NUNAVIK'S LOG BOOK

ARRIVAL AT DESTINATION

The MV Nunavik recently completed its historic voyage through the Northwest Passage.

We wish to thank:  Captain Randy Rose and his crew for their safe and efficient navigation; Tim Keane and Gary Bishop for eloquently sharing this adventure with us;  valued customer, Canadian Royalties; our Fednav Arctic team in Montreal; and our faithful readers.

This project has been a memorable one for us all, thank you for following our journey.

Your friends at Fednav

Day 26, THE BITTER END

We, as one big Fednav team, have come to the end of our historic voyage across the Northwest Passage.

Thanks to everyone for following us and making this trip a memory that we will never forget. It's a bittersweet end for me, as this is my last voyage after 22 years at sea. I will transition now to an office job as a superintendent and become one of you landlubbers.

I want to thank everyone at Fednav for giving me this privilege as Chief Engineer to take new delivery of the Nunavik in Japan, travel through the Panama Canal to Deception Bay, and then later back to China through the NWP to, in essence, circumnavigate the big island of North America. Writing the blog has been a great way for me to fully appreciate what we have done and to be sure a good record has been kept. I hope you all enjoyed my Newfoundland humour and either laughed with me or at me, it's all the same.

I'd like to thank Ariel Regev for keeping the blog updated and Philippe Gauthier for the French translation. I Also want to thank my amazing wife, Nicole Bishop, for always supporting my life at sea. Good friends, Mike Hennabury, John Drover, Pamela Sooley, and Brian Searwar, kept feeding me facts along the way. But most importantly, I have to thank our Captain and good friend, Randy Rose. His excellent leadership, amazing relationship with all crew, vast knowledge of ice conditions, safety-first attitude, 25 years' experience in the Arctic, and ability to take a good joke against him, has made this the trip of a lifetime.

Live your dreams!

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

DAY 25, PATIENCE

As we make the approaches to Dalian and the Laotiesha Shuidao traffic zone, the Captain remarks it feels like being on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the 1980s. Fishing boats of every size and shape dot the water no more than 500 feet apart. The mate on watch carefully weaves in and out around the various fishing trawlers, buoys, and nets, making sure not to cause any trouble. Dalian, where 6.7 million people live, is China's fifth largest port city and was voted China's most liveable city and one of the best tourist cities.

Maybe someday I will have time to come visit, but for now, all work and no play. Almost there—only one extra day after 25, and with all the weather that we had to endure—not so bad. All we need is just a little patience. Hmmm, must find "Patience" by Guns N' Roses and play through the ships speakers . . . Hehe.

We will arrive at the Bayuquan pilot station tomorrow morning at 06:00. From there, we have received the green light to proceed to the dock for unloading. The Plan is to be at the dock for only 40 hours and with 14 crew paying off, new crew arriving, some minor repairs, stores arriving, surveys to complete, and one last Blog entry to write, it will be a very busy port call indeed!

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 24, THAT'S NICE

Another hard night to sleep and day to follow. 

Storm force winds of 40-50 knots from the North have built waves 6-8 metres high and with the vessel northbound to Bayuquan, China, we are heading directly into it. The Captain has reduced the vessels speed to 3.5 knots to lower the effects of the ship heavy pitching and slamming into the waves, which is compounded with the bow shape of an icebreaker. 

Due to the huge seas head-on, impressive plumes of water and mist break over the bow and water is being taken on both sides of the main deck and sweeping back 120m to the accommodation block.

The height and frequency of the wave is increased due to the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea. Aptly named due to the golden yellow surface of the water created by sands particles from the Gobi desert sand storms. But today's weather has turned this golden yellow into dark blue with white wave tops and spray. The effect of all this motion on the body has taken the good out of most crew. 

With my flight booked out of China on the 16th, I try to encourage the Captain to go faster, but his reply,  in Mrs. Brown's words, "That's nice," leaves me with little hope....The forecast shows that the sea should reduce late in the evening and if we can then get back to speed our new ETA will be on the 15th, just in time.

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 23, LOVE LAND

At noon today, we passed between the southern tip of South Korea and Cheju Do (island). This semi-tropical paradise was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the world. At its centre is UNESCO Hallasan Volcano which is famous for many hikers. The long stretches of beach and beautiful resorts are a favourite for honeymoons, including one aptly named “Jeju Love Land.” You will have to Google this one yourself . . .  

As we turn north toward China, we have luckily avoided the major impact of Typhoon Vongfong by about 300Nm, leaving us with only a 2.5m swell. Within a 70-mile radius, there are now over 100 ships, including a new, 317300-DWT crude oil tanker, named
MV Al KOUT, completing its sea trials.

