Friday, December 27, 2013

Locked in The Ice (Updates)

The Australian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 
Intrepid Science:

 Chris Turney is a Professor of Climate Change, a Laureate Fellow at the University of New South Wales and a popular science writer.  His new book is called '1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica' and is published in Australia by Text Publishing (Bodley Head in the UK and Counterpoint Press in North America). A climber, surfer and qualified scuba diver, he was science advisor and played a leading role in the 2009 Channel 4 TV series Man on Earth led by Tony Robinson. Chris is currently organizing and leading the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition – the AAE – will truly meld science and adventure, repeating century old measurements to discover and communicate the changes taking place in this remote and pristine environment. 

In 1909, Douglas Mawson was 27 years old and already an Antarctic veteran. A trained geologist, he had effectively reached the area of the South Magnetic Pole as part of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic ‘Nimrod’ expedition.

Spirit of Mawson

Today the pack ice is just too thick at the moment to make further headway so we're heading back north to try and find another way into Commonwealth Bay tomorrow. 

 Intrepid Science


Boxing Day with The Ice 

 A short movie showing the blizzard conditions we're currently experiencing.  On Christmas Eve we realized we could not get through the sea ice, in spite of being just 2 nautical miles from open water. We hoped the conditions would change but several low pressure systems have passed over us during the last few days and these have held the ice fast.  The weather is predicted to improve significantly tomorrow.  We just wanted to let all our family and friends know there is no risk to the vessel and everyone is well.


Locked in The Ice 

 A short tour of the outside of our expedition vessel, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, during today's blizzard. The good news is the atmospheric pressure is rising, suggesting the worst of the conditions are behind us. Meanwhile, the science program continues.

The Science Case


12/27/13 Rescue Update Icebreakers

Akademik Stuck in Sea Ice

Akademik Shokalskiy Crew and Penguins 
This is getting tense for the Akademik Shokalskiy grew.  She is an ice-strengthen ship, in 1998  was fully refurbished to serve as a research ship for Arctic and Antarctic work. 

Tonnage: 1,764 GT  
Length: 71.06 m (233 ft 2 in)  
Beam: 12.82 m (42 ft 1 in) 
Draught: 4.50 m (14 ft 9 in) 
Ice class: AS.

Snow Dragon (Xue Long)
The Snow Dragon (Xue Long) icebreaker is no small vessel. 

Displacement: 21,025 tons 
Length: 167 m (548 ft)  
Beam: 22.6 m (74 ft)  Draft: 9 m (30 ft)  
Ice class: CCS B1 

And she can't get within  6 to 7 miles from the Shokalskiy. Report was 10 Ft. thick ice, some of these icebreakers can ram ice of 21 Ft. thick, backup and hit it again! Normally the ship's hull will rise on the ice and with the weight increasing, breaks through the ice but at a slow pace usually 2 to 5 knots and an ice thickness of 4 Ft.

Performance varies on size of the ship.  Nuclear-powered icebreakers can force through this ice at speeds up to 10 knots (19 km/h, 12 mph) with ice up to 8 Ft. thick.  In ice-free waters, the maximum speed of the nuclear-powered icebreakers is as much as 21 knots (39 km/h, 24 mph).  In August 2012 Russia's state-owned nuclear corporation, Rosatom, signed a contract to begin construction on what will be the world's largest nuclear icebreaker, a "universal" vessel that could navigate both shallower rivers and the freezing depths of the Arctic. 

