September 2, 2012

Leg 5: 16-18 August 2012: Bellot Strait to Paisley Bay... Now waiting for the ice to disappear

We spot 13 Polar Bears on the northern shore of Bellotstrait during our passageIt is best not to read what the Arctic Pilot has to say on the Bellot Strait before going to bed. A current up to 7 knots in combination with ice can make it a dangerous mix. They even advice icebreaker assistance for bigger boats. The info is that there is little or no ice on the western end of the strait, from this side all looks ok. So the change that the current will take us into the ice at great speed seems small. Although we started the passage at the recommended 2 hours before highwater we mostly have the current against us. At times we have favourable current but a bit later we are only making 3 knots over ground. It is a slow passage but with 13 polar bears on the northern shores the passage becomes a wildlife sensation.

The ice just outside Pailey bay looks spectaculair in the low light. But 5/10 is too much and keeps us at anchor one more dayWe get some more excitement but of the wrong kind. Later in Franklin Strait we are high on the wind, I am at the mast to shake out the last reef when a hard pounding sound vibrates through the boat. At first I have no idea what I did wrong, looking up the mast I hear shouting from the cockpit: "2 meter on the depth-sounder". I turn on the engine full throttle, Mirek turns the wheel all the way over and Eirik is already pumping up the centreboard. We tack and feel immensely relieved when the bottom disappears from sight again. Pfff.... Another good reason for a centreboard boat, you are not immediately stuck on a rock in the middle of nowhere. The rock is charted at 20 m depth. Charts in the Arctic ...

Mirek pushing an ice floe from our bow and anchorchain in Paisley Bay
Ahead of us lies one of the most tricky parts of the North West Passage. From the east and the west large area of the North West Passage had been explored but the middle part stayed blank on the charts. The heavy pack ice crushed the Erebus and Terror of the Franklin expedition just there. The crews of the ship tried to get back to the civilised world over land and sea-ice. But how little did they know about surviving in the frigid Arctic. The cocky Englishmen turned to cannibalism to survive, but all died in the end. Whatever they discovered stayed a mistery. Luckily we know more of what lays ahead of us. Patrick is sending us ice charts by way of an Iridium data connection. Heavy ice is blocking our way south, no way we can get through it. We have difficulty to get into Paisley Bay, clearly the ice has moved north with the wind and now just about blocks our way in. Once inside, protected from wind and ice the wait for the ice to move begins. Willy de Roos had to wait here for 4 days, the St Roch ended up staying here a full winter ...

Heavy ice is blocking our way south,
no way we can get through it.

1 comment:

John van Oosterom said...

He een boot vol met zoetwatermossels
Veel plezier daarro
Groetjes van de grootste mossel