Saturday, September 28, 2013

S/V TARA pushing through final ice choke-point to reach open water in Lancaster Sound thanks to CCGS LOUIS S. ST-LAURENT

S/V TARA in Tuktoyaktuk NWT- Photo credit: M. Hertau/Tara Expeditions

S/V TARA (FRA) is attempting a single-season 
Arctic Circumnavigation counterclockwise (West-to-east)...

S/V TARA departed Tuktoyaktuk to the east on the 21st of September 2013, knowing that the Northwest Passage was blocked with 5/10 to 9/10 sea ice concentration at multiple locations which did not leave another eastern route out of the Arctic unless one or more of these choke-points opened before hard freeze-up around October 15th.

TARA has made it through Bellot Strait last night and is northbound in Prince Regent Inlet attempting to find a route through what is reported to be 9/10 sea ice concentration.

Now it becomes important that you understand how to interpret ice chart "egg code" nomenclature. Why? Because it is not just about total ice concentration but also about the partial concentration, stages of development, age of the ice, and the form or floe size. Lets check the 'egg codes' out.  


The World Meteorology Organization (WMO) system for sea ice symbology is more frequently referred to as the "Egg Code" due to the oval shape of the symbol.
So Sd

Ct - Total concentration of ice in area, reported in tenths. May be expressed as a single number or as a range, not to exceed two tenths (3-5, 5-7 etc.)

Ca Cb Cc - Partial concentration (Ca, Cb, Cc) are reported in tenths, as a single digit. These are reported in order of decreasing thickness. Ca is the concentration of the thickest ice and Cc is the concentration of the thinnest ice.

Sa Sb Sc - Stages of development (Sa, Sb, Sc) are listed using the code shown in Table 1 below, in decreasing order of thickness. (NOTE: If there is a dot (.), all stages of development codes to the left of the dot (.) are assumed to carry the dot (.)) These codes correspond directly with the partial concentrations above. Ca is the concentration of stage Sa, Cb is the concentration of stage Sb, and Cc is the concentration of Sc.

So Sd - Development stage (age) of remaining ice types. So if reported is a trace of ice type thicker/older than Sa. Sd is a thinner ice type which is reported when there are four or more ice thickness types.

Fa Fb Fc - Predominant form of ice (floe size) corresponding to Sa, Sb and Sc respectively. Table 2 below shows the codes used to express this information.

Table 1. Egg Codes for Stages of Ice Development (Sx Codes)
Stage of Development
for Sea Ice
Stage of Development
for Fresh Water Ice
New Ice-Frazil, Grease, Slush, Shuga (0-10 cm)1New Ice (0 - 5 cm)
Nilas, Ice Rind (0 - 10 cm)2
Young (10 - 30 cm)3
Gray (10 - 15 cm)4Thin Ice (5 - 15 cm)
Gray - White (15 - 30 cm)5Medium Ice (15 - 30 cm)
First Year (30 - 200 cm)6
First Year Thin (30 - 70 cm)7Thick Ice (30 - 70 cm)
First Year Thin - First Stage (30 - 70 cm)8First Stage Thick Ice (30 - 50 cm)
First Year Thin - Second Stage (30 - 70 cm)9Second Stage Thick Ice (50 - 70 cm)
Medium First Year (70 - 120 cm)1.Very Thick Ice (70 - 120 cm)
Thick First Year (>120 cm)4.
Old - Survived at least one season's melt (>2 m)7.
Second Year (>2 m)8.
Multi-Year (>2 m)9.
Ice of Land OriginTriangle with dot.

Table 2. Egg Codes for Forms of Ice (Fx Codes)
Forms of Sea IceCode
Forms of Fresh Water Ice
~FBelts and Strips symbol
followed by ice concentration
New Ice (0-10 cm)X
Pancake Ice (30 cm - 3 m)0
Brash Ice (< 2m)1
Ice Cake (3 - 20 m)2
Small Ice Floe (20 - 100 m)3
Medium Ice Floe (100 - 500 m)4
Big Ice Floe (500 m - 2 km)5
Vast Ice Floe (2 - 10 km)6
Giant Ice Floe (> 10 km)7
Fast Ice8Fast Ice
Ice of Land Origin9
Undetermined or Unknown
(Iceberg, Growlers, Bergy Bits)

So now lets put this knowledge to practical use. Below is yesterday's ice chart for Prince Regent Inlet and further below is the newly released ice chart for today in Prince Regent Inlet.

Yesterday - 20130927 - "P" CODED ICE CHOKE-POINT.

Today - 20130928 - "H" & "I" CODED CHOKE-POINT




TAKE YOUR PICK?  1="SLUSH ICE" 0-5cm OR 4="GRAY ICE" 10-15cm?


Here is where TARA is at on 20130928 at noon local time:


Tara Expéditions added photos on September 28, 2013.

Photos credit by:
F.Aurat/Tara Expéditions
V.Hilaire/Tara Expéditions
B.Régnier/Tara Expéditions

Tara was escorted several hours yesterday by Canadian Coast Guard Ship LOUIS S. ST-LAURENT.

"The Northwest Passage has been taken!" according to TARA. 

(But it will not be an official NW Passage since TARA did NOT cross both Arctic Circles - the Bering Strait's Arctic Circle nor the Davis Strait's Arctic Circle (yet).

20130930 UPDATE - What is TARA doing going in circles?


Jim Hunt said...

Hi Doug,

My own take on the same story, including a "visual" image of the sea ice Tara must have picked her way through:

Captain on GREY GOOSE said...
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Captain on GREY GOOSE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Captain on GREY GOOSE said...

