Expedition Around North America
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Leg 8 :
Point Barrow - Dutch Harbor (Alaska)
(10 - 23 September, 2008
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Leg 8
Point Barrow - Dutch Harbor (Alaska)
(10 - 23 September, 2008 )

23 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Dutch Harbor, Spit Dock, 53°54’N – 166°30’W
22h00 local time

We set sail early because we want to be in Dutch Harbor before the wind starts to blow hardly. When we arrive, we remark that the tiller is hard to manoeuvre and find out that a part is broken. Fortunately it happens just when we arrive and we’re in the good spot to fix it with a lots of workshops.
Our arrival to Dutch Harbor marks the end of our leg number height. We’re now away from the Arctic region. In the South starts the immensity of the Pacific Ocean.

For this leg the crew was :

On top from left to right : Monique Golliot (France), Emmanuel Correia (France), Guy Clavel (France), Bernard Grunewald (France), Milos Gregar (Tchéquia), Honza Gregar (Tchéquia), Lukas Reitinger (Tchéquia).

On bottom from left to right : Laurent Ceresoli (France), Michel Mottier (Swisserland), Eva Skorepova (Tchéquia), Olivier Pitras (France).


Crew Point Barrow - Dutch Harbor - Olivier Pitras

Crew Point Barrow - Dutch Harbor
Photo Olivier Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
22 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Unalaska, Kalekta Bay, 53°57’N – 166°22’W
22h00 local time

We sail in the darkness on a flat sea. The wind is decreasing while we’re approaching the coast. Couple of fishing boats confirm that we’re in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor. Soon, the first lights of the city are visible on starboard side but we keep going on the route toward Kalekta Bay further East, near Akutan Pass.
Couple of hours before sunrise the moon rises up behind the clouds and give enough light to distinguish the black steep slopes of the mountains. In the night they look gigantic. We enter the bay which is visible only with the radar. Eyes do not see any perspective, the darkness is total. Only summits and ridges are visible and drawn the upper part of a deep black wall who rises up more and more, too much for our senses. A quick look to the radar tells us we’re still at 300 meters from the coast, we cast anchor, it’s 5h15 AM.
When we wake up, the boat is flooded by the sun. Slopes, deeply eroded, green, are a symphony for the eyes. We go on shore as soon as possible to enjoy this beautiful day. This small summit at 600 meters is OK to start. We did not walk really since Greenland. From the top, the view is amazing. Only volcanoes can shape such chaotic and gorgeous landscapes. We thank again this high pressure squeezed between two storms who gave us the opportunity to live such an exceptional day in this period of equinox. South winds are expected tomorrow.


Makushin Volcano - Olivier Pitras

Makushin Volcano
Photo Olivier Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
21 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Bering Sea, Approach of Unalaska

This high pressure who resists in the South of the Aleutian is providential. We can enjoy a steady wind from West to South West and we should keep it till destination before the Southerly wind predicted in 48 hours. A storm is building up south of Kamchatka, we have to keep a sharp eye on it. What ever, we’re sailing comfortable, what a change comparing with the rolling business of yesterday. We should arrive tomorrow morning at the anchorage we choose for landing on Unalaska Island. The night arrives, we’re 40 milles away from the bay.


Petrels - Laurent Ceresoli

Petrels
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
20 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
St Paul, Pribilov
22h50 local time

The reporter of the local radio pays us a visit for an interview. While talking, she confirms the decreasing of fur seals population these last years. Researches to find out why just start : Global warming, over fishing ? No scientist are present on the island to ask them about their investigation. The rest of the crew enjoy the last moment in this beautiful and peaceful place.
At one, everybody is onboard as planned for leaving. We start with light winds. Soon St Paul Island disappears in the mist. Couple of hours later, St Georges, the second Island of Pribilov archipelago is in sight. Off shore, “Dalnoi Point”, we check carefully the compass because magnetic anomalies are indicated on the map. When the Island is cleared, we can put more East in our South and go strait toward Unalaska in the Aleoutian.


Fur seal - Laurent Ceresoli

Fur seal
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
19 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
St Paul, Pribilov
22h30 local time

As usually, we have a warm welcome from the local population. In the afternoon, the crew goes to discover the Island guided by Catherine who knows every spot here. Fur seals are gathering by hundreds on the beach while Puffin are occupying cliffs. The grass here is so green, it’s amazing for us coming from the Far North with its harsh deserted flat lands.
In the evening, we’re invited to join the community at school for a dinner organized in view to help young people in California. A basket ball match is going on while we’re here. The local team against the Coast Guards. After this beautiful moment, we’re going back on board under a thin rain.


