They have passed their first ices

Published on 24.08.2010 - The Northern Passage 2010

Ousland's route

Ousland's route

© International Polar Foundation (IPF)

Borge Ousland and his two shipmates have just successfully negotiated their first crossing of ice-barrier. Everything was on their side: a good meteorologist, good glaciologists and an excellent trimaran!

It was on 16 August that the tricky navigation had started. First of all, the men were a long way from everywhere, then, the occasional headwinds were not propitious for sailing (imagine having to tack between two areas of ice!), thereafter, tiredness set in because there was no question of venturing into this minefield without permanently having two men per shift (and there are only three of them) and finally, the conditions of the ice, which left a lot to be desired. Indeed, once they had entered the Laptev Sea, their glaciological advisors from the `Norwegian Ice Service' (in Istjenesten) had told them that two large areas of ice were in sight and therefore on their path, one that was virtually skirting the coast and the other, more or less parallel with the first, which was further out in the ocean.

Extracts from the logbook: "This is an exciting phase of the expedition. We have received fresh satellite images from Radarsat that have been analyzed by Nick Hughes at Norwegian Ice Service (Istjenesten) in Tromsø. The satellites show that there is an opening in the ice further south. We hope to reach that area tomorrow – for we have found a route through the ice belt, if we arrive in time. It’ll be very exciting to see if we can pull it off and slip through the passage in the ice. If we succeed, we’ll essentially be finished with this ice belt that has long been closed the shipping  lane along this coast. ..."

On 19 August, Borge wrote: "After passing Cape Chelyuskin, we’ve sailed 300 nautical miles through the ice. It has been quite a slalom run, half of it in fog. The challenging conditions forced us to run double shifts to avoid dangerous ice. Fortunately, we had relatively moderate winds, so that we were able to meet the challenges in a responsible manner. After hugging the coast, we were able to pass through a gap in the ice, and are now sailing eastward through a wider ice corridor, between the ice in the north and dense ice in the south. We are well on our way across the Laptev Sea. ..."

On 21 August, the "Northern Passage" trimaran (Editor’s note: It really warms the cockles of your heart to have a boat without huge advertising messages painted on its hull or sails, thank you Borge) reached the archipelago of the New Siberian Islands. That was the place where the famous Fridtjof Nansen left his boat, Fram, to get caught in the ice before undertaking his famous drift towards Greenland. Closer to home, it was from these islands that the Belgians, Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer, departed on 25 February 2002 for their attempt complete crossing of the Arctic ice-barrier, an adventure furthermore that was unable to be completed (see our former polar adventure website).

And on 23 August : "We are now leaving the Laptev Sea and entering a new sea: the East Siberian Sea. That should prove exciting! The ice reports we have received from Nick Hughes and his colleagues suggest that we should seek toward the northern coast of Siberia and follow the coastal lead eastward. Apparently a vast ice field extends pretty far southward. We are in transit. That is what we have requested and received permission to from the Russian authorities. In short, that means we cannot go ashore anywhere in Russia. However, as on all journeys long and short, we require a steady supply of fresh water. Børge has solved that in an ingenious manner by constructing a water collection system under the mainsail. It’s a kind of “gutter” of waterproof material that collects dewdrops from the sail. At night these drops flow quietly through a little plastic pipe into a large fabric bag that hangs at the foot of the mast. In the morning we have up to 25 litres of dew-fresh water. In this way we have a reliable supply of freshwater. As mentioned, we have also provided us by the drift ice."

Borge has told us that he would soon be sending us photographs of their crossing of the ice.



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