The anomalous area of low pressure I dubbed “Ralph” has strengthened into a gale, placing our on-the-scene reporters in danger.
When we last checked in on August 23 the high pressure “Sven” ruled the Beaufort Sea as a weakening “Ralph” ruled the Pole.
As both Sven and Ralph weakened winds slackened over the Beaufort Sea, but Ralph was recieving reinforcements, arriving from Barents Sea and bringing Atlantic moisture to feed Ralph. By August 26 our sailors knew they were in for a blow.
The past two days have seen winds increase over the Beaufort Sea, and I suspect our sailors are too busy to report. Prayers are in order.
As they made their way south they reported conditions similar to what the O-buoys showed us, which are not what some Climate Scientists portray. Sitting in warm offices the “experts” describe the areas of open water as places “absorbing heat”, and pontificate about the high albedo of unmelted sea-ice being replaced by the low albedo of open water, stating this will lead to Global Warming. People on the scene describe a situation that is anything but warm. Sebastien described the splashes of salt water freezing to his dry suit and the deck becoming very slippery. Also the reflectivity of sea water rapidly increases as the sun lowers to the horizon, surpassing the reflectivity of dirty snow.
The open water experienced, in reality, is not a warm place, by the end of August, and the man at the helm likes his hot soup.
They seem to depend on flat bergs of ice to haul up on, in order to rest.
However at this time of year the bergs are still melting from below, and rest can be disturbed. (Notice the snow is not slushy, but has a crust.)
A flat expanse of ice they pushed the boat over can crack up in a matter of hours. (Notice the twin trails made by the catamaran hulls do not match up.)
As the ice breaks up what appears as 100% ice on a sea-ice map is no longer stuff you can pull a boat up upon to ride out a storm. In fact it becomes a churning, grinding mess you don’t want your boat to be in, in a storm. (Notice the slush seems to be refreezing.)
At last report they were skirting the edge of this ice, heading east-southeast, looking for a larger and more solid berg to haul up on and ride out the storm on. If they find one, there is a chance it will break up under the duress of oceanic swells moving under the ice. If they can’t find one I doubt they will stay midst the grinding. They will have to face the storm on the open water, either hove-to behind a protective berg, or running downwind under a storm jib.
I don’t know what they expected to do, if they had actually crossed the Pole, and reached the Atlantic north of Svalbard. The North Atlantic is not for sissies, yet they do not seem to have faith in their craft, in open waters in a storm. But sometimes you have to have faith in your boat even when you entertain doubts, and it is amazing what a small boat and stout men can get through. I hope this is not the last picture they send.
In their warm offices, sea-ice experts are likely hoping this storm churns the sea-ice and reduced the wiggly line on “extent”, “area”, and “volume” graphs, for they are worried they may lose funding if the so-called “Death Spiral” fails to manifest.
They have no idea what real life worries are.
They reached the edge of more solid ice, which is drifting east. They have decided to not risk the water, and instead to haul the boat over the ice to Sachs Harbor, 183 miles to the east. Fortunately the sea-ice is drifting that way, and if O-buoy 14’s history is anything to go by, they will continue to drift that way at this time of year (which is not the direction the Beaufort Gyre drifts; perhaps Bank’s Island forms an eddy.)
The drift, nearly a mile an hour, will slow as “Ralph” weakens, but today they will drift twenty miles the way they desire. Not bad.
Sachs Harbor has a population of 900, but does have an airport. They inhabitants will likely be delighted to see three Frenchmen appear out of the frozen sea, providing a Polar Bear doesn’t find them first.
They’ll likely fly out, parking the boat there. Then the question will be, will they return and try again next summer?
But first they have to get there.