Northabout Nears E. Siberian Sea



Update August 19 2016

Today’s tracking shows Northabout is approaching the strait leaving Laptev and entering East Siberian Sea.  It appears to be open water all the way to Beaufort Sea.


Imagery date refers to Google Earth capture of land forms. Ice extent is for August 18, 2016 from MASIE. Click on image to zoom in.

Update August 15, 2016

It appears that Northabout, the Polar Ocean Challenge sailboat, is positioning for an end run around the Laptev wall.  The ship location is current, the ice edges are yesterday’s chart from MASIE. (Click on the image to zoom in)


Update 18:00 EST August 15, 2016

It looks like Northabout is sailing free in Laptev.



Update August 14, 2016

It appears that Northabout is sheltering in a cove, before seeking a way around the Laptev wall. Below the Google Earth image of ice edges from NIC shows how the strait has opened up along with navigable shore lines.


Imagery date refers to Google Earth capture of land forms. Ice edges are provided by MASIE for August 13, 2016.

The Big Picture from August 11, 2016.

masie_August 11rev

The Polar Ocean Challenge involves the sailing ship Northabout circumnavigating the North Pole counterclockwise starting from Bristol UK. The chart above from MASIE shows the two choke points in the itinerary: The Laptev Wall of ice at the beginning and the Nunavut Gauntlet of ice at the end. The image shows If Northabout can get past Laptev, it is relatively clear sailing all the way to Beaufort where Nunavut awaits.


The above chart from AARI shows how Northabout has passed through the strait from Kara into Laptev and is in a holding pattern up against the wall.  Caleb has some great photos (here) of the views from the deck, along with some comments respecting the explorers despite their being misled by global warming theorists.


Above is the latest chart from AARI showing the present ice situation at the other end of the trip, the Nunavut Gauntlet.  The white part is without data since the Russians are focused on their side of the ocean, but it does show heavy ice in Beaufort Sea on the right,  Within Nunavut, Parry Channel is well blocked, but with some water around the edges.  If and when Northabout gets here, no one knows what they will face.  They are counting on the passage opening this year, unlike previous years.

An image of the ice and snow extents from NOAA by way of National Ice Center (NIC)

A closeup of Nunavut from that chart shows they have a chance by using the southern route, skipping all but the eastern end of Parry Channel, provided the ice is better not worse than now when they approach.



Another view of the Arctic is available from NIC using Google Earth.  The daily shapefile can be downloaded, and it then opens in Google Earth, which allows you to browse and zoom in on regions of interest.  Here is an image from this source:


Note: Imagery date is Google Earth capture of land masses. Ice edges are 20160812 from NIC.



  1. Caleb · August 19, 2016

    What is interesting about their first-hand reporting is their surprise at seeing ice in waters that they seemingly assumed would be ice-free. I think their surprise is because anything less than `15%, or 10%, ice-coverage is called “ice-free”, Now they are seeing even 5% ice-coverage can be an obstacle. This is especially true when the 5% in a grid-cell is all in a line. It may be the dimmest swirl in a satellite shot, (if you can get a clear shot), but down on the surface it is a ice-bar or ice-reef you need to have caution about.

    Another thing that seems to be surprising them is this thing called “night”. The endless sunshine in the arctic is narcotic, and beguiles you into a fond delusion that the dark isn’t something you need to deal with. Then, with stunning speed, the nights reappear and get longer. The night may only be twilight at first, but the twilights get darker, and it will start to occur to them that they can’t see the stray bergs when it is dark. This may slow them down.

    I think they are running out of time, and a sense of urgency is awaking. It is quite the adventure!


    • Ron Clutz · August 19, 2016

      Thanks Caleb for insight into the challenges for the sailors. I don’t know if they have access to the ice edge images from MASIE, but if so each cell is 16 km2 with a 40% threshold. It means that MASIE ice cells are more likely to be actually ice-filled. Still a MASIE water cell could be 1/3 ice and dangerous to them.

      Your point is well taken: what looks like clear sailing on a satellite map could be fraught with obstacles.

      All the more credit to them if they succeed. So far, the weather is helping them, but not yet a slam dunk.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Caleb · August 19, 2016

        For sure, especially as the darkness grows. After all, the Titanic was sunk by a sea that was only 1% ice-covered. (Or perhaps only 0.1%)


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