ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ice-boating Polewards–(Updated)

In my last post I touched upon the state of enchantment brought on by the sea. Bankers likely deem it a form of mental illness, but I hold that Bankers are the true sickos.  They cling to cold gold and call it “securities”, but there’s no way to keep death from knocking someday on your door, and then bankers will see just how secure they actually are. The bankers who make lots of other people insecure in their attempts to be “safe” themselves will then face a day of reckoning, like a sailor facing a storm at sea, and the form of enchantment they then experience will between them and God. But, for now, they can’t even imagine such a  world, unshackled by deeds and mortgages, exists. But sailors can, and it draws them out to sea, where there are no fences; out over swells into situations that many would shake their heads at, seeing only discomfort.

One such adventurer is named Sebastien Roubiret, who has taken it into his head that it would be fun to sail over the North Pole, from Barrow, Alaska to Svalbard in the North Atlantic.

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At some point Sebastien must have noticed that an iceboat that skims over frozen lakes is similar in shape to a water-skimming catamaran, for he has worked very hard creating a craft that does both.

Iceboat 2 photo-1571-800-600-80

He traversed the Northwest Passage in 2007, in a trimaran  with no engine, which may have been the first time the Passage was made by sail alone. Then he attempted to cross the pole in 2011, an attempt aborted by various structural weakness, which he likely learned from.Then perhaps encouraged by the low-ice year of 2012, he and a friend named  Vincent attempted to cross the Pole in 2013, and swiftly learned sea-ice isn’t flat.


There often are pressure ridges parallel to the coast of Alaska, formed by the ice crushing against that coast. Sometimes (like this year) they remain right against the coast, but other years they can be blown many miles north, while retaining their structure. In either case they present formidable obstacles, and were described by one man skiing to the Pole as “crazy ice.” Once past these mini-mountain-ranges the ice tends to be flatter, but Sebastian had to battle to get north, often making more progress due to the eastward-drifting Beaufort Gyre than northwards, due to their own efforts.

Iceboat 4 photo 26 juillet 2013

Whatever you may say about the sanity of such adventurers, they do serve as on-the-scene reporters, and innocently describe things which flummox both Alarmist and Skeptics alike. No satellite could see the 50°F (+10C°) temperatures they experienced in the middle of thick and very dirty ice, one day.

Iceboat 5 photo 20 juillet 2013

The dirtiness of the ice, so far from shore, sparked interesting debate, largely between those who thought it was pollution from Chinese power plants and those who felt it was volcanic ash. However a new idea arose that it was algae that grows on the bottom of the ice, incorporated into ice when it freezes and thickens in the fall, and concentrated when ice melts and becomes multi-year ice., and sometimes brought to the top of the ice when ice is flipped like a pancake by storms. It did seem to so darken the ice that more sunshine was absorbed and local temperatures were higher, but there was some consternation among Alarmists in 2013 because, despite all this surface heat, the ice was refusing to melt in the manner they expected. Likely the big storm in 2012 used up and disturbed all the slightly warmer water in the pyctocline, and the water under the ice was colder, but whatever the cause was, the sea-ice refused to melt in 2013 as many Alarmists had confidently forecast.

As August passed the boat struggled north, making better time on flatter ice, as much as 35 miles in one day, but temperatures drop rapidly in August, and hoarfrost grew on the boom and rigging.

Iceboat 6 photo 11 aout 2013

They continued to battle north. As I watched the big gale of 2013 brew up, and saw it fail to melt ice in the manner of the 2012 gale, and typed comments from my cozy computer, they were out in that gale. They struggled on as temperatures dropped below zero (-17°C) in early September, passing 82°N latitude,

Iceboat 8 photo 26 aout 2013

But finally they had to give up and accept an ignominious rescue from the Russian icebreaker Admiral Makarov.

Iceboat 7 photo 8 septembre 2013

The log of their 2013 attempt (in french) can be found here:

If you think that adventure would be enough for any man, you don’t know sailors. Sebastien got to work crowd-sourcing, and finding sponsors (such as the makers of the solar panels on the side of the boat, and the people advertising on the sails), and worked on a new and improved craft, and this time he found two crewmates willing to go on an adventure.

Like last time, the ice is worse than the year before, with sea-ice right up against the shore in Alaska. (2017 left, 2018 right)



Again they’ve had to battle through pressure ridges to find flatter ice.

