Northabout Races for the Date Line

It’s time to open another chapter in the continuing adventures of Northabout. The Polar Ocean Challenge team have been plagued by sea ice along their route across the Laptev Sea, but currently they are hurrying towards the exit into the East Siberian Sea via the Dmitry Laptev Strait:


The latest chart of sea ice in the East Siberian Sea from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute suggest they should now have plenty of (comparatively!) plain sailing ahead of them:


Certain quarters of the cryodenialosphere have been questioning the plucky little yacht’s ability to make it through the Northwest Passage before it freezes up once again in the Autumn. As a crude reality check on that assertion let’s see how previous successful single season polar circumnavigations fared in that regard. The international date line runs through the Bering Strait, and effectively defines a boundary between the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. In 2010 Børge Ousland and Thorleif Thorleifsson in the catamaran Northern Passage crossed the date line on September 3rd:

Then in 2013 the yacht Tara achieved a similar feat on September 10th:

Let’s wait and see when Northabout manages to pass that milestone, before heading to their next scheduled port of call at Barrow in Alaska.


[Edit – August 21st]

Northabout has spotted some more sea ice, this time in the Dmitry Laptev Strait. Presumably the small area shown in the AARI chart above? According to the latest “Ship’s Log”:

Well slowly making progress, and now into a new sea, East Siberian, Looks the same to be honest. Saw a ship,on the AIS , but couldn’t see it with the fog. Went between the Islands. We had a large patch of 8/10ths ice in the middle, but managed to keep north of it. Along the coast you could again see the remnants of an old Polar station. What a vast coast to look after.

Just as things were getting into a rhythm, the engine is over revving. We are so close but so far out here. My stomach is sometimes in my mouth, Comrades trying to work it out. If not, is a slow sail from here to Alaska.

The reported engine trouble doesn’t seem to have slowed Northabout down. She crossed 150 east earlier this morning and is now passing the delta of the Indigigirka River:



[Edit – August 22nd]

Her engine has been serviced, and Northabout continues to make good progress. She’s crossed 160 east, and is now passing the delta of the Kolyma River:


According to Ben Edwards’ latest blog post:

We’ve got enough wind to put the staysail out and the skies are clear. I think quite a lot of how I was feeling may have been that I hadn’t got any sunshine for over two weeks, the last couple of days however have been warm(ish) and bright. I at least am coming dangerously close to feeling actually happy, I don’t know about anyone else… Provided we continue like this we should be in Point Barrow in under a week.


[Edit – August 23rd]

Northabout looks to be turning south:


Presumably that is to skirt the patch of high concentration sea ice in their path, rather than try to break through the lower concentration area to the north (which is towards the bottom of this image!):



[Edit – August 25th]

Northabout is currently closing in on “the edge of the world” at 180 degrees east and/or west:


Her crew aren’t entirely happy with the speed at which that is happening at present though:

A long slog of a day. Very choppy seas which makes living onboard difficult, especially sleeping, when you can be fast asleep and suddenly wake up in mid air.

The wind we had was a head wind, so slow going. Getting to the edge of the World is proving tiresome.

Our track to get the best wind is towards the ice, and north east, hoping this will change during the night, and bring us back south to our waypoint.

A new day tomorrow, and hopefully better winds.


[Edit – August 25th 22:40 UTC]

Need I say more?



[Edit – August 27th]

Overnight Northabout crossed the international date line and officially completed the Northern Sea Route and left Russian waters:

A long slog in the Chukchi Sea. Its renown for its wild weather and seas. With rising winds now in the 25/30 knots, we have had a bumpy ride, but fast and in the right direction.

Well, well, we passed the date line and the W 168 58 .620 at 16.57 boat time, that is the point we can inform the Russian Authorities that we have finished their Northern Sea Route, and we no longer have to report to them daily. I will celebrate this milestone when we get to Point Barrow. It’s only just sinking in what we have all done.


Next stop Barrow, and after that Northabout takes on one of the Southern routes through the NorthWest Passage. It looks like she’ll have much more difficulty spotting some sea ice than on the first half of her polar circumnavigation!


[Edit – August 29th]

After a “wet and wild” crossing of the Chukchi Sea:


followed by a last minute detour to avoid a bit more sea ice:

Northabout is now safely secured in Elson Lagoon north of Barrow:


Next comes the Northwest Passage, after a couple of days of rest and recuperation!


Previous Polar Ocean Challenge articles:

Non Fiction:

Northabout Meets Some Serious Sea Ice

Northabout Bides Her Time

Northabout’s Great Adventure


Is the Polar Ocean Challenge About to End in Disaster?

28 thoughts on “Northabout Races for the Date Line

  1. Bye bye Laptev

    Hello ESS

    In just over 36 degrees of longitude, the crew get to be 24 hours younger, and then it’s a bit under 24 degrees further on to Barrow and Leg 3

    OT PS “Who are you quoting?” was a pun.

