Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

At the polar ice edge

20 Comments

(In the last post, we finally got ashore in Barrow, America’s northernmost town, after being weatherbound on board for 2 days. A fun night with our new friends Craig, Cyd, and a few others inspired us to try to find a walrus at the ice edge the next morning!)

Celeste among growlers

Celeste approaches the polar ice

The wind and seas had died down as predicted, so after we broke our anchor free – it was buried so much after the gale that its roll bar was caked with mud –

Weighing anchor after the gale

Look how well that was set! Check out the mud on the roll bar!

Celeste had a beautiful sail north to the edge of the polar pack ice, close-reaching in a light northerly. We added to our tally of eiders and long-tailed ducks and, as we progressed a little more offshore, we saw many northern fulmars, but this time white morph rather than the dark morphs we’d seen in the Bering Sea.

Northern fulmar, white morph

White-morph northern fulmar, Beaufort Sea north of Barrow

Sighting the ice reminded us a lot of raising a coral atoll – while still in the distance, the line of ice looked like low-lying land, gleaming white. Of course the cold was not at all like a coral atoll, nor was the absence of green palm fronds… or the heat distortion on the horizon from the liquid ocean being warmer than the air above the ice.

Ellen checks out the ice

Ellen watches as we come closer to the ice

The wind died completely as we got closer, so we started the engine but consoled ourselves that the calm would make it much easier to get the under-over photographs we wanted. As we got closer, we could see the twisted and uplifted pressure ridges in the pack ice. Growlers appeared around us. Before they got too big and close together, we launched the dinghy and Seth rowed off to take pictures of Celeste, both topside and under-over.

Celeste among growlers

Under-over Celeste with ice

Under-over of Celeste with a growler

Seth in the dinghy looked pretty small among the bergy bits, and the ocean – for that’s what all this ice was – felt very big, cold, and indifferent.

Seth in the ice

After much offshore sailing, including two month-long passages without sight of land, we’re fairly used to this sense of vast emptiness, but the pack ice intensified that feeling. Neither of us find it frightening; rather, it’s awe-inspiring and humbling. Perhaps what captured it most of all was the sound of slow surf – the swell hitting the pack ice – and realizing that the swell was simply hitting another form of ocean, frozen ocean, that stretched in all directions, across the Pole to Siberia, Svalbard, and Greenland.

Polar ice

All the time I was scanning the ice with binoculars, looking for walrus. In all the hours we drifted there, looking hard, we sadly saw none. We were very disappointed, although a gray whale and a few ringed seals (the favored food of the polar bear) somewhat made up for it. Still, we were very sad to have missed one of our most-wanted arctic creatures.

We took it easy motoring back, not revving the engine too much and just enjoying dinner underway. The arctic light was beautiful on the water and then came the glow of colors at sunset and sunrise (for the sun did set that night and rose again an hour or so later). We had a much easier time entering Elson Lagoon this time, following the track we’d drawn on the chart from our first attempt rather than the erroneous channel that the chart itself showed. The lagoon was beautifully calm, a huge change from our first few days there, so we had a very sound night’s sleep after a wonderful day.

First sunset in a weeks

First real sunset in several weeks

 

 

 

 

Author: Ellen

Circumnavigator, Arctic voyager, writer/photographer

20 thoughts on “At the polar ice edge

  1. Pingback: Anchored at the top of America, Part 1: Shifting winds, tundra town, and muktuk! | Gone Floatabout

  2. Lovely blog, just found you guys, will follow your on the adventures, check y live aboard life 2 if you want 🙂

  3. Another delightful read! Celeste looks great as well. How much fuel and water do you have on board?

    • Thanks for reading! I’m glad you’re enjoying the updates!

      We carry 100 gallons of water and our desalinator makes 1.5 gallons per hour on only 4 amps – we can run it on solar panels alone – pretty good! It makes a little less when the water is very cold (check out our video about it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx6UBtYMppM&feature=youtu.be)

      For fuel, we carry 50 gallons of diesel in the main tank and another 50 gallons in jerry jugs. We carry 35 pounds of propane for cooking. The diesel was a bit excessive because we had so much wind and rarely needed to motor! But better safe than sorry!

  4. fantastic pics! I especially liked the under-over one – guess you did not go for a swim then? 😉
    Seth looked a bit “lost” in the dinghy, and I can only try to imagine how amazing and impressive this was…
    Thanks!

    • Thank you, Hubert! No, Seth didn’t go for a swim for the under/over shot – just leaned out of the dinghy with the camera in its underwater housing. The calm day made for good results, though!

  5. What an amazing adventure! Thanks again for sharing it with those of us a bit less adventurous. Hope you have enjoyed another great winter in the mountains.

    • Thanks, you two! And you guys are incredibly adventurous, by the way! How are things on your end? We have enjoyed another winter in the mountains, although there hasn’t been too much hiking/skiing on account of lots of work. Hope you’re well!

  6. Thanks for the update. Celeste looks great! Love the ice. How much fuel and water to you carry?

    • Thanks for reading! I’m glad you’re enjoying the updates!

      We carry 100 gallons of water and our desalinator makes 1.5 gallons per hour on only 4 amps – we can run it on solar panels alone – pretty good! It makes a little less when the water is very cold (check out our video about it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx6UBtYMppM&feature=youtu.be)

      For fuel, we carry 50 gallons of diesel in the main tank and another 50 gallons in jerry jugs. We carry 35 pounds of propane for cooking. The diesel was a bit excessive because we had so much wind and rarely needed to motor! But better safe than sorry!

  7. Stunning photos! I love the pic of Celeste in the ice.

  8. I am reading this post and looking at these photos and my breath is taken away. I have no idea how you two can be so brave and so adventurous to be sailing in the arctic. I gasps at the site of the dinghy rowing away for a photo and the under over photo is amazing. You two are world explores and I really marvel at your voyages. I am so glad to be following.
    Hayden, anchored in the Exumas.

    • Thank you so much, Hayden! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it all – it’s wonderful to be able to share it since it was such a special experience for us. I’ve been enjoying your posts, too, about the beautiful Exumas!

  9. Great achievement, even without the walrus! The images are glorious especially the over-under shot! Well done guys.

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