The trip from Dakar, Senegal was punctuated by stunning sunsets and dolphins swimming alongside the ship. After a stocking stop in Lisbon, Portugal, the floating paddock St. Helena faced winds, fog, rain, dropping temperatures, poor visibility, and repeated foghorn soundings. It was a real contrast of experiences compared to the previous warm conditions around the Middle East and West Coast of Africa.
Extreme E’s floating paddock, however, has now arrived in Kangerlussuaq, with just under one month to go until the Arctic X Prix. This is the first ever international motorsport event to be staged in Greenland, which has a melting ice cap that epitomizes the challenges and severity of the global climate crisis.
Extreme E is the off-road series that races powerful “Odyssey” electric SUVs across 5 remote territories to raise awareness of climate issues — Senegal, Greenland, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, and another destination TBA. Similar in some ways to Formula E, Extreme E is built around the social cause of the climate crisis while also instilling gender equality into racing.
The floating paddock will be used to transport the championship’s freight and infrastructure, including vehicles, to the nearest port, minimizing Extreme E’s footprint, as well as being used to facilitate scientific research through its on-board laboratory.
Greenland as Epitome of the Climate Crisis
Last week, according to the Denmark Meteorological Institute, Greenland lost 8.5 billion tons of surface mass, enough to cover the entire state of Florida in 2 inches of water. Climate change has led to the Arctic warming at twice the global average. The knock-on impacts of this include accelerated melting of the ice cap, rising sea levels, and severe pressure upon species highly specialized to their biome such as the polar bear and ringed seal.
The Arctic is made up of deep ocean covered by drifting pack ice, surrounded by frozen continents and archipelagos at the top of the world. The polar region is crucial in keeping the world’s climate in balance, acting as a huge reflector bouncing some of the sun’s rays back into space. By this mechanism, it helps regulate global temperature. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in the circulation of cold and warm water throughout the world’s oceans.
It is home to around 4 million people, including indigenous communities spread across 8 countries – Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Greenland, and the US as well as around 450 types of fish, 280 species of bird and 130 types of mammals — including narwhals and arctic foxes — plus cold-water coral reefs.
The Extreme E series will use its sporting platform to educate its audiences on climate crisis issues and the solutions of which we can all be part.
The Journey to the Arctic via a Floating Paddock
After the Ocean X Prix in mid-June, the St. Helena departed Dakar, Senegal and traveled across the North Atlantic Ocean to reach Lisbon, Portugal. Once there, it stopped for a few weeks to collect provisions and change crew. The St. Helena left Lisbon on a calm first leg in mid-July, and dolphins joined them en route to the Atlantic Ocean. Whales, too, traveled both north and south on either side of the ship during the early part of the voyage.
Due to quickly shifting poor weather, the ship had to continue on the Rhumb Line – an imaginary line on the earth’s surface used to plot a ship’s course – rather than the Great Circle Route – the shortest marine route. The crew also had to hold iceberg navigational meetings and saw their first one – named #52 on the radar – on July 28 in the Labrador Sea.
The crew was greeted by a herd of seals as it came into port. Upon arriving in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, on July 29, the crew on the floating paddock had changed time zones 3 times before eventually settling on West Greenland Summer Time.
Over the coming days and weeks, the freight of the St. Helena — which includes all the team’s electric ODYSSEY 21 race cars, the AFC hydrogen fuel cell which powers the vehicles using green hydrogen, and all paddock infrastructure and team engineering equipment — will be unloaded and set up at the race site.
The Upcoming All-Electric Off-Road Race
As the first ever motorsport event to take place in the country, planning has not been easy due to Greenland’s unique, remote, and extreme nature. The team has been working diligently to ensure the infrastructure is in place in the most sustainable way possible from logistics to power to toilets, all with the aim to not only race without a trace but deliver another weekend of entertaining and high-tech world-class racing.
The course, in part, will run across what was once the mighty Russell Glacier but which has now receded and is a rock salt, sediment-based terrain left behind by the melted glacier.
While Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson have taken racing honors at both the Desert X Prix and Ocean X Prix in Saudi Arabia and Senegal, respectively, the racing has been close. World-class pilots including the likes of Sebastien Loeb, Timmy Hansen, Carlos Sainz, Sr., Catie Munnings, Jutta Kleinschmidt, and Laia Sanz will face a variety of terrains, putting their driving skills to the test.
Extreme E Scientific Committee members will also have starring roles, along with local experts, all of whom will be conducting research. They’ll be taking drivers on a tour of the ice cap as well as hosting a variety of workshops focused on the tipping point in climate change. In addition, the championship’s first scientific project in collaboration with Founding Scientific Partner Enel Foundation will join the St. Helena.
Alongside the scientific research, Extreme E has also been supporting UNICEF to create a climate-based educational program. The program aims to empower young changemakers – around 3,600 young people – in the country by reimagining climate education in Greenland. Its goal is to help children understand and address the climate related issues which are putting them and future generations at risk.
Final Thoughts on the Floating Paddock & Extreme E in the Arctic
Alejandro Agag, CEO and founder of Extreme E, sums up the importance of the Extreme E race in Greenland:
“It is fantastic to see the St. Helena arriving in Kangerlussuaq, and it really marks the official countdown to the Arctic X Prix. Having visited Greenland as part of our early planning, I’ve been to the ice cap and have seen the flowing melt water first-hand. It is a truly sobering place to be when you understand the scale of the situation and really bought home the severity of the global climate emergency to me, and the race against time that we are all part of.”
“I hope by being here and using our global media platform, we can show the world not only the effects of climate change, but also educate on the solutions.”
Images provided by Extreme E in anticipation of the upcoming Greenland race.
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