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First Person: Ice Station SHEBA

CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen, Producer Quent Neufeld, and a CBS News camera crew recently spent three days on an icebreaker frozen into the Arctic Ocean 300 miles north of Barrow, Alaska. They filed this report exclusively for

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The Canadian icebreaker Des Groseilliers was deliberately stuck in the ice pack last fall for a $20 million, year-long study of the Arctic climate and its effect on the rest of the globe. It's the National Science Foundation's largest, most complex Arctic research project, called Project SHEBA [Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean]. The vessel, bristling with hi-tech equipment, is staffed at any time by 30 or more scientists from several nations.

The Arctic simply isn't as cold as it used to be. Researchers were immediately surprised to find the sea ice only about six feet thick—a third less than expected. But is it due to global warming? Computer models conflict. One shows the Arctic ice pack—the size of the United States—melting. The other is far less severe. But scientists hope Project SHEBA will provide the answer and improve global climate forecasts.

For the complete report on Project SHEBA from the CBS Evening News click here, or view the first-person report below.

Click on images for full-size view.

Click on picture to enlargeThis sign post in Barrow, Alaska, leaves little doubt that Bowen and crew are at the far reaches of civilization.
(All photos: CBS)

From Barrow, the crew would set out on a journey 300 miles to the north, deep in the Arctic Circle. Once on the floating ice station, they'd be just 900 miles from the North Pole.Click on picture to enlarge
Click on picture to enlargeThe only way to reach the Project SHEBA station is by plane. Breaking ice is visible below.

The Canadian icebreaker Des Groseilliers was stuck in the ice pack last October. The $20 million project will wrap up and the icebreaker will push away this Fall.Click on picture to enlarge

Click on picture to enlargeLanding near the station can be treacherous. Warming temperatures have caused cracks in the middle of this makeshift runway.

Scientists say temperatures in the arctic were definitely warmer this past year, as this crack in the ice helps illustrate.Click on picture to enlarge
Click on picture to enlargeThe floe that is home to ice station Sheba has drifted 800 miles since the station was established in October.

Everything from the ice to the water below it to the arctic air is being probed by SHEBA scientists.Click on picture to enlarge
Click on picture to enlargeThe CBS News camera rew found it difficult to work in the harsh arctic conditions, where it felt like -41 degrees Celsius with the wind chill.

Correspondent Jerry Bowen and Cameraman Tom Rapier head back to Barrow aboard this propeller plane.Click on picture to enlarge

CBS Evening News Reports

PART I Of A CBS News Special Report
Changes In The Air

On a frozen ice pack deep inside the Arctic Circle, a band of scientists hope to unlock the mystery surrounding changes in the Earth's climate. CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports.Full Story

PART II Of A CBS News Special Report
A Window On Earth's Climates
With gusting winds and unbearable cold, the arctic ice pack may be the most unlivable place on Earth. It also holds clues to the massive changes affecting our climates. CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports.Full Story

A December 1997 Report
Deep Freeze Or Baked Alaska?
At Alaska's Bering Glacier, CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen bears witness to a mysterious meltdown. But is global warming really to blame? Full Story