Northabout Meets Some Serious Sea Ice

Having rounded Cape Chelyuskin yesterday Northabout has now come across some serious sea ice in the Laptev Sea. The crew are posting regular updates on conditions. Here’s a recent example:


Having anchored against some land-fast ice overnight Northabout is on the move once again:


Not before indulging in some strenuous early morning exercise though!


[Edit – August 11th]

Northabout made further progress yesterday and anchored last night in the shelter of Ostrov Volodarskiy:


There seems to have been less sea ice in attendance than the night before!


Northabout is now approaching the area in which the most recent AARI forecast suggests there will be sea ice all the way to the coast:


Will the hoped for winds have done their work by tomorrow?


[Edit – August 13th]

Northabout spent yesterday trying to find a way south. Ultimately they failed, reporting that:

The wind and sea state were really picking up. Our options were few. Wind and tide against us, really shallow water of 5m , small bergy bits in the water to miss. NO shelter whatsoever. Do we make our way back the 40 miles where we knew a good anchor spot ? At this rate it would take us 11 hours, using up precious diesel. In the end a nice large floe came into sight, so we gingerly approached, and my comrades made the boat secure. It would protect us from the sea state like a pontoon, and protect us from the mass of ice coming our way. My watch finishes at 12 and I got into my pit at 3.30am.

To our surprise, the floe was moving at 1.3 knots, so up again to move. The strong winds were driving huge belts of pack ice our way, we didn’t want to be caught up against the shore. So, off towards our anchorage, and then a nice large ‘Stamukha’ appeared. Russian for ice that has grounded on the bottom, so not moving. Another mooring. This time it felt safe, so a good couple of hours sleep,

This morning it looks like they are still anchored to that Stamukha:


Here’s a picture of their anchorage the previous night:

and moving pictures of Northabout mooring to the “stamukha”.

Here’s the latest AARI sea ice chart:


which still shows a considerable length of the coast of the Taymyr Peninsula beset by 9/10 concentration sea ice. However Sentinel 1A imaged that coast just before midnight last night. Here’s what it revealed:



So near and yet still so far for Northabout?


[Edit – August 13th PM]

Stop Press! Northabout has now passed Ostrov Andreya and turned south:


If last night’s Sentinel 1A images are to be believed the worst is now behind the Polar Ocean Challenge team, until the winds of the forthcoming “Great Arctic Cyclone” of 2016 arrive at least? Here’s the current ECMWF forecast for early Monday morning, courtesy of MeteoCiel:



[Edit – August 14th]

After inspecting a possible route to the east of Ostrov Severnyy, the crew of Northabout have decided that:

We have had to go and find shelter tonight. A huge storm on the way, and high wind, in shallow waters with masses of ice driving your way, is no place to hang around to see what might happen.

So, now at anchor, all tired, excited after today, and looking forward to the next hurdle – I think! As I write, the wind is gusting 30 knots, so clever to run for shelter.



[Edit – August 15th]

The Sentinel image from last night isn’t very clear, and today’s MODIS images are rather cloudy so here’s one from yesterday:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the western Laptev Sea on August 14th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the western Laptev Sea on August 14th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

It shows that the winds had already opened up a fairly ice free channel past Ostrov Severnyy, and also the smoke that Northabout’s crew reported smelling yesterday:

Staying at Anchor for another night behind Ostrov Severnyy – Air 9C water 5C 76 53N 112 E 30 knot winds from SW 15.40 UTC 22.40 local time

Well, as predicted from the Grib files, winds slowly increased throughout last night to 35 and gusting much higher. Also, as predicted, the temp rose to an amazing 17 degrees today! In the morning, I also got the distinct smell of wood smoke. Maybe a forest fire 500 miles south and the smell drifted with the wind. At one point, we slipped the anchor, so good we had an anchor watch and wise to find shelter, no ice, 7m of depth, surrounded by land but still bouncing about like a cork.

In the wake of the cyclone they are sailing south again today, apparently unhindered by sea ice:



[Edit – August 16th]

Northabout has made good progress overnight:


The skies are clear this morning over the south-west Laptev Sea:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the south-western Laptev Sea on August 16th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the south-western Laptev Sea on August 16th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The next question is which side of Ostrov Bol’shoy Begichev will Northabout pass? All the indications are that the answer will be to the east.

Whilst we wait for that to be confirmed, here is some video footage of Northabout passing Ostrov Andreya on August 13th:

P.S. Here’s the latest AARI ice chart for the Laptev Sea:



[Edit – August 18th]

Northabout has encountered yet more sea ice. According to the “Crew Blog” of Ben Edwards:

Over night we’d sailed into ice. I know, I said we shouldn’t be troubled by ice for a bit, I was wrong. The ice on its own wasn’t too bad, the thing was we had fog as well. The fog was terrible, we could barely see five meters in front of the prow and the ice just kept on coming. After a bit the fog went, thankfully, the ice didn’t. Eight hours later when I’m back on watch we still had ice and even better, we had to divert to avoid a sandbank. Then the fog came back, typical. Luckily after another two and a half hours the ice began to clear a bit, for now.

Despite the ice, fog and sandbank Northabout is still making good progress across the Laptev Sea, and is currently sailing past the delta of the Lena River:



Previous Polar Ocean Challenge articles:

Non Fiction:

Northabout Bides Her Time

Northabout’s Great Adventure


Is the Polar Ocean Challenge About to End in Disaster?

5 thoughts on “Northabout Meets Some Serious Sea Ice

  1. RE: My previous comment on another thread.

    I had checked for recent comments before posting that, but entirely failed to register the fact that you had put up a new article in the meantime.

    mea culpa

    It seems that Northabout holed up for the “night” at around 21:00 UTC on the west side of Ostrov Severnyy. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow if she goes through that rather narrow channel, or whether she retraces her course for a while and then loops round to the east.

    Alternatively, if the winds are going to get “interesting”, she might remain holed up for a little longer.

  2. Seems like much of the worst stuff is behind her (at least until the NWP) as Northabout has now gone 22 hours during which the latitude has not varied outside the range 73.33N and 73.38N, but the longitude has gone from 129.72E to 137.13E

    After all the earlier enforced course changes before and after Ostrov Severnyy, the crew must be pleased to be able to hold to an easterly course heading for a while.

  3. Typo above

    The lower end of the Lat range should have read 73.32N and not 73.33N, and that’s more than a whole kilometre difference! 😉

    However, as Ostrov Bolshoi Lyakhovskly lies about 80kms dead ahead, one might reasonably expect a course change in the not-too-distant future.

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