Today (3rd Aug) we got two blogs in one from Ben! Read on to find out about the latest ice situation…

Blog 35: Hello, so, news of the moment is that we’re anchored.  Yesterday at seven o’clock exactly we sailed into a sheltered bay in the middle of an archipelago just west of a passage made up of three islands, that is where the proper ice starts. It is a huge relief.  We’d been sailing non stop for the last eleven days and though you don’t really notice it during the journey twenty four hour travel really grinds you down.  Inside this bay we have almost no wind and absolutely no swell.  The boat is level for the first time in two weeks and I can lie flat in my bunk.  The surrounding area is very familiar.  It’s basically Scotland.  Low brown bleak moors with bits of jutting rock here and there.  There is some ice about but it’s mainly on the low rocky beaches that are dotted about everywhere.  We didn’t do much yesterday after anchoring.  Mostly we just sat around and enjoyed not moving for a few hours.

Lots of effort was put into dinner that evening.  We had brought a set of pizza bases that we got out and made pizzas with. Those were nice and afterwards we had steamed puddings with custard.  We all went go bed relatively early, about ten o’clock, and after that we had an anchor watch. The principle is that while you’re at anchor there is always the risk of the anchor coming unstuck from the seabed, not only that but here there is also a risk of polar bears.  As such you want one person up at anyone time to check that the boat hasn’t moved.  I was going to have one early in the morning but as Denis and The Mother were already up there was no point.  I got up at two in the afternoon.   Because we’re still and we’ve got some time we decided to put the drone up.  That was a nerve wracking experience.  I’m the only one on the boat at the moment who can fly the drone so of course it’s also my job to make sure it’s alright and get it out.  So we went onto the deck and cleared an area of ropes and anything that might impede the drone and then I took off.  The reason we have the drone is that it is far more accurate to actually see the ice in front of us than be told what the conditions are by the forecast, and it will help us to pick a route through the ice.  The drone can climb to about a kilometre I think and can go more than that away from the boat in any one direction.  Because of this when we’re going along we’ll be able to send it up and see whether we need to divert from our current course.  The reason I’m worried about this is I don’t think I’m a good enough pilot and if I mess up and put it in the water we’ve got no drone, and if I mess up and put it too close to someone they’ll lose a couple of fingers.  This is a real risk because the top of the boat is small enough that it is easier to get someone to catch the drone rather than put it on the deck.  So no pressure.  Anyway, I put it up and flew about a bit and everything was fine.  Then the time came to put it back on the boat.  That took a long time.  What you do as soon as you get the drone in the air is you get it higher than anything that it could possibly crash into, so it was about thirty meters up.  I brought the drone down to a couple of meters above sea level and flew it very slowly back to the boat where The Mother was waiting to catch it, wearing very thick gloves of course.  I got it over the boat and she grabbed it.  I then quickly powered down the engines and the venture was considered successful.  The footage has been put on the computer and apparently I did an okay job.

How long we stay here is dependent on what the ice does.  We get an update on the ice-chart tomorrow and if the ice has moved enough for us to get through we’ll be straight off east.  On the other hand it is quite possible that we’ll be stuck here for a good couple of weeks waiting for the ice to change.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.  On another note, you remember I said I was given a toy minecraft skeleton horse by the students at whiteness school.  Well I still have that as well as a small stone and a coke can cap that was given to me by a friend at school before I left.  I like to think that that is the only toy horse to have been here.  We’re about to have dinner now so I’ll go.  I’ll try to write again tomorrow and I’ll tell you whether we’ll leave then, bye.

Blog thirty six.  So.  Yesterday we did indeed get the ice maps we wanted and yes, they did say a lot that was good.  We can now get through the Laptev sea.  Over the past week enough ice has either melted or shifted for us to get all the way through the Laptev.  The sad problem is that a thin bit of passage between the mainland and a large island, that bit is blocked by ice that we could almost get through but in practise shouldn’t try to.  The wind changed yesterday from  a southerly to a westerly, that means that that little patch will be getting more ice clogged by the second.  Great.  We hope to get more ice charts today and with luck things will have got better not worse.

Yesterday was, I thought, very nice.  It was about ten degrees outside, a very pleasant temperature for us at the moment.  We had light winds and no fog.  Things only kicked up a bit in the evening when the wind changed.  The day before the wind had gone to the south and all the ice in the bay rushed passed us and went up the northern end.  When the wind changed to the west, it did the whole thing in reverse.  And that is how Denis ended up standing on the foredeck at midnight with a large pole fending off bits of ice that threatened to hit the anchor chain.  over the past couple of days since we’ve been here Denis has set out a fishing line.  This had been in the hope of catching a fish or two and though he’d put bits of meat on the hooks and checked it regularly we had no luck on that front. On the previous anchor watches I failed to turn up for my watches because someone else just carried on with their watch and never woke me up.  Last night I managed to get that to change.  I swapped round my anchor watch with someone who had their watch at one in the morning.  Quite understandably didn’t really want to do that.  So I did the one o’clock to half two anchor watch which was  quite nice.  It was nice to be alone.

So, we eagerly await the new ice charts and we’ll hopefully leave soon.  Bye.