With the strong wind still at our stern we eased along at 13 knots effortlessly, having to slow the engine down several times to maintain our speed. With only 48 hours to go before arriving at our destination, we are starting to feel the “channels.”  Things seem very quiet on board; crew members are working inside, cleaning and polishing the accommodations for arrival. The guys off-shift are beginning to pack their bags and prepare for the next crew.

After 8 weeks on board and halfway around the world, the Captain and I are anxious to get home to our families. A grey, overcast, drizzly day ended perfectly with another spectacular sunset.

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

day 22, NEWFOUNDLANDERS EVERYWHERE!

We awoke to another beautiful sunny day in the Sea of Japan. As midday approached, the temperature climbed to 21°C. 

Currently, we have 6 vessels in our relative vicinity, 1.5m of wave height and 23 knots of wind in an East-Northeast direction. With the wind up our stern, we were not able to find a suitable location for our BBQ, but we will keep trying!

We will be conducting several drills today, in preparation for arrival. Included is a security drill, during whichthere will be a fake bomb hidden on the vessel. A bomb threat call is to come in and the alarm will be sounded. Four teams will be sent to search their assigned areas and each will be tested on how well they search and secure their zones and locating the bomb. When it is found, the ship's security officer will be notified and calls will be made to authorities for assistance. Depending on location and what we find, several different scenarios will beplayed out. Crew on board a ship must "know the ropes" and be trained in all aspects of security and lifesaving services that we find on land.

Still on a Southwest heading, at 23:00, we will begin passing through the Korean strait and expecting lots of small fishing boats in the area. On our Stbd beam will be the city of Ulsan, Korea, home to the world's largest shipyard operated by Hyundai Heavy Industry. Interesting enough, Dan, my next-door neighbour from Paradise, Newfoundland, is currently working at the shipyard, building topside modules for the Newfoundland Hebron offshore oil project. Look out world, we're everywhere.

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 21, BARK AT THE MOON

Last night, we finally saw the lights of civilization. As we passed through the Tsugasu Kaikyo strait, Japan came into view under a beautiful, clear night sky with a full moon casting its reflection unto the water. (The Captain started into a rendition of Ozzy Osbourne's "Bark at the Moon." Who knew he could sing?!)

With a head current of over 5 knots, we had to let the massive engine stretch its  legs for a short time to maintain the ship's speed through the narrowest part. Travelling on a heading of 226 degrees, we are currently in the middle of the Japanese Sea, cruising easily at 13 knots, with a wind on our stbd quarter helping us along.

Russia to the North, North Korea to the west, South Korea to the Southwest, and Japan to the East, this, 1 million sq km sea traditionally protected Japan from land invasions from the West.

The temperature outside is 19°C and seawater is 20°C, with a bright, sunny sky. If I only had taken a pair of water skies, this would have been the perfect day to try them out. I feel if this weather continues, we may be able to convince the Captain to have another BBQ. (Hint. Hint.)

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

DAY 20, I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD

Come on, you knew it was coming! How could we make this full passage without the most famous line from Titanic? And we have a picture to boot!

Last evening’s sunset was spectacular, and today we have air temperature 18°C, water temperature of 15°C, sun shining, waters calm, and a good night’s rest, life is good! Storm? What storm? I don’t remember a storm . . . .

The engine team gets a reprieve from the bowels of the ship to do some maintenance on the winches located forward on the bow. With warm Pacific air, sunshine, views of whales, and no engine noise, I think the job may take a lot longer than I had expected! And boys being boys, they will play it up whenever a camera is in sight. I may have to make someone walk the plank . . . .

The bridge team keeps busy with collision avoidance as we now have 25 ships within a 25-mile radius and getting thicker the closer we get to the approaches of the Tsugasu Kaikyo strait. Quite a difference than seeing just one ship in eight days when crossing the Northwest Passage.

The Captain and Chief Officer were able to get out today and make a good inspection of the ship for weather-related damage; all good with only a few minor repairs needed. An added bonus, the ship is very clean from getting a good washing in all the waves.  

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 19, FULL MOON ARISEN

Last night, a full moon lit the ocean sky making spray from an 8m swell glisten and come alive. The heavy seas and 60 knots of wind caused the good ship Nunavik to roll heavy with maximum list reaching 35 degrees, enough to shiver my timbers. The decks were awash with bright white foam, reaching as high as the rescue boat deck 11.6m above the water line. Good thing we had batten down the hatches. As you can imagine, not much sleep was had and a little mal de mer. As the sun started to rise, the seas calmed to a long 2m swell. As midday came, the sun shone bright and lifted a sailor’s spirit, slowly erasing last night’s feeling of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, from our minds. (If only it were that easy!)

