Friday, June 21, 2013

Revisiting - M/V BAGAN 2009 NWP - VIDEO: "The Other Side Of The Ice"

We hear this over and over again "The Arctic is melting".

Sure it is... natural variations allows for extreme changes on planet earth.... its happened before and will happen again and again... do you really think you can change it? 

If you are attempting a Northwest Passage you had better know several techniques to deal with change and avoiding the dangers associated with navigating near, around and through sea ice as a primary knowledge for Arctic survival.

What did explorer Roald Amundsen say about adventure?

“Adventure is just bad planning.”
Roald Amundsen

M/V BAGAN's adventure began in June of 2009. It is chronicled online at with photos and stories in the blog link. An interactive map tracks the ship's position as it passes through the Arctic. Here is a summary of the route - which changed as they navigated through epic pack ice.

1. HALIFAX HARBOR, NOVA SCOTIA – In Halifax by June 15. Proceed through Great Bras d’Or Channel towards the west coast of Newfoundland.
2. LARKS HARBOR or WOODS ISLAND HARBOR at the BAY OF ISLANDS, NEWFOUNDLAND – July 1. Proceed through the Strait of Belle Isle to the Labrador eastern coast.

3. BATLE HARBOR, HAWKE HARBOR, ST. ANTHONY or SANDWICH BAY, LABRADOR –July 7. Proceed to Greenland, or Resolution Island if ice free.

4. SISIMIUT and then to UPERNAVIK, GREENLAND – July 15 to Aug 1. Both are refueling stops. Proceed over the northern tip of Baffin Island. Pack Ice will be along the north coast of Baffin Island; so routing takes us up, over, and then into Lancaster Sound.

5. RESOLUTION HARBOR, RESOLUTION ISLAND – July 15. If Ice free, this could be a harbor of refuge, depending on weather conditions. Proceed on to Greenland ASAP.

6. LANCASTER SOUND – 1ST week in August. Here we must decide to go south or north of Victoria Island. The most probable route is to the south, initially following the route the Franklin Expedition took. (West of Summerset Island Prince Rupert Channel South, then South of King William Island - Peel Sound to Franklin Straight to James Ross to St. Roche Basin To Ryy Basin to Simpson to Queen Maud)

7. RESOLUTE BAY – 2nd week in August. This would be a stopover only if ice impedes us from going on to Gjoa Haven.
8. GJOA HAVEN – August 15. Proceed through Victoria Strait towards the Beaufort Sea. Potential stops: Cambridge Bay if ice impeding the Strait, Tuktoyaktuk (600 nautical miles from Cambridge Bay and possible refueling stop) and Barrow (1100 nms from Cambridge Bay).

9. BARROW, AK – September 1 thru 15. Alternative refueling stop - no dock - must carry fuel jugs. From Point Barrow we plan to proceed to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, AK. Possible stops are Port of Nome, Nunivak Island, and St. Paul Island if weather dictates hiding or hopping. The Bering Sea can be extremely dangerous in the Fall.

10. DUTCH HARBOR, UNALASKA ISLAND, AK – September 15 thru 30. Refueling Stop. Proceed to Kodiak, AK. Then wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Alaska to Southeast Alaska - enter at Cape Spencer. Prepare for alternative stops as required at Sitka, Juneau, Petersburg or Ketchikan AK.
11. SOUTHEAST ALASKA – October 7. Top off fuel, Proceed down Inside Passage of SE Alaska/British Columbia to Vancouver/Seattle.

FINAL DESTINATION: SEATTLE, WA - October 31, 2009 (~5 month voyage)

Below is a video trailer by Sprague Theobald, owner of the 57' Nordhavn named M/V BAGAN.

57' long
17' beam
6'8" draft
57 tons
2000 gallons diesel.
1 Lugger 310 hp main diesel engine w/ 75 hp "get-home" diesel engine.
20kW gen-set

What did he experience in regards to sea ice in the Northwest Passage?

Sprague's adventure was like a dream... at times a bad dream... watch the video to see why and learn that the Northwest Passage is no cake walk... and next time you hear someone being interviewed or the media say "The Arctic ice is melting" you will remember that the devil is in the details.

Video: "The Other Side Of The Ice"
Video url:


Have you heard many of these words before?

"The aim of the trip is to not only travel to and through The Passage and document it, but to meet the denizens of the area, find out about their lives above the Arctic Circle, try and learn how the recent climatic changes have effected their lives, what they noticed, if anything. I want to learn what their feelings are about what may become of their home, their pristine ecology, and their livelihoods if and when shipping and exploration make themselves known. I'd also like to follow the route The Franklin Expedition took and try to convey through the moving image how it is that such a large expedition can simply vanish. When Franklin and his mean set out for The Passage it was that century's equivalent to one of the first moon shots for us. To this day those waters are for the most part uncharted and transiting them will present very obvious and present dangers, yet we have electronics that can guide us from the heavens and see what waits beneath.