Puffin - Laurent Ceresoli

Puffin
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
18 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Bering Sea, Arrival St Paul, Pribilov
57°07’N – 170°17’W
23h55 local time

The wind is getting stronger, we’re sailing fast to our target. Our predictions for arrival are getting shorter. We cross hundreds of birds, petrel fulmar, storm petrel, couple of long tails Jaeger.
In the afternoon, the Island is visible (picture). The plan for landing is to clear the island by the west coast. We reach it at sunset, swell breaks heavily on to the cliffs. When we pass “Southwest Point” and its breakers, lights of the village are visible. The South coast is quite calm and we can conceive to enter the small harbor of Saint Paul. The entrance open to the west is shallow and could be dangerous by heavy swell. It’s 23h30 when the jetty protect us from the waves. Two fishing boats are unloading their catch, probably halibut.
Saint Paul Island is the westernmost point of the expedition.


Approach of Saint Laurent Island  _ Laurent Ceresoli

Approach of Saint Laurent Island
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
17 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Bering Sea, 59°49’N – 169°39’W
23h20 local time

The wind is steady blowing from the North-West. We sail direct toward Saint Paul Island. The Bering sea is peaceful. The team on deck watch the horizon for wildlife. Birds are more and more numerous, couple of whale blows are observed from a distance.
In the evening, before the moon rises, the night is dark like ink. The team on watch finish a manoeuvre in front when they hear a blow near the boat. The whale is there couple of meters but soon the darkness cut this mysterious vision off. When they come back in to the cockpit, a big smile on their face witness the scene there were alone to watch.


Watching for wildlife _ Laurent Ceresoli

Watching for wildlife
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
16 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Bering Sea, 62°20’N – 168°58’W
22h30 local time

We had a rolling night but it fulfilled our wishes. We set sails after breakfast toward St Paul Island, Probilov. Next to the east coast, we can see in the distance a fin which looks as a female killer whale one. After couple of hours, the island looks like an archipelago. Only mountains are visible, all flat land disappeared under the horizon.
During the day, we have a good deal of fog. The radar is watching and confirms what we already know : there is no much traffic in here. Our last vessel was in Queen Maud Gulf on August 22sd. The temperature is raising up to 16°C. We do not have on board the average curve for the season in this region but it looks very warm for mid September in the middle of Bering Sea.


Comoran _ Laurent Ceresoli

Comoran
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
15 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
St Lawrence Island – Bering Sea
63°20’N – 169°05’W
23h35 local time

The wind is falling down, we’re sailing slowly. The temperature is 11°C, for us, it’s almost tropical. We switch one heather off. The new wind chart, confirms the calm period of 48 hours, we’ll definitely call at St Lawrence Island waiting for the wind. At sunrise, the Island is in sight but we have to wait couple more hours to cast anchor next to a beach in the North East part of the coast.
The landscape is made of mountains (200 up to 670 meters high) separated with flat plains. Slopes are gentle and invite us for a trek on shore. Unfortunately, the swell is to big to land with the dinghy. We spent our afternoon busy, every one in his or her activities watching time to time this land we’ll not visit.
In the afternoon, a group of four men pay us a visit. They are coming back from a camp where they search for fossilised walrus ivories. Their village is still far away, they keep going and disappear soon to the horizon.


Ile Saint Lawrence _ Laurent Ceresoli

Ile Saint Lawrence
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
14 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Bering Sea, 64°05’N – 168°40’W
23h55 local time

At 2.30 AM we clear the Little Diomede on starboard side. We’re in the middle of the strait and according with the Canadian Arctic Pilot, we can validate our success through the North West Passage.

There is only nine years between my two crossing, but it’s a total different world. The aim of this expedition was a field investigation to collect witnesses about global warming but I was not expected at all to be witness myself in a such short time of changes in these regions.

While we’re sailing our first miles in Bering Sea, We have a special thought for our team on shore. It’s wonderful to know this sailing expedition is not only an addition of nautical miles and a sportive challenge. While we’re going on, the team on shore makes the message we want to spread a reality.