The warm Pacific breeze can now be felt as we give a wide birth overtaking the MV Cold River, a handysize bulk carrier. We can also see the MV Cosco, a Shanghai container vessel a few miles to our port side. Later tonight, we will pass the Northern Japanese Island of Hokkaido, home to Sapporo, the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics the first held in Asia, and the first time Canada did not send a men’s hockey team. It was also the year that Canada defeated the Soviets in the Summit Series, making Paul Henderson a household name.  

The 2nd mate is busy making final preparations for tomorrow’s transit of the Tsugaru Kaikyo Strait, famous for very strong currents. With any luck, we will be sheltered on the west side of Japan and avoid the full effects of the next Typhoon Vongfong. Appropriately, the Captain and I have started watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific.

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 18, ALL CLEAR TO LAND

#3 Hatch Helicopter landing pad has finally seen action . . . about 100 seagulls have landed. Tim, should we collect fare in US dollars or Russian Rubels?

Yesterday afternoon we got a reprieve from the effects of Typhoon Phanfone, just in time to have relatively calm seas for the championship dart games to commence. With all four competitors eyeing to have their name added to the newly minted Trophy, let the games began. First up, the Captain vs. the 3rd mate. With John Fogerty’s “Up Around The Bend” playing, the first dart was thrown. In a devastating defeat, the 3rd mate moves in to the final game.

The next Game sees the 2rd Mate vs. the Motor Man. All hope was lost for the engine room as the 2nd Mate triumphs. After a short rest and some good music, the Captain vs. Motor Man for 3rd place ends decisively with a quick defeat by the Captain to redeem himself, and Queen “Another One Bites the Dust”. The room falls silent as the 2nd mate vs. the 3rd Mate (the Favourite) begins and then GNR's “Welcome to the Jungles” breaks the silence. In a major upset, we crown the 2nd Mate as the first Nunavik Darts champion with Queen's “We Are The Champions” playing as the Captain presents him with the Trophy. (Made expertly by our fitter, Serhiy Malakhov.)

At 0530, the heavy rolling started once more as Typhoon Phanfone’s force can still be felt in the region. Along with four other vessels, we are sailing south along the Kuril Islands to reduce the effects of the westerly swell. By mid-afternoon we will be passing the Kuril-Kamchatka trench with depths over 8000m.

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 17, STORMY WATERS

Unable to completely avoid Typhoon Phanfone, we rode out yesterday evening and last night battling 8m swells on our beam and winds in excess of 65 knots. Sailing south into the North Pacific Ocean, it was a sleepless night.

The morning brought some relief as seas eased to 5m and winds dropped to 35 knots. The Typhoon had hit Japan with reported damage and loss of life. The weather maps show a second larger Typhoon, Vongfong, bearing down on the region in the next few days. With the experience and expertise of our good Captain, and the quality of our amazing vessel, we have no worries of safely reaching our destination.

When storms cross the International Date Line they maintain their original name but change designation from a hurricane to a typhoon. Phanfone started as a tropical storm off Guam September 29, thus was never designated a hurricane.

The darts finals were cancelled, as you might expect. Stay tuned for further results in coming days. We also today, as a crew, congratulate AB2 Ruslan Siskovych and his wife, Tatyana, on the birth of their daughter, Anastasia. He is looking forward to being home to see his baby girl. Congratulations!

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

 

Day 16, DRILLS, DRILLS, AND MORE DRILLS

After doing deep-water ballast exchange, we deviated to the west from the planned course due a large weather pattern approaching. We are now closer to land, sailing south between the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula and Bering Island, named after Commander Vitus Bering. 

In 1741, sailing the SS St. Peter, he shipwrecked on this desolate, treeless, foggy island...wait a minute, did we take a wrong turn and end up off Burnt Island, Newfoundland? Sounds very familiar! 

Wind gusts have now reached 35 knots, with spray over the bow, causing the Captain to pull all personnel off the main deck.

Yesterday, we had fire drills in the engine room with a mock boiler fire, which was expertly dealt with by a very well-trained and organized crew. Boat drills followed as we practiced operating the lifeboat and leaving the Captain to go down with his ship. Actually I could never allow this to happen as I would be instantly killed by his lovely wife. 

The final playoffs for the darts start at 18:00 and we are down to 4 people after Captain eliminated me last night. (Must be payback for trying to hose him down. I must stop giving away my plans on the internet!) So we have Captain Randy Rose, 2nd Mate, Maksym Naberezhnyi, 3rd Mate, Yurii Zaiats, and one representative from the engine room, the Motor man, Volodymyr Vororbyov, remaining. 