With Forward Looking Sonar we can see 200 ahead of us and make a navigational decision before calamity. Franklin and his men and those who followed, had none of this. They were true heroes & and they had backing. Our route is to leave Newport, RI, for Halifax, Upernuvik Greenland, enter Lancaster Sound, go down Peel Sound to King William Island, head out through the Bering Sea, cut through the Aleutians, Alaska and get into Seattle the end of October".

I'd like to share passages from the book Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez in hopes you catch details about the real Arctic, why is it so captivating... read on.

"ARCTIC DREAMS is brilliant, moving odyssey across a landscape brimming with beauty and danger... A celebration of earth, sea, ice and the animals and people who live there... A showcase of dazzling light - solar and lunar rings, halos, coronas, mountainous mirages and the awesome aurora borealis... A magical book of dreams, of why we, outsiders, are drawn to this remote and inspiring region... A journey of the mind and heart into a place that grips the imagination and the resonance of its unique and affecting grandeur... Our perceptions are colored by preconception and desire... The conventional wisdom of our time is that European man has advanced by enormous strides since the age of cathedrals. He has landed on the moon. He has cured smallpox. He has harnessed the power of the atom. Another argument, however, might be made in the opposite direction, that all European man has accomplished in 900 years is a more complicated manipulation of materials, a more astounding display of his grasp of the physical principals of matter... The life of the polar seas is structured around a spring bloom of epontic phytoplankton that initiates a period of active feeding by herbivorous zooplankton... crustaceans... small fish... extend this food web... The sea ice prevents 99 percent of the sun'slight from reaching these active layers of the water, but it also insulates creatures in the food web from the extreme cold of winter, and it has profoundly shaped their evolution and development. The Arctic Ocean, in fact, cannot be explained ecologically without taking the sea ice into account... oceanographers regard the Arctic Ocean as unique, a landscape that requires a special point of view. The quality and type of sea ice are as crucial in shaping the lives of arctic marine mammals as topographic relief and the presence of plant food are in directing the movements of land animals. Glacial periods are relatively rare in the earth's history. Scientists have discovered only four in the last 6 million years. Climate change - the advance and retreat of glacial ice in the Northern Hemisphere - is the hallmark of the Pleistocene, the epoch of man's emergence. The Danish scientist Christian Vibe's work has so clearly linked a basic arctic cycling. The first pattern to emerge for Vibe was a cycle of sea ice formation and movement that lasted 150 years, which records from arctic ships of exploration seems to support... tied to a lunar cycle of 18.6 years (the time it takes the moon to intersect the earth's orbit around the sun again at the same spot). Because the length of the lunar cycle is not a whole number, the maximum and minimum effect it has on the earth's tides (and therefore on ice formation and weather) can occur at different seasons of the year, in successive 18.6-year periods. This led Vibe to posit a primary period of 698 years for the Arctic's weather pattern, with secondary periods of 116.3 years, and what Vibe calls a basic "true ecological cycling period" of 11.6 years... Vibe's insights are ingenious and his mathematics elegant.. In the Arctic one is constantly aware of sharp oscillations. It is as familiar a pattern of human thought and animal movement to the arctic resident as the pattern of four seasons is to a dweller in the Temperate Zone... One is not long in the field before sensing that the scale of time and distance for most animals is different from one's own... the bright light reflected from the ice and water... compression time of extraordinary events, left me dazed... We know more about the rings of Saturn than we do about the narwhal. No large mammal in the Northern Hemisphere comes as close as the narwhal to having its very existence doubted. The obscurity of narwhals is not easily breached by science. To begin with, they live underwater. And the live year-round in the polar ice, where the logistics and expense involved in approaching them are formidable barriers to field research, even in the summer... the regular periodic events of their lives, such as migration, breeding, and calving, in relation to climate changes and fluctuations in the size of population, we know next to nothing. Aspects of the arctic landscape became salient for me - its real and temporal borders; a rare, rich oasis of life surrounded by vast stretches of deserted land; the upending of conventional kinds of time, biological vulnerability made poignant by the forgiving light of summer - all of this was evoked over the Bering Sea... waiting for the ice in the strait to open up... Because you have seen something doesn't mean you can explain it. Differing interpretations will always abound, even when good minds come to bear. The kernel of indisputable information is a dot in space; interpretations grow out of the desire to make this point a line, to give it a direction. The directions in which it can be sent, the uses to which it can be put by a culturally, professionally, and geographically diverse society, are almost without limit... To the explorer, the land [sea] becomes large, alive like an animal; it humbles him in a way he cannot pronounce. It is not that the land [sea] is simply beautiful but that it is powerful. Its power derives from the tension between its obvious beauty and its capacity to take life. Its power flows into the mind from a realization of how darkness and light are bound together within it, and the feeling that this is the floor of creation... In a region like the Arctic... interpretations can quickly get beyond a scientist's control. They are sometimes reluctant to elaborate on what the saw,  because they cannot say what it means, and they are suspicious of those who say the know. Some even distrust the motives behind the questions."

Why you do not want your boat rescued in the Arctic ice (video):

Is there more or less ice in the Arctic?

Is the Arctic in a positive or negative oscillation? Checkout this reference:

Are you thinking about a Northwest Passage? Checkout these planning resources:

What are the likelihood that the NWP northern route is open or blocked?

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