The time has come to start speculating about if, and when, the Northwest Passage will become navigable for the host of small vessels eager to traverse it this summer. Almost one month later than in 2017!
Whilst the eastern and western entrances to the assorted routes through the Canadian Arctic Archipelaga have been empty of sea ice for quite some time, the central section between Bellot Strait and Gjoa Haven and/or Cambridge Bay is still chock a block:
In the east here is a drone’s eye view of Cumming Inlet, courtesy of the Polish team of Michał and Ola Palczyński aboard S/V Crystal:
It’s not entirely clear when that picture was taken, since according to Michał’s blog:
The waters beyond the Bellot Strait are covered with impassable ice, and the ice in the Beaufort Sea has 90% concentration in some places and reaches up to the shore. In this difficult situation, by 15th August two yachts have already given up and turned back to Greenland (including Blue Peter from our cove).
Here’s what lies ahead of Crystal and her remaining companions, according to the Canadian Ice Service:
Meanwhile in the Beaufort Sea S/V Dogbark has been battling her way through that “90% concentration” sea ice. Dogbark has now made it as far as Mikkelsen Bay, just past Prudhoe Bay in Alaska:
Here is the United States’ National Weather Service map of sea ice concentration in the area:
According to a recent Q&A session on the Dogbark blog:
What does 7/10ths ice mean? We don’t want to know! It is more ice than we want to try and pass, that’s for sure. But the ice charts we look at refer to ice by % of sea coverage, so 7/10ths would look like water mostly covered by large, immovable objects. 5/10ths was as much as we have seen, and we got out of there as fast as we could with some help from our flying eyeball. See Dogbark’s Facebook page for a quick snippet of less dangerous ice.
Meanwhile the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Amundsen has sailed past Arctic Bay and Resolute:
I cannot help but wonder what vessels might be closely following in his wake?
Finally there comes news that a “pleasure craft” has made it through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from east to west as far as Tuktoyaktuk. I’d been wondering which vessel it was that seemed immobile near the western end of the Bellot Strait on the MarineTraffic maps. This one’s from August 19th:
Now I know! Thanks to a heads up on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum I’ve discovered that it’s the S/V Thor. Here’s the tracking map of his efforts to get through all the old ice in the vicinty.
The map reveals that Thor made it through the Bellot Strait on August 6th, but didn’t manage to make significant headway out of the Franklin Strait until August 28th.
Thor departed from Tuk earlier today:
He now only has this to contend with:
32 thoughts on “The Northwest Passage in 2018”
“Meanwhile the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Amundsen has sailed past Arctic Bay and Resolute. I cannot help but wonder what vessels might be closely following in his wake?”
The ones with smart captains.
The ones with a Captain that doesn’t have a death wish?
None of the assorted “pleasure craft” sprinkled around CCGS Amundsen’s route waiting for a break in the ice seemed to have made use of that “wake”, according to the FoC version of MarineTraffic at least:
S/V Crystal is on the move now, but the Amundsen is long gone:
Dogbark looks to have turned back towards Utqiaġvik (Barrow as was) this morning (BST):
However, according to the Dogbark team’s latest blog post:
Here’s the current weather forecast for Prudhoe Bay courtesy of Weather Underground:
A bit of a blow tomorrow, but nothing too terrible by Beaufort Sea standards!
Jim – have posted some info on the French 11,000 ton vessel Le Soleal that’s planning to do the NW passage this year.
Wonder how many little ones will try to keep up if she gets through…
Dogbark Turns Back! See:
The decision was based on advice from the Canadian Coastguard:
Meanwhile Crystal hasn’t turned back, but is anchored in shelter at the north-east corner of Somerset Island.
I was one of the 232 passengers on the disastrous Ponant “Le Soleal” cruise titled “Conquering the Northwest Passage.”
We believe that Ponant knew, or should have known, before we sailed on 25 August 2018 from Kangerlussuag that it was too dangerous to attempt a Northwest Passage cruise this year.
Thus, you reference to the Canadian Coastguard message is very significant.
Are you able to provide me with a direct reference to 181256UTC\LR?
I’m afraid the only reference I have is the Dogbark blog post linked to above:
Whilst “Le Soleal” is certainly not a “pleasure craft” it seems reasonable to assume that Ponant must have been in regular contact with the Canadian Coastguard concerning conditions in the Northwest Passage?