    1. Almost on topic I can embed videos here, so without further ado:

      Meanwhile Northabout has now passed Ostrov Bol’shoy Lyakhovskiy and is at longitude 144 east. The date line takes a bit of a detour through the Bering Strait, so the exact longitude at which they become 24 hours younger depends on their latitude at the time! Shall we stick with 180 degrees for the moment though?

  2. Re: The squiggly date line. I put a comment to that effect on the Polar Challenge website yesterday, but it still hasn’t appeared – awaiting moderation I expect.

    Since Northabout finally started travelling in a straight line, she has clocked just under 15 degrees of longitude in 43 hours. If that rate of about one degree every three hours is maintained, she should reach Point Barrow in about 7 or 8 days – perhaps just a tad behind their schedule for the completion of leg 2.

    1. Ousland had connection issues when in this region so there may be a communication delay until they enter the ‘Inmarsat coverage zone’?

      1. As far as I can tell that affected the updating of their Spot live tracking map, but their blog articles seem to tie date/time/position together accurately. They suggest that Northern Passage crossed 180 degrees on September 1st and 170 west on September 3rd.

        Northabout seems to be using DeLorme inReach via Iridium, so hopefully live tracking will continue to work without interruption.

        1. Current position indicates that Northabout is about 5 days ahead of Ousland in 2010, who reached this location on 26/08. Subsequently put into Pevek to refuel on the 29th which delayed them for a day.

  3. D’oh!
    Je suis un plonker

    Despite having already mentioned the date line, I forgot to incorporate it into that quick calculation.

    At the current velocity (note the use of the vector rather than the scalar term) Northabout should arrive at PB on the scheduled date.

  4. It seem like the crew of Northabout are having to steer south of a tongue of 7-8 and 9 ice. On the most recent (? 19 Aug) Russian ice map, this protrudes from a bit north of Wrangle and heads off in the direction of the mouth of the Kolyma river.

    It makes it a bit difficult to follow a great circle course.

    1. Yes, Ousland had a similar problem at this point in the journey:
      “The Medvyezhi Islands are in sight. Soon we expect to encounter more ice – in fact from here and the whole way eastward to the Bering Strait. There is a huge area of drifting ice floes ahead. The recommended route is to stay close to coast where there is more open water. It is always tempting to sail further north and take a shortcut – but that means entering a maze and risk getting stuck in the ice. In our opinion that risk is too high, so we will follow the coast.”

  5. Is anyone else having problems with Northabout’s tracking?

    After weeks of problem-free tracking, as of yesterday evening, I’m now getting effectively an empty screen below the Garmin banner. I thought it could be something weird with Windows 10 so did a restart, but I’ve just had exactly the same problem on an I-pad.

    I’ve contacted Northabout’s ground crew, but they are seeing no problem.

    1. No problem for me Bill, currently they’re at
      Thu Aug 25th, 20166:54:30 am
      Speed: 12.17 km/h Heading: ESE
      Elevation: 2.35 m Batt: Normal
      Lat: 70.575860 Lon: 176.704295

          1. No such problem for me today Bill. See the August 25th update above.

            I’m using FireFox on Linux, so I’d suggest trying that! However that’s probably non trivial for you so I just tried Chrome on Windows 7, and that works fine for me too.

    2. I’m having the same problem as you are Bill. I’m on an iPad, no idea what that’s all about! I don’t have any other computers so will have to lump it I suppose!

      1. I’ve never tried this before, so I can’t say if anything’s changed, but I’ve discovered that I have the same problem on my Android tablet.

        1. Minor typo above – my desktop is running Windows 7 not Windows 10.

          (I’m getting machines mixed up – it happens at my advanced years!)

          I’ve dropped another email to the POC ground crew to say that various other people are also experiencing difficulty.

  6. Curiouser and curiouser.

    The ChristinaHartmann link works using Windows 7 + IE 11, but still gives me the blank screen using Windows 7 + Chrome.

    In the interim, I’ve had an email back from Frances Gard (POC ground crew) saying that she was going to contact their Tech Support.

    Even curiouser and even curiouser still…..

    Before I hit the “POST COMMENT” button, I tried again and everything seems to be working. (Chrome, Explorer and I-pad)

    Janice – are you fully functional once more?

    I’ll email Frances to give her the latest, and eagerly awaiting hearing from her tomorrow.

    1. Whatever was wrong does indeed seem to have been fixed. Both tracking maps now work for me, even on Android.

      What is more Northabout has now passed 179 east!

  7. Earlier today, whilst she was at about 159.5W, Northabout performed a slightly weird looking manoeuvre in order to avoid some ice. Eventually enough brain cells kicked into gear so that I could see what was nagging at my mind. There is a group of seven position markers that have an amazing similarity with Ursa Major (aka the Plough aka the Big Dipper) and the Alaskan State flag.

    Synchronicity – more than just a album by the Police

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