Climate change is a fantastic opportunity to review our relation with the environment. It’s impossible to find out which part belongs to the nature and which part belongs to the Human being in this change. It’s not a question to save the Earth but the Human being it self. The planet does not care about our extinction. It is 12 750 kilometres in diameter.
To the scale of an orange, the atmosphere is only a cigarette paper and the whole oceans are only three drops. Our vital space is not so big, we can spoil it very quickly in one hand and in the other hand it offers us every thing we dream about.

We have to rush to develop the energies of tomorrow. Fossils energy will last longer and we could control it more efficiently. It can be a huge economic development for our societies. Innovation and new technologies for a better use of natural resources must be one of the main focuses of industrialized countries who have the potential for massive investment in researches. Why searching around our solar system, it’s so much to do on Earth which is our unique and wonderful vessel.

Since the beginning of the afternoon, we have whales around. The weather is calm. We’re talking about calling shortly at St Lawrence Island to wait for the wind.


Diomedes Islands - Olivier Pitras

Diomedes Islands
Photo Olivier Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
13 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Chukchi Sea, approach of the Bering Strait
66°07’N – 168°33’W
22h30 local time

Winds are light. It is difficult to hold the sails, the swell makes them flapping by moment but we keep going downwind, to the good direction and still under a beautiful blue sky.
At 4.30 PM we pass the polar circle which announces us the proximity of the strait. At this speed, we will be obliged to wait for the second part of the night. In the evening, a very good visibility gives us the occasion to see both Diomedes Islands, Cape Dezhnev (804 meters) who marks the Siberian side of the strait and Cape Prince of Wales (697 meters) who marks the American side of the strait. The Diomedes are these two islands, only 4 kilometres away from each other, just in the middle of Bering Strait. One is Russian (Big Diomede 508 meters), the other one is American (Little Diomede 398 meters).
Here, between the Chukchi sea and the Bering sea, Russian are on the West, American are on the East and every one can look each other face to face


Sunset - Olivier Pitras

Sunset
Photo Olivier Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
12 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Chukchi Sea, 68°10’N – 167°13’W
22h45 local time

The weather is good, the sea calm, we sail quietly toward Cape Lisburne. Discussions are more and more about Bering Strait. In the afternoon, we are in front of Cape Lisburne. Its landscape is the end of the Brook’s range. These hills are magnificent for us after all these weeks spent in flat lands.
Just after, the sky clears up and we can enjoy a beautiful sun. The evening marks our entrance in Kotzebue Bay by Point Hope. It’s so nice to watch the sunset with its warm colours.


Cap Lisburne  - Laurent Ceresoli

Cap Lisburne
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
11 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Chukchi Sea, 70°N – 164°20’W
23h50 local time

Our concentration is total. We ask the darkness, we torture our senses to identify the ice. Presence of fluo plankton helps us a bit but our best is to spot pieces of ice less than forty meters away. We’re lucky, the weather is good and pack ice not dense. We keep in mind potential technical problems we could have with a piece we did not see.
When the light comes back, we welcome it with big enthusiasm. Some part are finally quite dense in patches without being a real obstruction. A bow whale pay us a visit. It’s 5 PM when we clear the last ice in our stern. From now we should be in ice free water.


Last ice-pack - Olivier Pitras

Last ice-pack
Photo Olivier Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
10 september , 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 8)
Chukchi Sea, 71°02’N – 159°15’W
23h55 local time

10 AM, we’re setting sail for the eighth leg of the expedition.
Everything is grey with scattered snow showers. We take the pass to the off shore. Soon we clear the thin sand stripe of Point Barrow which is the Northernmost point of Alaska. The depth sounder indicates six meters. What a comfort to feel more water under the keel. The Dew line’s buildings break the extreme monotony of the tundra while we’re heading for Franklin Point.
The ice chart shows some in the vicinity of this point, nothing dense but thick. At 5 PM, we can see the first pieces. We keep going same direction. The light decreases, a heavy snow sticks to the Plexiglas. We’re watching outside, well dressed, it’s cold. Before midnight, we reduce the speed, it’s dark now. The bigger pieces of pack ice are thick enough to be visible on the radar.
For visual watch, the searchlight is useless with the snow. Night vision is finally the best, we are careful to stay away from white light who destroy it. We put a piece of plywood on top of the kitchen hatch because we come often here to prepare warm drinks. The night promises us to be long.



Point Barrow - Laurent Ceresoli

Point Barrow
Photo Laurent Ceresoli
(Click to enlarge)
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