On June 19th 2016, the Polar Ocean Challenge expedition left Bristol in the boat Northabout to circumnavigate the North Pole anticlockwise. By doing this they hoped to demonstrate that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through.
Permanent irreversible change in the sea ice landscape of the Arctic seems to them inevitable. This will / is already having global economic political, social and environmental implications. The goal seems lofty and idealistic enough.
There is only one major problem. The Arctic Ice Cap isn’t cooperating. Let us take a look at the polar ice cap on Aug 6, 2015.
The North East Passage was open for clear sailing the whole Russian coastline and they planned to go through the North East Passage ice choke point, Cape Chelyuskin on or about Aug 5. 2016. It is now Aug 8, and the boat is huddling in a sheltered cove waiting for the ice to melt. Taking a look at the Arctic ice cap for Aug 6, 2016.There seems to be a lot of melting left to be done before they can pass through the choke point.
How bad is it? The total Arctic ice volume on Aug 6 last year was around 6250 cubic kilometre. This year the volume on Aug 6 was about 8000 km3, a year to year increase of about 28%. The ice volume is now very close to the 30 year average.
Reality has a way of getting in the way of the best laid plans and the most ambitious climate models.
If you want to follow the future adventures of the ship Northabout, their website is http://polarocean.co.uk/calendar/
Update: Looking at the tracker, Northabout seems to have passed Cape Cherlyuskin the afternoon of Aug 9, only 4 days behind schedule. They should be able to sail another 50 miles or so before hitting heavy pack ice.