The sea ice in the Arctic has melted to a record low this year. Yachts are not voyaging where once only large icebreakers could travel. Recently, the three man crew of the Belzebub II, a 1976 built Hallberg-Rassy Monsun 31 sloop, successfully completed a three month transit of the fabled Canadian Northwest Passage, including becoming the first sailboat to cross the infamous M’Clure strait, which normally would be icebound. From the expedition web site:
“The Arctic is melting at an alarming rate and is clear proof of our disharmony with the planet. By sailing this newly opened route we hope that our expedition will play a small part in bringing further attention to climate change and contributing to a larger shift in attitudes. Our approach to sail across a historical stretch of water that has traditionally been frozen is meant to be a clear visual example of the extent of declining polar ice.”
Notwithstanding the record rate of melting ice, the passage remained hazardous for the fiberglass yacht. Nicolas Peissel commented, “This is a boat that you would use on Lac St. Louis. If we get hit by a piece of ice, it will put a gaping hole into the boat.”
On Sunday, a much larger sail boat, the 95′ steel Russian yacht Scorpius, with a Russian-Ukrainian crew, was reported to be stuck in heavy ice flows to the north-east of the Jeannette Island (the De Long Islands) in the East Siberian Sea. The yacht was drifting eastward with the ice. On Tuesday, the yacht was reported to have broken free from the ice.
The Russian yacht Scorpius has become the first sailing ship to cruise around Spitsbergen Island from the north.
In January the yacht, manned by a Russian-Ukrainian crew, set out from a Russian Polar station on a trip around the Antarctic. 90 days and 15,000 miles later the yacht entered the Ross Sea, setting the first of the four planned world records.
If their Arctic circumnavigation succeeds, the crew will become the first yachtsmen to perform two such circumnavigations in a single year.
Thanks to Tony Seideman and Phil Leon for contributing to this post.