ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Beaufort Gale Endangers Sailors– (Updated)

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.

Albedo 375px-Water_reflectivity

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.

B1 img jour65

They seem to depend on flat bergs of ice to haul up on, in order to rest.

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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.)

B3 img jour67 bis

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.)

B4 img jour67

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.)

B5 img jour69

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.

B6 img jour70

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.

B7 img jour71

20 thoughts on “ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Beaufort Gale Endangers Sailors– (Updated)

  1. Also the reflectivity of sea water rapidly increases as the sun lowers to the horizon, surpassing the reflectivity of dirty snow.

    You have to wonder how this is expressed in the models.

      • On the Dogbark website they referenced one boat that had got into the ice and couldn’t proceed forward or back. Do u know anything of those guys?
        First snow of the season in the Rockies this week 🙂

      • Great minds think alike. I was just thinking I should hunt that boat down. Unfortunately the school year is starting in in ninety degree heat here, so I can’t search right now, though the thought of ice-filled water is darn inviting.

        if you want to beat me to the punch, look through the pages of the Dogbark site. It seems I recall sidebars involving other boats on one of the pages.

      • I don’t care that much 😉 … eventually we will hear of their plight.
        Have fun with the back to school kididiles. I always found it bizarre that school started before Labour Day in some places …. is Labour Day a holiday there?

        Re great minds …. and fools seldom differ.

      • Don’t get me started on the subject of extending the school year. Parents spend too little time with their children as it is, but there is a desire on the part of the Teacher’s Union to make more work for teachers.

        The official excuse is to shorten the school year during hot days in June, but I think that is merely talk, and the long term aim is to have school all year. This will force the air conditioning of northern schools, which currently are ovens in hot weather. More taxes “for the children”.

        Currently the plan has backfired. The weather has refused to cooperate, and it has been cooler in June with heat-waves in September. Also many parents plan vacations over Labor Day and classrooms are missing many small students at the start of the school year, which is a crucial time for teachers to establish routine and discipline (such as it is.) So what the “improvement” has done is create sweltering classrooms where nothing gets done. Teachers are not happy, and “dialog” is occurring.

        The public schools need major reform, and “home schooling” is quite common. The rich pay for private schooling (called “public” schools in England) or they take them along as they cruise about the Arctic in their yacht.

        I see that the “Dogbark” has made it south to Nome, Alaska, south of Bering Strait.

    • Yes, flow, they are in what is a fairly normal situation post-peak AMO warm current flows and as winter closes in. The ‘greasy’ water surface (freezing) and similar things elsewhere makes me worried too. I am emailing and cheering Vince et al on. Many better found ships have been lost in this situation. Getting wet sailing, or hitting ice at speed are just two ways to die there. But, a whaleboat built just upriver from me got Shackleton’s group out of similar or worse conditions……

      • At least they have “dry suits”, which Shackleton’s crew lacked. They seem to be wearing the dry suits a lot, and confess to stinking and longing for a shower.

        On the bright side, if they wanted adventure, they have found it. Let’s just hope they make all the right choices.

  2. I found more info in Cherry-Garrand’s “Worst Journey in the world”. The below -60C’s associated with Scott’s death were largely found, then, at low altitudes. Still air radiation was considered causative, with nothing to stop energy escaping to space in that dry air and low or zero sunlight.
    Nullschool models vast areas down to -64C as of 12 hrs ago…….. Much cold is coming our way here in the SH. I am learning that there are lessons in these older experiences still, which is why they were written. Naval Officers being familiar with the Scientific Method.
    We can study and pull facts together at leisure thanks to them all, as you know.

    • Interesting. A good demonstration of how “open” water can close in like the jaws of a hyena and crush a ship. That is why Nansen designed the Fram to be an odd, round-bottomed tub. When the ice came crushing in the entire ship was lifted.

      The uss Jeanette was not so lucky, and was crushed by sea-ice close to the New Siberian Islands in 1881. The4 crew was able to cross sea-ice to the New Siberian Islands, but had to cross open water to reach the Lena Delta, which gives us an idea of the sea-ice conditions in 1881.

      Meanwhile crushed parts of the Jeanette moved east with sea-ice across the Pole to Fram Strait, and then down the east coast of Greenland, and were found WEST (!) of Cape Farewell on the southern tip of Greenland in 1884. This shows us the ice was mobile back then, as it is today.

      It also is what gave Nansen the idea he could lodge the Fram in sea-ice and simply drift with the highly mobile sea-ice to the Pole.

      Yes, sea-ice does not stay in the same place, as the unfortunate owners of the yacht that just was crushed and sunk discovered, 137 years after the Jeanette discovered the same thing.

    • Yes, they were lucky, in an unlucky sort of way.

      Thanks for the heads up. There’s a post over on WUWT, with a nasty troll in the comments causing an uproar, which I get amusement from.

  3. Must check out that troll, sounds like fun.
    Adding to Scotts/Cherry-Garrard’s experiences with severe radiation fosts, I may include the resultant excess energy expenditure which got the heaviest man first (Oates?). A deficiency of some 50% on top of teeth-shattering cold has simple results according to the laws of physics. They figured after that there may be a limit to how much fat could be usefully digested, when carbohydrates of the right kind gave better returns of energy. What is done these days, I dunno, but we still lose folk out there….

    • The troll was sort of boringly persistent. Like a fly that eludes swatting. But it was the swatting that got me chuckling.

      It seems to me bigger is better in the arctic. Siberian Tiger is bigger than Bengal Tiger. Alaskan Grizzlies are bigger than Rocky Mountain Grizzlies. But I dive for cover, when asked to explain the physics.

  4. Yeah, that’s a heat loss thing, area squaring vs volume cubing ie less area to volume ratio for loss. But Garrard was considering the mass needed to feed a larger man if rations were equal. They sorted that out the next year.
    The last factor I read of is the losses of stove oil via cold-perished leather seals letting oil (paraffin ie kerosene?) which the creeps past the lid and fouls food as it settles outside the containers. Amundsen had similar troubles, but his containers were able to be sealed by soldering, which was a continuous job he said. Lack of fuel was a great hindrance to comfort in the tents, to put it mildly.

  5. At last, good temp data from Birdie Bowers records via Garrard for the previous winter on the Ross Ice barrier, sea level, July midwinter: -60C. They had lost thermometer function before they died next summer/autumn IIRC, but this shows that such deadly cold was not uncommon at sea level, and the crystal sand snow was the evidence……

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