Regards,

Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 15, WHERE DID FRIDAY GO?

Last night we crossed over the International Date Line. Going to bed on Thursday and waking up on Saturday. (Do I get paid for Friday?) You would think I would be well rested, but that’s not the case—it was actually the calm before the storm. Last evening, the swell started and we began rolling, at several times from 23 degrees port to 23 degrees Stbd maximum roll, and causing my favourite Fednav coffee mug to be no more. (Tim, I need a new coffee mug.)

Things have eased up this morning. Sailing now at 13 knots in open water, the massive engine, at 25% load is barely working. With 29540 horse power available and only 31754MT DWT the ship is truly mighty. The Man B&W 7S70ME-C electronically controlled low-speed diesel engine meets IMO Tier II emission standards, allowing efficient and emission-friendly operation at any load from as low as 6 percent to 100 percent, making it ideal for both high-load ice breaking and low-load open water operation. Along with lower emissions comes reliability and efficiency due to extended overhaul intervals reducing down time and parts. Truly a modern wonder of ship propulsion! The engine transfers this power through a 6.5m Rolls Royce controllable pitch propeller surrounded by a fixed nozzle, resulting in a max speed of over 18knots full loaded, and incredible thrust when present with ice.

With only 13 games left to play in the dart tournament, the finals should start tomorrow and I’m hanging on to 4th place. Today is drill day and we get to go play with fire hoses and life boats. I wonder if after all the seriousness of the drill is over, can I hose down the Captain when he is not looking?

Of course I will tell him it was Tim’s idea.

Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

DAY 14, BON JOVI GET OUT OF MY HEAD

We left the Bering Strait late last night and entered into the Bering Sea. I thought I heard the opening theme for Discovery's Deadliest Catch, "Wanted Dead or Alive” play in the background. I tried to convince the Captain to pull into Dutch Harbour and see if we could get in on the 2014 season. No go. Apparently our ship is too big and we have no fishing gear on board. Who knew? 

We awoke this morning to a spectacular sunrise over clear calm waters that can only be appreciated from sea, moments like this make sailing worth it. With the good weather, we are able to get outside and start swabbing the deck. Well at least high-pressure washing it. 

Wildlife is becoming more abundant, with ducks, seagulls, small birds, whales, and through binoculars, we've seen orcas breaching.

The 94m rusty fishing boat Vladimir Brodyuk has shown up on the radar, we actually may see a ship today. Plus, to our port side is an island called Nunivak Island, not the same, but close. 

Dart tournament . . . no comment. Captain: "Chief got beat 3 games in a row." We also want to say happy birthday to crew member OS-Sergiy Nezhynskyi. 

Until tomorrow.

Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 13, HI SARAH

We awoke to darkness this morning and did not see daybreak until 09:00 ship time. We have welcomed the calm seas, but a grey, overcast sky remains.

Through the haze, we got our first sight of Russia. The air temperature has risen to a balmy 5°C and sea temperature is no longer below zero. After the Arctic, this feels like summer. A fearsome falcon has perched on our midship light gazing at small birds going to wing in the waters alongside. 

Currently in the Bering Strait almost at the narrowest point, less than 55 nautical miles. We crossed from American waters into Russian waters about 1 hour ago. On the Port, we can see Big Diomede Island, Russia, and little Diomede, USA, less than 2.5 nautical miles apart. On the Stbd we can see the Russian mainland. I wonder if Sarah Palin is watching? 

Early this morning, we passed the Teck Red Dog Mine. This mine is the world’s largest producer of zinc accounting for 10 percent of all production and holds the largest known reserve. Fednav works with Red Dog to ship their product to market. We were hoping to see a sister Fednav vessel, but none in sight so far. 

There have been 32 games of darts played and somehow I have remained in the lead. I feel payback is coming tonight. Otherwise on board, life continues as normal with work ongoing to de-winterize vessel and prepare for China.


Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 12, SPRAY OVER THE BOw

Last evening, with the sun beginning to set, we rounded Point Barrow, the vessel was met with a huge swell generated in the Bering Strait, causing the ship to begin to pitch, and causing large sprays of water over the bow.

As the pitching eased, the crew gathered in the lounge for our first dart tournament. With the Captain supplying prizes, 13 crew members have signed up for a round robin of 81 games to crown the champion. With the help of the weather after the first night of play, I can boast of being in the lead (this will not last long), losing only one game, to the Captain. (I'm not that stupid!)

Just as we were heading for a good night's sleep, the fog set in so that we could be put to sleep by the "gentle" blasts of the foghorn for most of the night. 

