Sunday, July 17, 2016

When an Iceberg Wakes You UP -Baffin Bay |

Matt Rutherford -the first person to sail singlehanded, non-stop around the Americas (that means north of Canada and south of Cape Horn) now is doing some research for  NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland project.  But unlike NASA's high tech satellite and aerial views, Rutherford takes measurements from his sailboat -in northern Greenland.
Recently their night was rudely interrupted by an iceberg, as he recounts at the link below. - gwc

p.s. -Matt's story is told in the excellent documentary Red Dot on the Ocean.

Baffin Bay |
by Matt Rutherford

Our micro plastics survey in Baffin Bay would involve a 500 mile offshore passage. I wanted to make sure that everyone was well rested before we left so we prepared the vessel and went to bed early. Just as I was starting to fall asleep I heard a thumping noise coming from somewhere deep on our boat. Upernavik harbor has a good deal of ice in it and it isn’t uncommon for a chunk of ice the size of a vending machine to float by bouncing off the hull as it passes, but this was different. 

 I came out into the pilothouse and to my surprise there was a large berg a few feet from our haul. It was high tide which allowed a large berg that would typically run aground at the mouth of the harbor to come drifting in. It was an oddly shaped iceberg that had an underwater ice shelf protruding a good 20 feet. This underwater shelf was under our boat and bouncing off the bottom of our keel. The fear was that if this roughly 50 ton berg decided to roll it would lift the boat in the process. Although we were tied off, it still would have been bad. I yelled for the crew and everyone came scrambling out in socks and bare feet grabbing poles and attempting to push away this large chunk of ice. For the first five minutes it seemed like an impossible task but finally the berg slowly started to move away from the boat.

The berg drifted 100 feet and ran aground. I couldn’t go back to bed because we had another large berg approaching from behind that may or may not come crashing into our stern. After 3 hours the tide went out enough that all the large icebergs in the harbor were safely aground so I tried to get back to sleep. Just as I was nodding off I heard a loud crashing sound. The berg that was bouncing off our keel had broken apart with enough force to send a chunk of ice the size of an SUV careening through the water at a good 5kts passing right behind our vessel. The berg had broken into 1,000 pieces, several hundred of which had surrounded Ault and as we bounced up and down with the swell the small pieces of ice hit our steel hull making it sound like we were in a kettle drum. It’s hard to sleep through that!

After a sleepless night we pushed out into Baffin Bay. I knew it would be a relatively easy offshore run as our weather forecast showed very light winds for the entire passage.