Crystal still seems not to have moved.
There was this (translated from the original Polish) report on August 22nd:
Hopefully there’s no correlation between those two!
Crystal has survived the polar bear scare and is on the move once again.
What’s more she’s currently heading for Fort Ross rather than back to Greenland!
The latest (auto-translated) report reads as follows:
Getting to Fort Ross seems eminently feasible at the moment:
The sea ice beyond the other end of the Bellot Strait looks far more formidable though!
A passenger vessel is aground in one corner of the Northwest Passage!
The Canadian Coastguard reports on Twitter that:
Sure enough S/V Crystal is now anchored at Fort Ross. According to Google translate:
According to MarineTraffic there’s currently four “pleasure craft” in the vicinity of Fort Ross at the moment:
One of them looks like it’s going to have a look at the Bellot Strait. There’s also a “cargo vessel” accompanied by what’s probably an icebreaker nearby.
Found this blog while searching for more info – my parents are currently on a NW Passage “cruise” on board the French ship Le Boreal (sister ship to Le Soleal). After delaying for a few days in and around the fjords of Devon Island because of the ice ahead, last night they met up with an icebreaker off Prince Leopold (Henry Larsen). Along with at least one other ship, they are currently in a convoy behind the icebreaker headed towards Bellot Strait. Based on what I read on this site, it would seem they would require icebreaker assistance at least a good way through Franklin Strait?
Thanks for that most interesting information. Here’s the track for the Henry Larsen:
The sea ice looks a lot tougher on the other side of the Bellot Strait! I wonder if S/V Crystal et al. will be able to join the convoy?
Just received a text that they will be met by the heavier icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent prior to entering the Bellot Strait.
In which case Louis has some catching up to do!
Louis is passing through Bellott now.
According to CBC:
According to this German language article the yacht in question is the French flagged Anahita:
Yacht crushed by ice Jim. More junk ,including oil and fuel left in the Arctic. Given what the ice has been doing this year in that area what they attempted was foolhardy in the extreme,especially as the coastguard warned them of the conditions and advised turning back before the sinking.
Hello again Chilly. Long time no see!
Foolhardy indeed, ignoring an explicit warning and no doubt messing up the environment as a consequence. S/V Crystal is still in the vicinity of Fort Ross, but it seems the Palczyńskis may have finally decided to retrace their steps back to Greenland:
They certainly didn’t follow the Louis S. St. Laurent through Bellot Strait. All in all it looks as though all the remaining “pleasure craft” attempting to traverse thw Northwest Passage this year are heading back the way they came:
Every article on the sinking seems to tell a slightly different story?
Le Boreal (French ship booked by Abercrombie & Kent) has turned back and will not be attempting a passage this year. Instead of Nome as planned, they will offload passengers in an as yet unknown port where they can be flown out. Ice conditions are hindering their route of retreat from the Fort Ross area. Sister ship Le Soleal is still scheduled to make the passage apparently.
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent looks to be making very slow progress with its cargo ship convoy.
Thanks for that update Adam. I guess your parents are pretty disappointed at this juncture?
As far as I can tell Le Boreal and Le Soleal aren’t “ice hardened” in any way? Here’s what the somewhat hardened Hanseatic encountered yesterday a bit further north:
Meanwhile just off Fort Ross MarineTraffic reveals this queue of “passenger vessels”:
Hi AO, we were aboard the Fram setting out from greenland on the 30 Aug 2018 for the NWP. We were told we might not get through that day, we were told we definitely wouldn’t be going through on the 3rd Sept. We believe they knew before we set out that passage was not possible and delayed telling us for their own financial gain. We have been offered a 40% refund after ‘bobbing about’ at 5 knots nowhere near any ice.
I was wondering what Boreal have offered you and if we could share information
More on the “sinking sailboat” from CBC:
Thor has made it safely into Alaskan waters:
Looks like Thor might be maneuvering around ice at present judging by their tracking.
Thor passed Barrow this morning.
I thought that all the photo shopped NASA videos of the melting ice would free the Northwest Passage for commerce. I guess that all the anthropogenic climate change pumpers were wrong as usual. Nothing has changed since 1845 when the Erebus and the Terror didn’t make it through the Northwest Passage.
Happy New Year Jack,
In actual fact lots has changed since 1845.
Can you by any chance provide an example of the allegedly “photo shopped NASA videos” to which you refer?