September 4, 2013

Admiral Makarov Meets Babouchka in the Central Arctic

As we reported two days ago, the Russian diesel-electric icebreaker Admiral Makarov was heading north across the Central Arctic Basin to rescue Sébastian Roubinet and Vincent Berthet, the crew of the catamaran Babouchka, who said that they had been surprised by "a sudden change in conditions". That sudden change was captured from space by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2 for short) aboard the Japanese SHIZUKU satellite. Here's an animation built from high resolution images derived from AMSR2 data, and provided by the University of Hamburg. It covers the period from August 21st to August 31st:

Animation of Arctic sea ice concentration at the end of August 2013

Animation of Arctic sea ice concentration at the end of August 2013

The last position reported by the GPS aboard Babouchka was from 82.186 N, 171.1318333 W at 17:43 French time yesterday, which is above and to the left of the grey disc around the North Pole, between the 75 N and 85 N circles of latitude. As you can see from the animation, the concentration of sea ice over a vast area around Babouchka changed dramatically over that 10 day period.  Firstly there was a sudden decrease in sea ice concentration, followed by an almost equally rapid increase.

This morning according to Sébastien Roubinet's web site (and translated from the original French)

This morning at 3:30 local time, we noticed a speck on the horizon, it was the Admiral Makarov. Time to finish putting everything away, and then it is moored to our ice sheet. The crew give  us a sign then approach us, we leave with the feeling we are abandoning our teammate Babouchka.

With the crane, they lower a cage for us to embark on board. Vincent goes first, I joined him and then we were told: "we will embark Babouchka". Fifteen minutes later, all three of us are on board, and we are heading south at 14 knots through ice.

The crew welcomes us with a smile, showing us to our cabin and insisting that we should not hesitate to take a shower! After the shower, breakfast (a large block of brawn with lots of garlic and a bit of tea). Then we were shown around the boat. As an economy measure, we are using only three engines (out of the 9 available) which is enough to allow us to break floes over two meters thick at 12 knots. It knocks and vibrates but it goes fast. We should arrive at Pevek in 2/3 days.

Another big thank you to the crew of the Admiral Makarov, the CROSS Gri-Nez, MRSC Pevek and all those who made this rescue possible in an almost inaccessible corner of the world.

Here's a picture of Babouchka finishing this year's "Quest Through The Pole" by covering the last few metres towards the Admiral Makarov:

Do you suppose it will be third time lucky for Séb Roubinet in 2014?

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Comments on Admiral Makarov Meets Babouchka in the Central Arctic »

September 4, 2013

Neven @ 12:47 pm

Jim, the animation is not working for me, unfortunately (neither by clicking on it).

Roubinet and Berthet have been really unlucky with this year's melting season, but next time they need to go one month earlier. It's still an extremely cool expedition.

Jim @ 2:33 pm

Thanks for the heads up Neven. Which browser are you using? It works OK for me in Firefox and Chrome. It is currently set to stop after 10 runs through, to save a few CPU cycles thereafter. Refreshing the page or clicking on the image or opening the GIF in a new tab/window sets it running again, for me at least.

Yes, I very much doubt that they anticipated the conditions they ultimately encountered when planning this years expedition. I imagine the idea is to try and get the right balance between sailing through open water and skating over solid ice. There wasn't much of the latter this year, and then they suddenly found themselves mired in what Séb called "molasses". Do you suppose he will try again next year?

September 22, 2013

Vincent @ 6:25 pm

I was Sebastien's partner on this expedition. We do not think in trying again. Since we just got home, we have not read yet all information about this summer, but thank you for developing so much interest in our trip. Talk to you later, Vincent.

September 23, 2013

Jim @ 7:09 am

Hello Vincent!

It's an honour to find you commenting on this humble blog. As Neven put it on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum:

This is truly heroic stuff of the Amundsen-type.

I'm glad to hear you're back home safe and sound. The last news we had was that you and Séb were on Tara. I'm assuming you must have disembarked at Tuktoyaktuk, and then caught a plane?

If you have any more stories to tell we'd be happy to publish them here. In particular we're keen to discover the ultimate fate of Babouchka, as well as the scientific data you were acquiring during your trip.


September 25, 2013

Vincent @ 10:46 pm

Hi Jim,
Yes we did disembarked at Tuk and fly home from there. Babouchka couldn't be taken onboard Tara and we had no money to bring her back to France. We left her at Pevek Port authorities, they said they will sail her around…
Regarding scientific data, CTD profiles and ice thickness measurements are still to be processed by our scientific coordinator. We also sampled heavy cryoconite and are looking forward to know what's inside!
I have no specific stories about ice to tell you, I think you know more than us! We only have a local feeling about ice conditions… I can just confirm that the AMSR-2 data still need to be calibrated and was a lot disturbed during frosty conditions.
Please write me to [email protected] for any further exchanges as I am not logged on your blogs.
Thank you again and congratulations to you and Neven for your blogs.

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