Position update 20.29 CEST: 69.78807 N, 168.32016 W – North of Point Hope. Water temperature: 9.0ËšC
From our position in the middle of the Chukchi Sea, the sea between the Russian autonomous area of Chukotka and Alaska, the 49th state of the USA, we can look back on a voyage through the Northeast Passage – or the Northern Sea Route, as they say in Russia.
It is obvious that the conditions met by the early explorers such as Vitus Bering, Fridtjof Nansen, Adolf Erik Nordenski¶ld and Roald Amundsen no longer exists. We passed through in a few weeks, while our predecessors were forced to overwinter once or even twice. Still, it is not an easy passage for any kind of boat or vessel. There is still ice, although not to the extent there used to be, but plenty to make conditions unpredictable for ships. In addition many of the seas you have to pass are very shallow. In the East Siberian Sea, the shipping lane is located 50 nautical miles off the coast, in order for there to be sufficient depth for bigger ships. Lights, buoys and nautical markings are scarce.
That’s from a blog posting by Thorleif Thorleifsson, captain of the “Northern Passage,” offering his “reflections” from the Chukchi Sea. He notes in an update,”The water temperature is 7.5 degrees. If we weren’t sailing, it would be a great temperature for a swim!” [He means degrees Celsius, of course.] And that’s why the ice can keep melting even after the air temperature goes below freezing.
Here’s a video from the ship, with the caption, “In the dark of night, on the Chukchi Sea off Wrangel Island, three men steer the “Northern Passage” past ice floes and icebergs. Persistence and caution is demanded every moment of their journey!