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Again they’ve experienced summer warmth that will be good publicity for those who wish to promote the idea of Global Warming.

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Above is a great publicity shot for Alarmists. Not that Sebastien has bought into all that. He’s been dealing with the arctic at least since 2007, and likely knows there is more sea-ice this year than there was in 2007.

I just pray those fellows don’t get too cavalier about the dangers they are midst. Just a few years back we lost two experienced scientists who were careless, skiing across ice in their long underwear on a hot day. The water under the ice is salt water, chilled below the freezing point of human blood, and a man can die in five minutes in such water. These three have described breaking through rotten ice up to their thighs. But perhaps I’m a worry wart and a party pooping old pill.

They certainly seem happy.  They are finally making some progress north over flatter ice.

Iceboat 11 img jour31


The most recent log posting seemed especially joyous.

It was not until the afternoon, after 8 miles on the ice, to begin to see darker clouds, which means that there is water below! We aim directly at the dark gray and we find … water!
it’s done in two stages: we sail on the water for a short time before returning to the ice.Then, we find the water with the fog. At this point, we are far from imagining that we will sail until late in the evening. And that’s what we do. There is almost no more ice and we are looking for fresh water to drink (water from the melt lakes on the ice). Who would have believed it ?
Tonight, we sleep above the 71 ° North and it became difficult to find a correct plate to install the camp. 
The day is not over because Seb must get to work to repair the saffron, nothing serious but it must be done!
We can not wait to be tomorrow.
The icing on the cake: we had the company of belouga and seals all day, it’s beautiful, we never get tired in the Arctic.

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Who do you suppose is richer: These young men or a banker?

(We’ll see if they’re singing the same tune a month from now, when temperatures start to plunge. But, for today, I envy them. Not that I don’t also pray for them.)

You can follow their log, in French, here:

(Hat tip: Stewart Pid)

Tuesday Night Update

They are well north of 72° latitude now, picking their way through scattered bergs, which is likely a great relief after dragging their boat over ice. (I get the feeling their craft doesn’t often coast over ice like an iceboat on a lake.)

The fact they are now boating north exposes some misconceptions we get from maps we use. Maps often show solid color for an area a boat can get through, for example, “50% ice”. That is also an area that is 50% open water. By carefully steering (and also by having a drone that can fly ahead to scout out the best routes) one can get around the bergs, and need not spend 50% of their time dragging the boat over bergs.

The “thickness” maps have several problems. First they tend to average out the thickness, so that an area that is 50% covered with 6 foot bergs will look entirely covered by ice three feet thick. An area 25% covered by 6 foot bergs will look entirely covered by ice 18 inches thick. Second, there is the constant confusion between melt-water pools and open water. I have observed melt-water pools, especially when they have black stuff on their bottoms, (soot, volcanic ash, algae, or all three), melt down until the bottom fell out and they were round windows to the deeps. Imagine how difficult it must be to determine when a pool is atop ice, and when it is open water, from miles away, up where satellites fly.

For this reason it is far better to have a “reporter on the scene.” If we can’t have our O-buoys and North Pole Camera, then we will have to settle with what we can glean from icebreakers and adventurers.

I’d also like to respond to some who seem to think the three men aboard the boat are silly tree-huggers. Wrong. Perhaps they are young and foolish, but they are aware they are at risk. They may be enjoying themselves, but it isn’t a game. Most tree-huggers don’t have encounters with 1500 pound bears, as Sebastien had in 2013.

Iceboat 13 photo 3 aout 2013

This particular bear was apparently untroubled when peppered with bird-shot, but did amble away when they shot a flare at its feet. But that is history. The point I wish to make is that Sebastien has been here before, and is well aware the halcyon days of summer are short lived. He is under no illusions about what lies ahead in September, when temperatures plunge. Currently temperatures are slightly below normal, but above freezing. But look ahead and see how they plunge in September.

DMI5 0724 meanT_2018

The DMI maps show us that already the below-freezing isotherm is becoming a little more common. Also the anomalous low pressure I’ve dubbed “Ralph” keeps attempting to knock more typical high pressure from the area. The last “Ralph” is fading into the Canadian Archipelago, but a new one is deepening and taking the same route, from East Siberia to Canada, ahead of them. While it has been assisting them with following winds, they are about to be faced with head winds.

Stay tuned.