Casting the Bones

AGXicemap02Sep07 61746 01

Today is with the soothsayers – brought up to date. Instead of casting bones, or divining waters darkly, its down to careful study of the satellite images as they download

Plan A is to wait for a break in the ice.

Plan B is to meet a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker which will lift Barrabas aboard and carry her through the heavy ice and relaunch her on the other side.

Adrian will now be faced with a number of decisions.

Sponsorship of the Alpha Global Expedition by mda and KSAT is providing high quality satellite images taken from polar orbiting satellites. This process started two days ago and is starting to build trend information. The early indications are that a narrow band of thick sea ice is blocking both ends of a shallow intercostal waterway. If the weather forecasts turn out to be accurate, these blocks will be removed for up to eight days, allowing Adrian to enter the intercoastal channel. If the wind is steady from the South for several days, the ice in the NSR, following the line of the intercoastal in deep water, may thin sufficiently for Adrian to stay outside the line of islands and sandbars that separate the shallow channel from the Arctic Ocean – but there are some big ‘IF’s.

Taking the landward channel offers two risks. One risk is that the sea ice reforms at both ends, trapping Barrabas. This is a big risk because there is no way in which an icebreaker can come into the shallow channel to recover the yacht before it is crushed. There is one further major risk. The area attracts large numbers of polar bear and Adrian would rather not find himself on the breakfast menu. Polar bears do present a potential risk even when he is aboard Barrabas, but this risk increases dramatically if the sloop becomes trapped in ice and Adrian has to use his rescue dinghy as a sledge to cross to the land.

Today discussions are continuing with the Western Arctic Marine Operations HQ, the Russian Arctic Research Institute, the icebreakers, and a number of other organizations and individuals. Careful analysis of the mda/KSAT images as they come in everytime the satellite passes over the area may give confidence to wait it out and make a dash through the PKV Strait or use the shallow inland route. However this consideration has to be taken against the status and position of the icebreakers.

The Russian Authorities have confirmed that they can lift Barrabas onto an icebreaker. Lifting the yacht out onto the icebreaker deck, in a condition to allow it to be relaunched once through PVK Strait, is one consideration. There is a decision to be made on how long to postpone the lift and where to RV with the icebreaker which today is three days steaming from Barrabas’ current position. One option may be to sail Barrabas North towards the icebreaker to a holding position while ice conditions are assessed further and final decisions taken.

Adrian naturally would like to make the voyage in Barrabas but a major consideration is his safety and the safety of others. That makes the next few days a tense nail-biting period for Adrian and those supporting him from ashore.