July 12, 2013

The "Quest Through the Pole" Begins in Barrow

We've recently been following the progress of the Arctic Joule as her crew attempt to row through the Northwest Passage, and now comes news of another expedition across the Arctic, this time powered by the wind.

Babouchka is "a special boat capable of sailing over water and ice", and she set sail from Barrow, Alaska on July 6th. Crewed by Sébastien Roubinet and Vincent Berthet, their joint quest is:

To cross the 3,300 kilometers that lay between Barrow, Alaska, and Spitsbergen, Svalbard — and crossing the North Pole as they go.

Their sails filled with the same easterly winds that have bedevilled the Arctic Joule, here's a GPS record of Babouchka's progress so far:

Babouchka's progress by July 12th 2013

Babouchka's progress by July 12th 2013

The July 8th entry in their English language journal says:

Sebastien and Vincent left Barrow at around 4pm on July 6th, and sailed 6 nautical miles in free water from Point Barrow before reaching ice and had to decipher: lands of recent thin ice, blocks moved by tidal current, and large slabs with high pressure ridges across which they finally decided to push Baboushka during a few hours before stopping for setting up the "night" camp.

A few hours later, they moved upwind for a few nautical miles ahead on ice too thin to carry their weight. The afternoon was a little better with stabilized ice, and sails were up to help, but they waded in water most of the time. The reward was an evening camp on a large slab that drifts at 1 knot in the right direction! Let's hope they reached the Beaufort Gyre which will help them gain some distance while sleeping.

According to the team's Facebook page yesterday:

After 5 days… Sea ice is really chaos! Latitude: N 71°38.62, Longitude: W 158°14.49. Distance : 44.30 Nm = 82.05 km

Yesterday's French language journal entry, roughly translated into English by Google, says:

Hopefully, we'll sleep well because the wind has finally calmed down. Tomorrow we continue our journey W / NW to reach a more dense area of ice, which should enable us to accelerate and make a more direct route.

Perhaps the lighter winds will prove to be of assistance to the crew of the Arctic Joule too?

Finally, for the moment at least,  if you're wondering what "sailing across ice" looks and sounds like, here's a video of a previous incarnation of  Babouchka doing just that:

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Comments on The "Quest Through the Pole" Begins in Barrow »

July 13, 2013

Jim @ 11:45 am

The latest GPS report from Babouchka indicates she is now at:

Latitude: N 71°37.69
Longitude: W 158°54.50,
Distance: 57.31 Nm = 106.15 km

Here's a satellite image from Arctic.io revealing the sort of sea ice Sébastien and Vincent are currently attempting to sail across:

Sea ice off Barrow on July 12th 2013

July 15, 2013

Jim @ 10:56 pm

Elsewhere Les points out that:

Babouchka is…. going in almost the exact opposite direction it needs to, to get across the pole to Svalbard.

According to Séb Roubinet's latest journal entry that's because:

We reached the open water and right now, we are heading west to get around a large slab. We will dedicate our following days to head north through an area less obstructed by ice, hoping to reach the 75th parallel despite the numerous obstacles to come.

Here's a satellite image from NASA Worldview that shows the open water they're aiming for:

Note that this image is rotated compared to the one above. Barrow is in the bottom left in this one.

July 16, 2013

Les Johnson @ 8:19 am

Thier heading is 84 Deg, as opposed to the needed 0 deg. Directly opposed, I might add.

It is also interesting that they are taking this detour to avoid thick ice.

July 17, 2013

Les Johnson @ 6:11 am

For what its worth Jim, I think this expedition has the best chance of success.

The rowers need to average nearly 3 km/hour, 24/7, to make it before freeze up. I doubt that that they will be pushing the boat over new ice, for several hundred to a thousand km, after freeze up. Like many before them, they will be locked in the ice.

The ice cat needs to average about the same speed, but has the advantage of being able to travel over ice under wind power, and not being pushed. However, especially during the melt season, travel over the ice is not easy. Witness the detour by the ice cat.

July 18, 2013

Jim @ 9:21 am

The Babouchka is at least now heading in a more northerly direction, and at > 3 km/h:

Their GPS currently reports:

Latitude: N 71°57.09
Longitude: W 167°29.85
Speed: 2.08 kts = 3.86 km/h
Distance: 265.23 Nm = 491.29 km

The rowers reckon they can cover 100 km on a good day. There haven't been many of those so far though.

July 21, 2013

Jim @ 9:41 am

The Babouchka has managed a fair bit of plain sailing in open water, but is now back in amongst the ice:

Their GPS currently reports:

Latitude: N 72°25.44
Longitude: W 169°36.48
Speed: 0.25 kts = 0.47 km/h
Distance: 335.05 Nm = 620.60 km

It also look like it will soon be time to batten down their hatches. A big storm is brewing over the Chukchi Sea. Here's Wednesday's current wind forecast:

August 5, 2013

Les Johnson @ 7:42 am

Not much progress. They are now at 75 deg N, after starting at 71.3 deg. That makes a little over 400 km of progress in the right direction.

Jim @ 2:19 pm

They've now been back and forth across 75 degrees a couple of times. Probably having trouble trying to find a way through lots of this sort of thing:

That's from the camera on USCGC Healy, somewhere around 73 degrees north in the Chukchi Sea.

August 6, 2013

Les Johnson @ 12:36 am

Yes, that was my assumption too. They are not making progress because of too much ice.

They have travelled about 400 km in about a month, towards their destination. They need to travel about another 1600 km just to get to the north pole.

August 9, 2013

Jim @ 11:51 am

I think they'd be happy with either open water or solid pack ice. A soup of fragmented ice and water is no problem for an icebreaker, but a big problem for Babouchka.

It seems the current cyclone has given them a bit of a boost though, and they're now north of 76 degrees. Still another 1500 km to the pole however.

August 12, 2013

Les Johnson @ 10:24 pm

They seem to be 'stuck' at 73.13 deg N, on a heading of 111. Its been that way for a couple of days, now.

August 13, 2013

Les Johnson @ 11:50 pm

sorry, stuck at 76.13 deg N. Still there, too.

August 14, 2013

Jim @ 1:05 pm

It seems they have "Un petit problème technique" with their automated position reporting. The last "manually" reported position for Babouchka was 76.75 N, 174.17 W on August 11th.

August 17, 2013

Jim @ 5:15 pm

The technical problem seems to have been resolved. Babouchka reports her postion today as 79.11 N, 175.63 W. Séb Roubinet's web site even provides a little map showing that location as a tiny circle:

Still just over 1200 km to the pole, as the crow flies.

September 2, 2013

Les Johnson @ 4:36 am

They have been stuck at 82 deg N for several days now.

Jim @ 8:26 am

Indeed they have Les. Looks as though you haven't read my recent blog post on that very topic?

Les Johnson @ 2:01 pm

No, I had not read your blog.

Looks like both expeditions made it less than 1/2 way, and both quit before freeze up.

Both also had trouble with too much ice, and both complained of the bitter cold.

I am sure that awareness of global warming has been raised, but of the wrong kind of awareness.

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