50 Let Pobedy
Nuclear Powered 
Displacement: 25,840 tons 
Length: 159.60 m (523 ft 7 in) 
Beam: 30 m (98 ft 5 in) (max) 28 m (92 ft) (waterline) 
Draught: 11.08 m (36 ft 4 in) 
Depth: 17.2 m (56 ft 5 in)
Ice class: LL1

Arktika-class icebreakers have a double hull, with the outer hull being approximately 48 mm thick at the ice-breaking areas and 25 mm thick elsewhere. There is water ballast between the inner and outer hulls which can be shifted to aid icebreaking.  Icebreaking is also assisted by an air bubbling system which can deliver 24 m³/s of air from jets 9 m below the surface.  Some ships have polymer coated hulls to reduce friction.  Arktika-class ships can break ice while making way either forwards or backward.  These ships must cruise in cold water, in order to cool their reactors. As a result, they cannot pass through the tropics to undertake voyages in the Southern Hemisphere so we're going to see no help from these monsters.

Along side of the Snow Dragon is the L'Astrolabe also assisting in the rescue, she is no cupcake.

Tonnage: 1,753 GWT 
Length: 65.5 m (214 ft 11 in) 
Beam: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in) 
Depth: 5.35 m (17 ft 7 in) 
Ice class: 1A Super.

Aurora Australis
Now both icebreakers near the Akademik Shokalskiy are waiting for the Aurora Australis icebreaker to assist. 

Displacement: 8,158 tons 
Length: 94.91 m (311.4 ft) 
Beam: 20.3 m (67 ft) 
Draught: 7.862 m (25.79 ft) 
Depth: 10.43 m (34.2 ft) 
Ice class: LR 1A Super Icebreaker. 

She is steaming towards the locked sea ice and will be arriving Sunday.  It's summer time down in Antarctica, Dec thru March so the timing is right but the heavy winds have been pushing the sea ice around. Wonder what the service charge is for 3 icebreakers for $assistance$, that's going to cut into the expedition budget.  

12/30/13- Abandon Ship! 

Shokalskiy Antarctica's Ghost Ship

Well, the Aurora got within 10 nautical miles of the Shokalskiy and can't break through the ice to reach her.  The weather has diminished due to snow and high winds so the helicopter from the Snow Dragon will start airlifting the team, the chopper can only carry 15 people at a time, so it would have to make five trips to evacuate all of the crew, wow what about your gear?  I would think the skipper and engineering crew will be last to leave the Shokalskiy due to the fact of shutting her down and locking her up for a long lonely stay at sea with no crew.  Can't drop anchor so a close eye will be on the ship once the Sea Ice decides to let her go. Wow, the Shokalskiy is The Antarctica Ghost Ship. 

11:46 CST looks like the passengers and crew will be celebrating New Years on Ice.  Due to bad weather the chopper can't fly and will have to wait for the weather to break.  Here's an interesting twist, rescuers plan to move all of the 52 passengers from the ship, 74 in all which 22 are crew members to the Snow Dragon with most crew members expected to stay on the Shokalskiy, AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) said.  Man, that's going to be a long stay just hanging out waiting for the ice to let the Shokalskiy go, is that considered hazard pay?

 1/2/14- Chinese helicopter arrival at the Shokalskiy 

From the Team: The helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long has just arrived to check out the helipad we have prepared. It's great to see them and hear about all the hard work the Australian Antarctic Division's icebreaker (the Aurora australis) has been doing on our behalf. The helicopter team seem happy and just heard it is 100% certain the first of four AAE teams is off in the hour! Thanks so much for everyone's help and support.


1/3/14- Now the Snow Dragon is Stuck!

What a story all of this is turning out to be.  After the rescue of the 52 passengers aboard the Shokalskiy, reports coming over the wire have it the Snow Dragon is caught in the ice and can't maneuver.  So the passengers were flown over to the Aurora where she will steam them to Austria after stopping over at Casey, the Australian Antarctic base.  But since the Snow Dragon is stuck the Aurora is on standby in open water to assist when conditions improve by later this week.   The phrase "luck is not a factor" is ringing true for all the captains trying to free the Shokalskiy. What I like to know where is the L'Astrolabe the French icebreaker? Last position received Area: Tasman Sea, Latitude / Longitude: -42.88244 / 147.3407, Speed/Course: 0.00kn / - Currently in Port: HOBART, ah where it's nice and warm, guess she was called off.

