(By Correne Coetzer) The two Frenchmen experience the Arctic Ocean in all its facets; a storm, freezing cold, humid sleeping bags, negative drift, positive drift, fog, sunshine, snow, no wind for their sails, frequent unwanted baths, crawling on young ice layers, all in good spirits.
Sebastien Roubinet and Vincent Berthet, who are using wind and human power aboard their catamaran, Babouchka, across water and ice, aim to travel in as much open water as they can find. This way they had to sail west and sometimes south to find water paths to the north.
75 degrees North
75°N was a landmark for the team, hoping to find better conditions on ice as open channels will get increasingly rare from there on. On July 29th they crossed the 75th degree of latitude and reported covering 7 nautical miles by gliding on a very thin layer of ice just strong enough for them to head north in a straight line. They also reported that large plates of ice are already different, switching from brown and bumpy to white and flat.
The last week Roubinet and Berthet reported "playing with ice and wind" to find their way towards the Northwest. "We are reaching the best position around ice to navigate North", while warming themselves with tea that is boiled directly from their solar panel power.
They sailed south to get around a large plate of ice blocking them, and once that was done, they reoriented their route to north-northwest at high speed (10 knots in gusts) they reported on August 7th. "Our progression was excellent, but around 3pm, the wind went up (35 knots) getting too strong to sail within the ice blocks." They decided to stop to let go the worst of the storm and secured themselves on a large plate, drifting northeast at 0.5 knots.
The storm left behind a devastated landscape, said the crew, "broken plates, and ice debris living their last hours... The biggest plates have resisted the gale, but are now much smaller. Thus we are enjoying a path of honor opened to the North-Northwest, in the direction we decided to follow."
Water damage and wildlife
The team has limited spare parts with them and counts on themselves to fix anything that breaks. They reported a salt water leak into a box that was supposed to be watertight and some of their spare batteries for their GPS unit were damaged, as well as their spare satellite phone.
Although wildlife is not in abundance in the high Arctic Ocean, Sebastien and Vincent saw seagulls, which surprised them, and beluga whales. A young male bear was curious enough to come within 20 meters of them. Despite shouting, they had to fire their emergency flare close to the bear's feet before he turned away.
The two Frenchmen have started their Arctic crossing from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitsbergen via the North Pole on July 6.
Last year Roubinet also attempted this North Pole crossing, but, with nearly 400nm done, returned back to their start point due to technical problems and a negative drift. The planning for this North Pole crossing started 5 years ago.
2007: Northwest Passage Crossing, only by sail on “Babouche”, 4 months, 5000 nautical miles
2006: The tour of Québec on “Babouche”, 2.5 months, 2700 nautical miles
2004:Expedition along the East coast of Greenland on “Tara”
2001:Raid on Hobie Cat in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, 2 months, 2000 nautical miles
2012: 1000km kayaking trip in East Greenland in autonomy. 2 months.
2010:"Deepsea Under the Pole", a diving expedition under the North Pole sea ice.
2008/2009:"Around North America", a one-year sailing expedition around USA and Canada.
1995/2000: "Jules Verne Expeditions", five years on a school ship.
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#polar #oceans #sebastienroubinet #vincentberthet #catamaran #northpole #arcticocean #lemanguier #babouchka