PROGRESS REPORT No. 16
Map relating to this progress report
Waiting time is over. Winter freeze-up is coming early.
3 a.m. Monday. Grease-ice covered the sea surface. The rudder was iced solid. The anchor chain had 4 inches of ice around it.( See photo). It was minus eight degrees. The forecast from Murmansk had been right. Hard polar pack to the north of us was now being congealed by freeze-up.
Ice records for the last seven years, in this area, show that conditions continue to improve until mid-September, with freeze-up not starting until October. We'd met a 'bad' ice-year, now compounded by early freeze-up. This year, it seems, is one of the worst on record.
We broke out and urgently set course south. What now?
Our primary option appears to be to over-winter the boat on the River Khatanga. Our information is that there is a town, 350 miles south, 100 miles up the river, with some facilities, a crane we hope, and an airport with some sort of service to the 'outside'.
The Dutch boat 'Campina' had been a couple of hundred miles behind us before we had been stopped ten days ago. Two days ago she radioed that she had got serious ice-damage to her rudder and her steering and that she was arranging rescue through her Dutch-Russian Sponsor Company Campina.
We're now attempting to approach her, slowed to 3 knots now by the thickening grease ice through which we plough.
We intend to stand by her until her rescue vessel arrives.
There is one unlikely alternative for us, a very long shot. There's a 30,000 ton freighter being led by the nuclear ice-breaker 'Vaygach' in the area. We've had radio contact with 'Vaygach'. We're trying to negotiate a 'sealift' on one of those two-about as likely as the Dublin-Cork train stopping for a hitch-hiker.
Unlikely it may seem, but in the Russian Arctic, all things are possible.
In these conditions we are fortunate in having a strong crew in good heart and a sound boat. In a couple of days we should know, and we'll report, on how it's working out.
Ice on Northabout's Anchor Chain September 6th
Campina Under Tow from Northabout