Marine Traffic 

1/4/14- The Polar Star Underway 

Coast Guard Pacific Area Command Center evaluated the situation and determined there is sufficient concern that the vessels may not be able to free themselves from the ice, the Coast Guard reported.  AMSA has been coordinating rescue operations since the Akademik Shokalskiy became beset with ice on Dec. 24.  The Polar Star will cut short its planned stop in Sydney to support the AMSA’s request for assistance.  Alrighty then The Polar Star on Operation Deep Freeze from her home port in Seattle, ship’s mission is to break a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to resupply and refuel the U.S. Antarctic Program’s (USAP) McMurdo Station on Ross Island.  She is steaming out of Port Sydney right now, what are the chances that 4 icebreakers were to assist in this rescue mission, this has to be a first!

Class & type: Polar-class icebreaker
Displacement: 10,863 long tons (11,037 t) (standard) 13,623 long tons (13,842 t)
Length: 399 ft (122 m)
Beam: 83 ft 6 in (25.45 m)
Draft: 31 ft (9.4 m)
Installed power: Six Alco 16V-251F diesel engines (6 × 3,000 hp) Three Pratt & Whitney FT-4A12 gas turbines (3 × 25,000 hp)
Propulsion: Combined diesel-electric or gas (CODLOG) Three shafts; controllable pitch propellers
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) in 6-foot (1.8 m) ice
Range: 16,000 nautical miles

With such a sturdy hull and high power to back it up, the 13,000-ton (13,200 metric ton) Polar Star is able to break through ice up to 21 feet (6 m) thick and steam continuously through 6 feet (1.8 m) of ice at 3 knots (6 km/h).  Notice in this photo the hull design allows the ship to ride up on the ice and crush it.

Location of The Polar Star  (1/5/14 note: The Polar Star out of range need to use Satellite tracker)

Breaking The Ice

This is the USCG Polar Sea Ice Breaker (sister ship To The Polar Star) just after it turned the corner towards the ice dock. It is breaking the ice that is apx. 13-15 feet thick. Both the Polar Sea and the Polar Star were sent down for the 2003-2004 season to clear the ice channel to McMurdo. Watch how the hull rises on the ice at 0:28 time slot of this vid and slowly comes crushing down on the ice.  

The Snow Dragon and the Shokalskiy will be free soon, like to know the cost of this operation. Four countries took part in this, France, China, Australia and the US, that's a hell of a rescue!  One for the History Books.  

Well, it seems the science team got caught in their experiment and that was the ice itself.  From observing the ice charts ah, the sea ice around  Antarctic was unusually high in November any skipper would know this, so going forward you're going to get stuck unless you're The Polar Star and the irony of the carbon footprint of it all.  The team said they would plant 800 Kauri trees in New Zealand to offset the contribution to global warming.  Rodney Hide, the former head of New Zealand’s ACT Party who now writes for the Herald on Sunday says that the expedition would have to plant about 5,000 trees.  You know something if that's the case from just 5 ships and one helicopter and we go back to the Industrial Revolution to today, is there enough land to plant all those trees?  Hell, we should be dead already.     

Arctic and Antarctica Sea Ice News   

 Video uploaded by U Tube user John Weaver


1/7/14-The Akademik Shokalskiy and Snow Dragon Break Free

Well. the wind changed like the crew was hoping for and a crack formed in the ice around the Shokalskiy.  She broke free and the Skipper said their zig-zagging through the ice steaming slow with a heavy mist with a visibility of 500 meters and 20 nautical miles from where they were stuck. The Snow Dragon has also broke loose and is just south of the Shokalskiy, the ice is tough going so I'm sure the Snow Dragon will catch up so the Shokalskiy can follow in her wake.  The Polar Star would not be showing up until another week having just left Sydney but that crew has much work to do, Operation Deep Freeze.  

Happy sailing to all the crews and calm seas.


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