Delayed Departure Of Several Hours Likely Caused Doomed Vessel To Lose Race Against The Weather

Reader Aphan posted a comment providing a link to the website of one of the passengers, Janet Rice, an Australian Green politician, who was along on the trip. In it she describes the events of December 23 that led to a delay in the departure of the vessel, and thus causing it to lose the race against the invading sea ice.

Here’s an excerpt from the day’s entry (my emphasis):

The first drama of the day was the sinking – or almost! – of one of the Argos. The Argos are designed to be amphibious – just. They were launched today off the ship – and two of the three made it safely being towed by a zodiac the 50 metres or so to shore. The third was towed too fast it seems – and water came over the bonnet / bow, flooding both the engine and the vehicle itself. Ben tried in vain to bail out with a spade and luckily they made it to shore before the vehicle sunk entirely. Ben ended up rather wet too, but similarly to Mary, not submerged enough for the lifejacket to come into play. Sadly Argo engines don’t take too kindly to being submerged… the ships engineers are still working on it and not very optimistic about its prospects.

The third drama of the day is the one which is still unfolding. Because of the Argo mishap we got off late, and had one less vehicle to ferry people to and fro.I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in. As I write we are continuing to make extremely slow progress through what looks like a winter alpine snow field – it’s yet another surreal part of this journey that we are in a ship trying to barge our way through here! I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier. Maybe we would have made it through the worst before it consolidated as much as it has with the very cold south- easterly winds blowing the ice away from the coast, around and behind us as well as ahead.

We’ll see where we are in the morning – it may be a very white Christmas Eve!

PS. 9.30am 24/12. We have moved less than a kilometre over night, and are now stationary in a sea of ice. The word is that we are not stuck, merely waiting for a weather change. It seems to me that we are having the quintessential Antarctic experience.J Stay tuned.”

Clearly the captain of the ship had gotten antsy and wanted to leave hours sooner. But the passengers’ escapades and dithering likely became the decisive screw-up that led to them getting trapped in ice for 10 days and turning the expedition into a debacle for the world to see.

17 responses to “Delayed Departure Of Several Hours Likely Caused Doomed Vessel To Lose Race Against The Weather”

  1. John F. Hultquist

    With modern communications and photographic material and way too many people the story is unfolding in real or near-real time. This can’t be hidden from the people that paid for it.

    I’m glad to see the Captain placed in a better light by this post of an Australian Green politician – even if she is a less than astute observer of life.

  2. Foxgoose

    This lady seems to be a bit accident prone. From her December 20th blog:-

    Our own much more modest trip than the Mawson’s Huts trip continued to be not straightforward. It was very soon after we made the decision to turn around that the Argo started experiencing fuel intake problems, cutting out every 700m or so and needing to recover for 5-10 minutes. Then we made radio contact with the ship (which we could now see on the horizon), and were advised that we’d need to take a route to the north and west of the one we were on – a major breakout meant the ice we had travelled over in the morning was no longer there! We deviated appropriately but just a few kilometres from the ship found ourselves blocked by a tide crack, 1-2 metres wide.

    That’s when things started to get a bit tetchy. We lurched along in the spluttering Argo for some distance along this crack looking vainly for a crossing point. At one of our enforced stops we took stock of our situation. The advice from the ship had been to continue in this direction. But how far was sensible? Were there other options? The crack extended off to the distant horizon, we had not much fuel left and a sick vehicle.

    The penguins gave some light relief. Like olympic athletes in their lap pool, they were swimming and duck diving up the crack. Their acrobatic leaps out of the water became triple twists in mid air with accompanying startled squawks as they became aware we were in their path!

    We made radio contact again. Come back to the just formed harbour we were advised. We and our gear could be picked up in a zodiac, leaving the Argo and two quad bikes behind for the ship to pick up later. Greg arrived at the shore soon after we did. Cheery, wry, quiet, calm Greg to the rescue!

  3. ArndB

    “Akademik Shokalskiy” is presumably named after: Yuly Mikhailovich Shokalsky (1856-1940), and his most important monograph was Oceanography (1917).
    Would he have run the ship in such problems??
    In a paper read before the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Edinburgh on the 30th Jan.1935:
    ___“The branch of the North Atlantic Current which enters it by way of the edge of the continental shelf round Spitsbergen has evidently been increasing in volume, and has introduced a body of warm water so great, that the surface layer of cold water which was 200 meters thick in Nansen’s time (1895/96), has now been reduced to less than 100 meters in thickness” (Scottish Geogr. Magazin, 1936, pp. 73ff ); Extract from http://www.arctic-heats-up.com/chapter_7.html
    On the occation of his lecture he received the Society’s Research Medal.

  4. Bernd Felsche

    Synopsis: Their own obsessions almost resulted in them becoming another statistic in the most hostile place on the planet.

  5. G. Watkins

    Aphan’s diligence is to be praised. Big hit at WUWT. Might be important when bill is presented.
    I discovered, after listening to a video on WUWT, and quick google that Turk(n)ey is in fact English, educated at Holloway (famous prison for ladies) and University of East Anglia!
    Former Prof. at Exeter, H.Q. of the Met. Office.
    One couldn’t make it up even if one tried.
    Follow this to the end Pierre.

  6. G. Watkins

    Watching the cricket, not at all obsessed !?

  7. ike

    Just heard on radiostation Bayern3, that the Aurora now itself is stuck and needs help. I searched using google, but could not find any news about this. Maybe someone knows where to look.

    Regards
    Ike

  8. ike

    Correction: the Chinese seems concerned and the Aurora is ordered on standby. See here: http://www.amsa.gov.au

    There in the section newsroom you will find the newest media releases.

  9. John Page

    What difference would a few hours have really made?

    1. DirkH

      “What difference would a few hours have really made?”

      Difference between getting out and not getting out. For that matter, seconds can make the difference, obviously.

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  11. AbInitio

    Never mind that they had already been forced to leave the ship over 70 klicks from Mawson’s spot, because of the ice extent. That wasn’t “fast ice”. The simple fact is, photographic evidence shows that there is simply more ice there than there was 100 years ago.

    Over 50% of the people in the US will experience temperatures of 0 degrees F, or less, tomorrow. I heard one of the warm-cultists strike back by saying that “warm air carries more moisture, thus more snow”. But… nobody was talking about the snow. They were talking about the sub-zero TEMPERATURES. These people throw out total non-sequitir responses, and then gloat as if they have “settled” everything.

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  13. Mkelley

    Plentywood, Montana will reach a high of -21 degrees F. tomorrow with winds of 20 to 25 miles per hour.

  14. MadMike

    If they had been environmentally conscious and used “green” powered skiffs instead of those fossil fuel burning ones they would have not had all the delays. Karma is an unforgiving wench. hehehehe