I would like to know if there is going to be any charge by the Canadian Coast Guard for breaking ice for TARA. The vessel tonnage (200T?) is definitely less than the required (300T) tonnage to require registration with the benefits of free ice breaking. Hence, TARA is a recreational vessel if it is not of commercial tonnage.... lol

If you register with the vessel traffic service your vessel should be entitled to all of the benefits. I think VTS registration should be mandatory for vessels navigating in the Arctic. One word says it all: SAFETY.

Prior to beginning a voyage within Canadian waters or entering from seaward, ships are required to obtain a VTS clearance. This clearance is issued by an Marine Communiation Officer (MCO) after screening information about identity, condition, cargo and intentions of the vessel. As it proceeds on its voyage the ship is required to maintain a listening watch on designated marine VHF radio channels and report at specific positions, Calling-In-Points (CIPs). In turn, the vessel is provided with information, advice, and sometimes directions pertaining to other marine traffic, as was as navigational safety and weather information

Required to participate in Canada VTS:

every ship twenty metres or more in length
every ship engaged in towing or pushing any vessel or object, other than fishing gear, where;
the combined length of the ship and any vessel or object towed or pushed by the ship is forty five metres or more in length; or
the length of the vessel or object being towed or pushed by the ship is twenty metres or more in length.
a ship towing or pushing inside a log booming ground.
a pleasure yacht less than 30 metres in length.
a fishing vessel that is less than 24 metres in length and not more than 150 tons gross.

Does it make sense to have additional rules for the Arctic zone?
Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations (“NORDREG Zone” means the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone)

The following vessels are prescribed as classes of vessels for the purposes of subsections 126(1) and (3) of the Act in respect of the NORDREG Zone:
(a) vessels of 300 gross tonnage or more;
(b) vessels that are engaged in towing or pushing another vessel, if the combined gross tonnage of the vessel and the vessel being towed or pushed is 500 gross tonnage or more; and
(c) vessels that are carrying as cargo a pollutant or dangerous goods, or that are engaged in towing or pushing a vessel that is carrying as cargo a pollutant or dangerous goods.


Anonymous said...

Using an ice breaker to help you sail through and then claiming the 'Northwest Passage has been taken' kinda' cheating? Would this not be the same as having a Sherpa give you a piggyback ride to the Hillary Step, you make the last push for the summit, and then claim you conquered Everest?

Captain on GREY GOOSE said...

Not in the least sense. Undoubtedly you are not a knowledgeable marine person. The icebreaker did not "lift" nor "carry" nor "transport" TARA but provided 'safety' assistance and TARA's record will show it with a "*" star noting something like: "Assisted by CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier in Prince Regent Inlet". Bottom line, they sailed on their own bottom BUT MISSED THE STARTING GATE AT THE ARCTIC CIRCLE IN THE BERING STRAIT SO THEY WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED AN OFFICIAL NORTHWEST PASSAGE FOR THAT RECORD BOOK. This likely will also disqualify them for the official Northern Sea Route. They are still on track for an official "Single-season Arctic Circumnavigation counter-clockwise from west-to-east". KUDOS!

Anonymous said...

it is true that I'm ignorant to marine knowledge, that I will not dispute.....but..... I still get a sense it's cheating.

Diana Nyad’s 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida is pretty inspiring but if I found out she held onto a boat for part of her swim or took regular breaks during the attempt, that would tarnish, in my opinion, my sense of remarkableness of the feat.

I used to think, when hearing reports of the NWP successes, that these completions were least that's the perception when reading news articles about them. Propaganda?

But what do I know.....just another Santa, Easter Bunny type revelation for me. That's all.

Captain on GREY GOOSE said...

So does swimming long distances with a "shark cage" around you disqualify you? No. I remember a gal who swam across the Atlantic behind a boat with a cage around her. And she got out of the water and back on the boat every night to sleep while the boat drifted. While I don't agree that is the way those who do long distance swimming accept it.

Northwest Passages are on the boat's own bottom and must be via one of the seven or recognized routes between the Pacific Ocean's Bering Strait Arctic Circle and the Atlantic Ocean's Davis Strait Arctic Circle.

If you want to learn more about the 135 vessels that completed 185 Passages then read the records - I have them posted on this blog at


Anonymous said...

will do. And sorry for my ignorance on the mariner way.....I meant no disrespect.

Thanks for your blog. It has been really interesting reading all about the different boats and this years NWP attempts.

Hats off to the people that attempt it and I'm glad I found your blog!


Captain on GREY GOOSE said...
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Captain on GREY GOOSE said...

You're welcome. If there is something you do not understand or need clarification on - ask. If I don't know or have an opinion on it someone in the group likely will.

Smooth seas!

Ken Dickman said...

thank you captain, the nw passage is often called the world's " canary in the coal mine " when it comes to gauging it's climate, if it's navagitable we have global warming and vise-versa, as i am
and have been a student of the global climate debate what would be the best way for me to get relieable information on the subject.
my quest for information on climate and drought in australia in particular is where it began 34 years ago, i have found a distinct corrolation between the number of sunspots the sun produces and
the north west passage and as of the 17 may 2013 sunspots have diminished due to the end of a
cycle, the interesting part is that these cycles can be calculated in advance.

Captain on GREY GOOSE said...

Publish your information in a KISS format. If it resonates you will hear from others... I'd be glad to post it here if you send it to me as an email. What does your hypothesis suggest for the NWP in 2014?

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