The wind died down and we continued towards Point Barrow the most Northern point of Alaska and last possible ice choke point. Ships have traditionally tried to round this point before September 1st but in 1871 the entire American whaling fleet was caught east of the Point, and while all the crews survived everyone of their ships was lost. Our outlook was significantly better but not straight forward in the least.
There was ice 6 nautical miles off the point extending down the Western coast 150 miles. This left us with a tight corridor to pass through only a few miles wide between the ice and the shore of Alaska and with a weather report of 25 knots (which last time became 45 knots) from the West this made the shore into a dangerous lee shore. We were concerned that sailing in the same conditions we had in the Beaufort along 150 miles of ice with land downwind of us we would end up either with a rogue piece of ice in a large wave sinking us or we would get blown onto the shallow and remote Alaskan Coastline by the heavy winds.
We looked in to anchorages but everything was charted at 2 meters which with the waves we were in made it impossible to attempt. We thought about heading back into the Beaufort for a few days and wait for a more favourable weather report, but the Arctic Circle and the completion of the Northwest Passage proved to tempting to ignore. We decided to push ahead and deal with the conditions as they happened. Approaching Barrow Point in the early morning hours the Chuckchi Sea took on a very different appearance; it is a very shallow sea and as such creates much shorter and violent waves.
Throughout the morning the winds increased to 25 knots and then 30 plus. The seas fortunately stopped building at about 3 meters and since we had to handle these nearly at right angles we were thankful they weren’t any bigger. We managed to hold a course right down the centre of the corridor between the ice and shore but the winds blew spray, snow and hail hard against the boat forcing us to don ski goggles to look forward. The boat moved violently in the short waves that crashed hard on the hull making horrible noises down below, but we were becoming conditioned from our time in the Beaufort and were happy the conditions weren’t worse.
Nearly 36 hours after we entered the ice corridor we where relived about not being caught in the Arctic for the winter. As we sailed out into open waters the wind and seas died immediately transforming the churning sea to a peaceful place allowing us to travel south quickly to the Arctic Circle.
Powered by Xsat