The sunrise was late this morning due to our fast travels west at this latitude, and tonight begins 10 time changes on board before we get a break again. This morning we entered into the Chukchi Sea and were abeam of Wainwright, Alaska, population 556. Here in 2009, the Blob was discovered (Chukchi Sea Algae), a previously unknown under-ice sea bloom 20 to  60 km long. Very interesting for scientists, since it changes what was previously believed regarding under-ice ecosystems.

Work aboard continues, and we are preparing for suspected rougher weather as we enter into the Bering Straits tomorrow. 

Until then.

Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 11, Another peaceful night at sea

Hearing what I thought was the alarm clock, I instinctively turned over and hit the snooze button, closing my eyes for exactly 60 seconds until I was "gently" awoken again by the same sound . . . the foghorn BLASTING!

Climbing from the bed and looking out over the deck I was greeted with the sun rising behind us revealing a grey, foggy day. Ahhh . . . I feel at home (i.e., St. John's, Newfoundland). I feel the constant and reassuring hum of the engine working away as the ship glides along the gentle waves—time for breakfast and the daily work meeting.

We are still in the Beaufort Sea, 70 NM from shore with the closest town being Nuiqsut, Alaska. A small town of 412 people that just celebrated their 40th year since the first group of 14 settled there and is today accessible through the winter by ice roads. Last night we passed 141W, cleared the NORDREG zone and entered US waters. (NORDREG is the Canadian ship-reporting area in the northern coastal waters.) There has been no sign of wildlife and as the day progresses, the fog has lifted and the sun is trying to break from the clouds, but is not having much luck.

Life on board has gone back to normal, now that the passengers have left, and much quieter as the Captain clearly points out. Routine work now fills our day with normal voyage operations, planned maintenance, and preparing for our next port-of-call. Today's objective is to submit our orders for parts, food, fuel, and other supplies for the next voyage...and most importantly our relief crew! We also today, as a crew, congratulate motor man, Volodymyr Vorobyov, and his wife, Nataliya, on the birth of their son, Oleksandr. He is looking forward to being home to see his baby boy. Congratulations!

Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV Nunavik

Day 10, THE NEXT JOURNEY BEGINS

After successfully completing our first challenge of transiting the fabled Northwest Passage and getting our esteemed passengers safely ashore at Sachs Harbour, the second part of our voyage begins.

With 2071 nautical miles behind us, we have 4914 nautical miles ahead to our final destination of Bayuquan, China. We had smooth sailing overnight, allowing good sleep for all, after many nights navigating through patches of ice. We awoke to a beautiful blue northern sky, with the sun rising on the horizon, casting a warm glow over the cranes of the main deck. We are currently abeam of Tuktoyaktuk (meaning resembling a Caribou, and oddly enough, the site of rock band Metallica’s most northerly concert and April's Beluga Jamboree).

At a position of 71 N, and 133 W, we are crossing the Beaufort Sea, skirting the lower edge of the Arctic Oceans Polar Pack. The seas have come alive later in the morning with a 3 meter sea and a 25 Knot south-easterly wind causing the good ship, Nunavik, a gentle roll on a south-easterly swell.

As the initial author of this blog, Tim Keane has returned to dry land and I have been tasked with keeping our followers informed of our voyage and filling his shoes. (Which he actually offered before disembarking . . . . Ahhh, no thanks!) Being given the privilege of being Chief Engineer of this amazing vessel, please forgive me if I occasionally digress into technical mumbo jumbo. But, I have been assured that the good Captain will keep me on the straight and narrow.

Until tomorrow.

Regards,
Gary Bishop
Chief Engineer
MV NUNAVIK

Day 10, Off the boat

By late afternoon yesterday, the six non-essential personnel (the chief engineer was less kind, referring to us as deadweight) were safely landed in Sachs Harbour. The tiny community of less than 100 people sits at the southwest tip of Banks Island. The community there grew out of the fur trade, specifically Arctic fox.

Soon after we landed, we boarded a flight to Inuvik, and then later today, south and eastwards to Montreal. As we boarded, the Nunavik was sailing into the proverbial sunset.

From here on out, Gary Bishop, Chief Engineer onboard will post updates on the progress of the voyage. Today, the ship will be off the coast of Alaska, ready to turn the corner at Point Barrow and descend the Chukchi and Bering Sea to the Pacific.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 9, Change of Plans

Just a very quick update on the day's progress.

The weather forecast being what it is, we've made a last-minute change of
plans. Because of the uncertainty of the boat being able to collect us, we
looked for an alternate landing spot. Luckily, 60 miles to the north is
the community of Sachs Harbour.

