Where's the ice? And stay away wind, please!
10 September 2010 | Beaufort Sea
Liz for Dermot
From this morning the wind, and then the seas died away and we have been mostly motoring. Allowed the water maker to fill the tanks and the engine running provides how water. This means showers are feasible without balancing on one leg. The simple things in life become much appreciated luxuries on a long passage like this. It also means that we can head and make progress in the right direction. Very good for morale.
The ice that we have gone north to avoid had not so far materialised. Indeed today's Canadian ice chart shows that the two tongues of ice that have been pretty static for some time and that were sticking out to the north from the band of ice close to the Alaskan shore have now disappeared. There might be a bit of 2/10ths ice to deal with just before Point Barrow but that should be fine. Other than that, the main polar ice cap has retreated miles away from the Alaskan shore. Sarah Palin might not think that global warming is an issue on her doorstep, but the last few years have been totally abnormal. Ordinarily there would still be a lot of old multi-year ice in this region, stretching continuously up to the polar pack ice.
I thought we might be approaching some ice on m watch when we had banks of cold fog, a group of more than 20 seals (the most I have seen in one group) and funny white clouds. These turned into the second white rainbow that we have seen I don't know if this is described but it is a real phenomenon that seems to exist up here. It didn't photograph well, so I have added a nice picture of a double coloured rainbow that we saw two days ago.
The current weather and ice situations are both conducive to good progress. What is less good is the forecast wind.
You can get the forecasts at http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/marfcst.php (though we use the simple text version at http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/data/raw/fz/fzak51.pafg.cwf.nsb.txt as it is smaller and cheaper to download). We are currently in area 240 between Cape Halkett and Flaxman Island. We will be moving into area 235 between Point Franklin (aren't we all a bit bored of this guy naming things after himself?!) and Cape Halkett. This is also the area in which Barrow is. Essentially Barrow is a long straight beach running SW to NE with absolutely no shelter.
They are predicting that a weather front and a low-pressure system will move into the area on Sunday. The bottom line is that for the Barrow area they are forecasting 30-knot SW winds and 9-foot seas!! Our current estimated time of arrival in Barrow is early Sunday morning. Only time will tell if I am able to get off then or not. If we can't we might have to spend a very uncomfortable time waiting for the winds to blow through. We shall see.
I have been asked about the progress of Mathieu Bonnier, the rower. He arrived the other day in Cambridge Bay. A few days earlier Tico, the dog, was picked up on another boat and taken ahead to Cambridge. I understand that Mathieu has had enough of rowing in the Arctic and won't return next year. In fact I think he and the dog may have already left and his boat will be shipped back to France. He has achieved an incredible feat, starting on the West coast of Greenland and crossing Baffin Bay and then rowing most of the NW Passage in a single season.