PARIS A major expedition to measure the
thickness of the Arctic pack ice was cancelled on Tuesday after
the mission's airship was torn from its moorings in southern
France by gale-force winds and smashed into a house.
French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne had planned to depart on
March 1 from Paris on a 10,000-kilometer (6,200 mile) voyage
that was expected to provide a benchmark for monitoring the
impact of global warming on the Polar Basin.
"The expedition is cancelled with this airship," a
"But Jean-Louis Etienne hopes to find another way of
measuring the ice cap and perhaps he may put together another
expedition," she added.
The project, sponsored by French oil group Total, had taken
four years to prepare and cost 7 million euros ($10.15
million), half of which was spent on building the specially
designed, helium-filled airship.
Etienne's scientific mission was due to take him from the
Barents Sea to Spitsbergen, the magnetic North Pole and
Beaufort Sea and reach Alaska in May.
No one was injured in Tuesday's accident, when a gust of
wind lifted the airship off its mast and took it 30 meters (100
ft) into the air before throwing it down into a house.
(Reporting by Marie Maitre and Astrid Wendlandt; editing by
Crispian Balmer and Ralph Boulton)