With a few calls to an old friend, Terry Camsell of Island Towing, we (well,
in fairness, he) made the necessary arrangements and so, in the next ten
minutes (at 1500 LT), we will be put ashore on Banks Island. With the
further help of Sean Gray from Braden-Burry Expediting, we are all set to
disembark. Many, many thanks for Terry and Sean's help!

My experience in the North is that when you have the chance to keep going,
you keep going. So, we will leave the Nunavik now after a very memorable
nine days onboard.

Have to run, but will update again in a few hours when we are safely ashore.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 9, HURRY UP AND WAIT

The Nunavik exited Prince of Wales Strait last evening and west through Amundsen
Gulf and now, into the Beaufort Sea, the final leg for some of us onboard. All going
well, we supernumeraries will disembark at Tuktoyaktuk tomorrow.

"All going well" are the key words in that sentence. Winds are expected to kick up
overnight. Tuk lies within the delta of the Mackenzie River, one of, if not the longest
rivers in Canada. The area around the delta is shallow, given the 11 m draft we are
carrying, the closest the Nunavik will approach is some thirty miles offshore. The
delta is also an area where pingos are found. As far as I recall from geography class
many, many years ago, pingos are basically frost heaves in the ocean
floor. Underwater hills that continue to rise off of the bottom of the Beaufort Sea, a
hydrographer's nightmare I expect.

Now that we have entered the Beaufort, the Nunavik can (according the Canadian
Hydrographic Service) claim to have completed the NWP. Some might
say you have to go from Baffin Bay to the Bering Strait, but we here will gladly claim
to have now completed the passage.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 8, Boring is good

At 17:00 local time today, we are more than half way through Prince of Wales strait, at 72.26 N 118.48 W

Both Captains Rose and Grandy said on different occasions that "boring is good" when it comes to navigating in the Arctic. Of course, boredom is relative. There is nothing boring about being in command of a modern ship in the Arctic.  Here, boring refers to not having to spend hours or days beating through difficult ice. The easy life, relatively speaking.

The conditions have been almost ideal, good visibility under grey skiesstill (a recurring theme on this voyage so far).  Barely any serious ice to speak of serious at least for the Nunavik.  Captain Rose is delighted with the conditions—made to order, really. The winds today pinched the 5/10th concentration to the south side of the strait. The ship is slipping through barely impeded, but for one small section. That small section however is a reminder of the unpredictability of shipping in the arctic. One patch, even a small one strategically placed, would make the route impassable by the vast majority of ships.

Boring can be bad, however, as it leads grown men towards silly endeavours. Silly things like an Arctic Ice Bucket Challenge.  So, while the ship very briefly mired in a thick floe, the gauntlet was thrown—boys being boys, a few took the challenge. Some, braver than others, stripped down to basics— one brave soul went two rounds. 

The water, drawn from the Arctic Ocean was invigorating to say the least. Salt water freezes only at -1.8°C, so the drenching was beyond freezing as was the air temperature at -5°C. No ice cubes required here.

Forgotten in all the revelry, was the issuance of a challenge. So, to all who dare, the challenge goes to other mariners (and hangers-on), in the north and elsewhere.  

PS A corrector to yesterday's entry—the Nunavik will be the second commercial vessel through the strait.  IN 1986 the Kalvik, a Canadian Flag icebreaking anchor-handling tug plied these waters. The vessel later became the Arctic Kalvik in the Fednav fleet and sails still today as the Vladimir Igantiuk. Apologies.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 8, The View from here

Some up-to-the-minute views of where we are at the moment - 09:15 local.

The ice in area is pressed up against the coast of Victoria Island, while the Nunavik stays closer to Banks Island.

Captain Rose is very pleased with the last image received, showing only one patch of heavier ice in the strait.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 8, Into the Strait

At 07:30 this morning the ship is just entering Prince of Wales strait at 75.22 N 115.23W. The sun is still below the horizon and some light flurries are decreasing visibility. Speed has been checked a little.

During the night, speed was likewise reduced while passing close to an area of heavier ice concentration. Currently, the ship's radars confirm the information from the Canadian Ice Service. The charts are used as a guide to plan the route and so far have been accurate, allowing the ship to pick its way along the path of least resistance. Shortly, we should be coming up to an area with thicker ice, the area M on the ice chart. Those conditions may slow things, but are well within the Nunavik's capabilities. We are all hoping for the sun to burn through today so as to take in the local scenery.

This will be the closest we have been to land since setting out from Deception Bay.

