming in partnership with Greenpeace's "Project Thin Ice" program - came from Dupre's circumnavigating Greenland with Australian John Hoelscher in 2001.

Glaciers on his map were missing, Dupre said, and sea ice that the local Inuit population uses to travel and hunt was thinning, something he first learned about while traveling through the Canadian Arctic.

"It's global warming that's affecting these people most at the moment," he said.According to Dupre, the melting and other changes he has seen on his trips, including melting permafrost that releases methane gas into the air, has taken place over generations, not thousands of years.

"There's no question it's human-caused," he said. "Before too long, we're not going to be able to stop it.

"When an audience member asked how to fight global warming, Dupre said backing Cape Wind's plans for 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound is a good start. Dupre and Greenpeace both support the project.

"It would help set precedent for the United States to get on the bus," he said.The 1,250-mile Arctic Ocean expedition from Cape Arctichesky on the Siberian coast was beset by trouble from the start. Not only did Larsen get the flu, but the currents were such that they would go eight miles in a day, only to be pushed back 12.They tried to alter their route to avoid the currents, but to no avail.

"We kept getting pulled back like this for a week," Dupre said.After two weeks, Dupre and Larsen had walked or canoed 150 miles, but were only 30 miles from where they started. They also had four polar bear encounters, including an instance where a bear pounced on their tent the same way it kills seals."We immediately knew it was a bear," Dupre said. "It took five flares to scare the bear away."

Even though the explorers did not complete their crossing, Dupre said the trip met its goal from a publicity standpoint, as millions of people worldwide learned about global warming.

"This was the most successful unsuccessful mission I've ever been on," he said.

This article originally appeared in the Yarmouth Register on September 8, 2005