AGX Position and Status Report

AGXposition1709

To: Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ

Subject: Barrabas

Position Report

Mon 17th Sept 0230 UCT

Anchored south of Tiksi (14 miles) at 71.30.201 N 129.18.439 E

Pressure 1023
Wind WNW 5 knots

Regards

Adrian

Hello Nikolay

I arrived in approaches to Tiksi late yesterday and have anchored off a small cove south east of Tiksi. I will go into Tiksi either today or tomorrow. Please can I have some information about the Captain Danilkin. When is she due to sail from Tiksi and where will the loading of the yacht take place? Is the Captain Danilkin moored at a pier in the port or is she anchored in open water?

Regards

Adrian

AGX Position and Status Report

AGXposition1609

To: Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ

Subject: Barrabas

Position Report

16th September 0422 UCT

71.38 N 130.15 E

Pressure 1022
Wind WNW 8 knots
No ice

Regards

Adrian

Adrian is now closing Tiksi. He may arrive late this evening but the pier where he has to tie up is some distance from the entrance to the port. He may decide to heave to and sleep, to arrive tomorrow in daylight.

Editor

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Winter Comes Early

AGX13Sep07 61895 01

Image for September 13 of Proliv Vil’kitskogo shows multi-year ice continues to advance South and indicates formation of new ice

AGX12Sep07 61889 01

Image for September 12 of Proliv Vil’kitskogo shows multi-year ice continues to advance South and indicates formation of new ice

When the images are viewed at maximum zoom the extent to which Winter is advancing early becomes apparent. The inshore channel past PVK is now a series of patches of clear water between solid ice. The ice is expanding rapidly and growing thicker as multi-year ice is moved down by the wind.

Given all the claims for Global Warming this may seem confusing.

The wildest claims are that we are about to see the permanent removal of ice in the Arctic through a long summer. Climate has been in a continual state of change since the Earth and its surrounding atmosphere formed. The last few thousand years have been unusually stable. Today we do not know whether the change is progressing to higher temperatures, or to a rapid heating. We also do not know whether the change is still going to remain within the band of relatively stable temperatures or return to the older patterns of wild fluctuations.

In dealing with short term forecasting, small temperature changes can produce some dramatic effects. Looking back over the last seven years of Arctic weather and ice movement along the Russian Northern Sea Route, the last two years have demonstrated a shorter summer with ice receding slowly to a point closer to the coast. Indications are that the trend is to shorter summers, but that could reverse again in later years.

Just because Adrian is heading for Tiksi doesn’t mean that the Alpha Global team are not carefully watching the ice movement. Adrian is keeping close in to the coast to avoid the drift ice that is moving South. His latest position is just off the bottom right corner of the radar scan for September 12 (just into the darker area) with thicker drift ice moving closer to the coast.

Once he arrives in Tiksi ice watching continues to be important to the expedition because the ice-hardened merchant ship that is due to carry Barrabas through the Strait will have to cut through thickening ice and is not expected to be ready to sail until September 23. Not only does this mean that the merchant ship will have to deal with worsening conditions, but that the conditions further to the West will also deteriorate.

The high grade images supplied to the Alpha Global Expedition by MDA/KSAT are essential to planning the stages of the expedition from Tiksi to Murmansk and into the Norwegian Sea

Editor

Ice Forces Change of Plan

AGXconcentration-nsraugust2007

Pioneering in the High Arctic requires multiple plans to enable fast response to rapidly changing conditions.

The Alpha Global Expedition main planning suite covered the primary objective for Adrian to become the first person to attempt and complete a vertical circumnavigation by sea. From that plan, groups of options were prepared for each section of the expedition. As Adrian proceeded through a section of the expedition, the AGX onshore support team prepared additional plans to match conditions.

As was reported this week, the passage of Proliv Vil’kitskogo saw Plans A thru E prepared and considered against a flow of new satellite images and assessment of the images.

No single-handed sailor has ever been allowed to navigate along the Northern Russian coast and no expedition or commercial vessel has ever made a non-stop unaided passage of the NSR. Adrian therefore recognized that the chances of being able to make a non-stop unaided passage alone were extremely narrow. Part of the condition of obtaining permission from the Russian Federation to make the attempt was that there would be a series of fall-back options.

Conditions this year have meant that the only window of opportunity to take Barrabas through Proliv Vil’kitskogo was the very dangerous inshore passage. Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ were concerned that this option would mean Barrabas would be beyond icebreaker assistance and strongly recommended that he join a caravan of three small merchant ships that were forming to await an icebreaker escort and take the deep water route. In the event, the inshore passage was potentially viable for only three days. The hoped for brief change of wind direction was shorter than forecast and multi-year ice began moving South early. This meant that the caravan option had to be cancelled because the prospects of taking them through what became 9/10 ice was unacceptably low and they are now expected to winter over in Tiksi.