In about 120 miles, we will exit the strait into Amundsen Gulf. From there, it promises to be clear sailing, in open water, to the Beaufort.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 7, Starting the Descent 5:13 PM

The Nunavik continues almost due west, at 16:00 hours local time, on a heading of 266.  At this latitude, the lines of longitude go by much quicker, we are now at 74 D 36 M and 106 D 55 M.

A quiet day, no other traffic has been spotted since we passed Resolute Bay, where likely the final cargo ships of the season were completing their deliveries. The nilas and grease ice of last night, has grown to near grey ice and the seas are just about totally covered.

Either Captain Rose or Ice Navigator, Tom Grandy, is on the bridge at all times as we approach heavier concentrations lying to the west. Speed is being monitored and adjusted so as to reach Prince of Wales sound tomorrow daylight. The strait is amply wide, at about four miles, but better to be negotiated in daylight.  Few ships have actually taken this route. The first ship to do so was Henry Larsen's St. Roch, also the first Canadian vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. The unofficial statistics show that since 1906 when Roald Amundsen first completed the transit of Northwest Passage, some 334 transits have been accomplished by a host of different craft.  

Of those 334 complete transits of the NWP, defined by the Canadian Hydrographic Service as being a transit from Baffin Bay to the Beaufort Sea, the majority has been adventurers (96), Canadian Coast Guard vessels (97), passenger ships and pleasure craft (60) and the balance a mix of commercial tugs, research vessels, US Coast Guard ships, and very few commercial cargo vessels.  

Sometime tomorrow, the Nunavik will be the first commercial ship since the SS Manhattan in 1969, to transit Prince of Wales Strait.  

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 7, New Ice - 1:43 AM

Last night, just after the sun had set, and exactly where the Canadian Ice Service had indicated, we entered the new ice that is forming in the high arctic.

From a distance, the change in the texture of the sea is apparent.  The new ice crystallising on the surface gives the sea a satiny, almost greasy look.  It damps the swell and makes the older, heavier pieces stand out even more.  The ship's radar pick up a bit more clutter, but the heavier ice is easy to spot with the naked eye.  Despite the quickly shortening days, dusk persists longer at these latitudes.  So, for some time after sunset, the watchkeepers need only their eyes to pick up heavier bits and adjust the ship's course.

Later in the evening the ship's powerful search lights are trained ahead and the ship remains on hand steering, likely until we reach the Beaufort.

We are just below 75 degrees north now and 102 degrees west, the furthest north and west in the arctic that Fednav has been for years, since the closing of Polaris Mine in 2002.

A new course has been set, conditions are fine along this northerly route and so the ship will press west at this latitude until reaching Prince of Wales Strait, at first light tomorrow likely.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 6, Setting the table in Lancaster Sound

At day's end, we are at 74 degrees 18 minutes North  91 degrees 48 minutes deep into Lancaster Sound, coming up to Barrow Strait.

It has been a brilliant day, the sun shining brightly since early morning. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of heat left in the sun at this time and this latitude.  The winds were brisk too, so the minus four degrees felt much colder still.

We have spent the day off the coast of Devon Island, the largest unpopulated island in the world I am reliably informed. At the time of writing, we are just about abeam Beechey Island which lies off the western end of Devon Island. On the island, lie the remains of two of Franklin's ill-fated crew who perished while the expedition overwintered in nearby waters. The bay adjacent to the island is named for Franklin's two ships, the Erebus and the Terror.

Winter is fast approaching, the stratified hills well covered now in snow.

We took advantage of the fair weather (fair in the lee of the accommodation at least), to dine al fresco tonight. An elegant table (built by the deck crew) was set by the chief cook and steward—kraft paper instead of linen, held in place (naturally) by duct tape. Plenty of food, good company, and conversation around the BBQ built onboard by the engineering staff. A fitting way to end the day and to mark reaching the "high" point of the trip.

By midnight, we will be passing Resolute Bay and soon after, start the "descent" to lower latitudes as the ship heads west to the Beaufort Sea.

Tim Keane, Author of the blog (Bottom left picture, on the left)
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 5, Passing the Sun at 73 degrees North

At 17:00 today, we are just past 73 degrees north, 73'06" North, 72'59" West to be more precise. A brilliant afternoon after a very dull, grey morning.

We are, for the second consecutive day, far from land—nothing on the radar but the odd iceberg. Even the birds seem to have abandoned us as we continue north. The only other traffic recently were two fishing vessels, sensibly heading south, which we passed in the early hours of today.

Given the less-than-scenic views this morning, we took the opportunity to get a look below at the power plant that delivers nearly 30,000 horsepower, enough to ease the ship through 1.5 m of solid ice. With no ice about, the engine is barely breaking a sweat, operating at about 24 percent of its capacity and still pushing us along at a comfortable 12 knots.