AARI, the Russian Antarctic and Arctic Research Institute, organized an emergency meeting yesterday to review all the satellite images and consider other available information. They noted that in addition to the Southward movement of multi-year ice, new ice was already forming at the Western end of the inshore passage. This indicated that Winter was coming early to the NSR.

Given the best available advice, Adrian decided to opt for the next option to pass through Proliv Vil’kitskogo. This option is a return along his old course for the Port of Tiksi. There Barrabas will be lifted onto a large ice-hardened merchant ship which will enable Adrian to continue his expedition west about. Currently he is battling a storm and making approximately 2 knots towards Tiksi.

Once aboard the merchant ship, safe passage is not fully assured but this is the best option for continuing West.

The merchant ship is of a specification not much different from that for an icebreaker and will be assisted by nuclear-powered icebreakers. It has been assisted through new ice East of Tiksi and is expected to dock and load, to sail again around September 23 which means that conditions will be worse than at present. The vessel will be bound for Murmansk and the final decision on where Barrabas will be put back in the water will be made on the basis of conditions as they develop.

Conditions aboard Barrabas are likely to prevent Adrian sending emails before he reaches Tiksi although he remains in communication via satellite phone. Once in Tiksi he will resume regular progress reports and continue during the merchant ship’s attempt to force a passage through the ice.

Editor

AGXposition1209

Over the last three weeks, Barrabas has followed a figure eight course from the first holding position at Ostrov Peschanyy (blue dot), heading then to the second holding position at Ostrov Preobrazheniya (blue dot). From that second holding position Adrian took Barrabas North East to the RV point with the three small merchant vessels as they cruised in a circle awaiting instructions. From the RV point, Adrian headed WSW to the ice tongue as AARI and the AGX team reviewed the options and probabilities for a dash through the inshore channel. After the decision to make for Tiksi, Adrian has begun heading ESE to reach the last green dot this morning. The red dots show the intended course on to Tiksi (yellow dot).

 

To: Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ

Subject: Barrabas

Position Report:

74.25 N 118.11 E
Pressure 1007
Wind ENE 12

Regards

Adrian

 

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The $64,000 Question

AGXiceimage10Sep07section

We know that many readers are as much on tenterhooks as Adrian and the Alpha Global team, but the coming hours will continue to be frustrating. Supporting the voyage is a truly international team and a mass of frustratingly conflicting information. Adrian is coping with the frustration but the tension aboard Barrabas must be crushing – all those sea miles successfully behind him, so few still left ahead and so very few affected by ice, but time rapidly running out until winter returns. Although the Church of Global Warming would have us believe that a bikini clad girl on a surfboard could breeze through the Arctic, the reality is very different. The Arctic remains a bitterly cold and forbiding place that does not forgive mistakes.

This is the Devil’s Question

The AGX team is faced with the Devil’s Question. Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ in Murmansk is currently handling 47 vessels in the iced section of the Northern Sea Route. Some of these vessels are held in ice and icebreakers will provide assistance to them. So while its a hectic day for the Alpha Global team its also a very hectic day for WAMOHQ. The crew of a Dutch yacht that had been hoping to make a transit this year, as third time lucky, have given up and left their boat in port while they fly home and hope for next year.

The three small merchant ships that Adrian was due to join up with are steaming in a slow circle around the RV point while they wait for further information and the icebreaker.

Due in to the Port of Tiksi is a large timber carrier that is able to take Barrabas as deck cargo through Proliv Vil’kitskogo to a port on the other side of the frustratingly narrow section of thick ice.

Just to twist the knife a few more turns, the latest satellite images from the MDA/KSAT Radarsat show a virtually clear inshore channel West. Adrian’s current position is approximately at the red dot. The blue course is currently completely ice free other than the occasional drift ice. Heading North and West on the blue course, the image shows more significant drift ice on the red course, but still navigable for Adrian and Barrabas. The Western end of the route is reported to be ice free. On the face of it Adrian has a route home. As the image shows, there is even a potential short cut through the tongue of ice but the longer blue course follows clear water and Adrian’s short visual and radar horizon makes that a safer bet.

What firmly twists the knife is the expectation of the wind backing to North over the next few hours. This is leading to pessimistic assessments for the deep water NSR and could mean that ice sweeps back into the shallow inshore channel.

Editor