The engine room is impeccably clean—you feel compelled to wipe your feet when you are entering the space! Chief Engineer, Gary Bishop, and all the engine room staff take great pride in keeping everything spotless down below.

The sun finally returned this afternoon, appearing low on the port side. The brilliant conditions provided the opportunity to perform monthly performance tests on the main engine and, for a brief time, the Nunavik shuddered under full power, ploughing a deep trough through northern Baffin Bay. By late afternoon, the systems checks are done, and the ship is easing along under bright skies.

Tomorrow promises to be more scenic as we enter Lancaster Sound.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 4

Day 4 ends with the Nunavik about halfway up the Baffin coast. Overnight last night we crossed the Arctic Circle and by midnight tonight, we will be passing Clyde Inlet. Visibility has been good since we left Deception Bay, though the skies are mostly grey—the sun is reluctant to show itself for too long,  it seems.

We spotted our first group of whales this morning, though it is hard to say what species they were. Seem to have settled on them being Northern Bottle-nosed whales, based on the blunt heads and shape of their dorsal fins. They seem unperturbed by the vessel, at one stage swimming the length of the ship for a close inspection.

Icebergs have been abundant. We passed a cluster at lunchtime today. The Second Mate had more than a dozen targets plotted on the radar at one stage. Seems the bergs are thinning out as we press north, with only a couple of targets now in range.

We are making good time and if all goes well, around midnight tomorrow, the ship will head west into Lancaster Sound and reach the most northern point on the journey.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 3, Northward Bound

At the end of day three, we will be sailing past Cape Dyer, about a third of the way up the long coast of Baffin Island.

Overnight last night, the seas were boisterous as the ship changed from an easterly to a  more northerly heading and took the swell broadside. Loaded with dense nickel concentrate, the ship is very stiff and it was an uncomfortable night as it rolled heavily past the entrance of Frobisher Bay.

By morning, the swell was subsiding and pitching gently now more than rolling. We passed a number of large bergs, grounded in the area of Cumberland sound, one appearing like a clipper ship on the starboard side.

We seem to have collected a stowaway somewhere along the passage. A falcon (or hawk?) has been onboard most of the day, using the monkey island as its base, no doubt to the chagrin of the local gulls and turrs.

A crimson sunset bodes well for conditions tomorrow, at least for the area in our wake as we head further north.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

 

Day 2, On the South Baffin Coast

Sunset on day two of the voyage and we are abeam Resolution Island, about 300 miles east of where we began yesterday. Next waypoint will be Davis Strait and the heading will change to north towards Lancaster Sound. The day was spent readying the ship for the open sea and doing drills—donning immersion suits and boarding the ship's lifeboat. The suits are cumbersome and hardly fashionable, but with water temperatures already near zero, style would be the least of concerns.

The first of what will be many icebergs was spotted this morning, well off to port, likely grounded on the south Baffin coast.

Weather was mostly fine today, clear but for a couple of hours of wispy fog. Sunlight refracting through the damp fog produced odd-looking "rainbows" that just about touched down on the portside maindeck.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

Day 1, Getaway Day

Just before 17:00 hours today, with a push from the tug, Tony Mackay, the Nunavik slipped its lines and set out from Deception Bay. There to see it off was the MV Arctic, the flagship of the Canada's commercial arctic fleet.

At a time when most mariners are thinking about heading south, and arctic foxes are donning their winter whites, Captain Randy Rose and the crew of the Nunavik are plotting a course for the high arctic. The ship will spend the next few days first heading east through Hudson Strait, then north through Davis Strait and Baffin Bay before reaching Lancaster Sound, the eastern gateway to the Northwest Passage. Early next week, the ship will enter the fabled passage so much in the news. Later on, the Nunavik will likely pass the site where Sir John Franklin's doomed vessel was recently discovered.

Along this first leg of the journey, sea ice is not a major concern, but autumn weather is unpredictable and Captain Rose, ice navigator, Captain Tom Grandy, and the watchkeepers onboard the Nunavik will keep a careful watch for glacial ice (bergs, growlers, and bergy bits) an ever-present concern in arctic waters.

Tim Keane
Senior Manager, Arctic Operations and Projects

 

The Nunavik sets sail

The Nunavik, Fednav’s most modern icebreaking ship will soon undertake a historic voyage. It will be the first vessel to carry a cargo of Arctic origins the full length of Canada’s Northwest Passage. The ship is loading a cargo of nickel concentrate from Nunavik’s Deception Bay destined for northern China. With its Polar Class designation, the Nunavik is capable of independent operations in harsh arctic conditions. For those interested, follow the Nunavik as it traces a line across the top of the world!