A surreal passage to a melting Island.

08/05/13, 0200 hrs.

Today has been amazing.

After sailing wing and wing under the drifter for a while, the wind died down to slick flat water

Flying the drifter in light air.  Headed East from Prudhoe Bay
Flying the drifter in light air. Headed East from Prudhoe Bay

We were motoring in flat water, just as Isaac’s shift came to an end. A gentle breeze came to life, barely rippling the face of the water.

We trimmed the main, leaving in the reef, and set the Genoa on a close reach.

With the engine silent now, we slipped through the water effortlessly at over 3 knots. In all of my sailing I’ve never seen the like of it.

There is penty of ice this year.
There is penty of ice this year.

The ice broke any fetch to our windward. Leaving silky seas under our hull and every bit of power in the cloth. The sails drew us forward, uninhibited by waves.

Its like gliding past melting deadly artwork.
Its like gliding past melting deadly artwork.

We were sailing up wind and 3 knots, in a silent breath of wind, on a 2 inch sea state. Weaving in and out of ice flows at will.

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As the wind backed to our Starboard we trimmed for a beam reach. Now at over 4 knots, under 70 percent sail on flat water. In pure silence.

Both clear water and Ice, we have sailed most of the time on this voyage.  Getting here early, allows us to slow down and continue sailing in light air.
Both clear water and Ice, we have sailed most of the time on this voyage. Getting here early, allows us to slow down and continue sailing in light air.

Only the groaning of breaking ice, and our mixture of excited murmurings broke the silence.

Jason films from the Ratlines as we approach some Ice.
Jason films from the Ratlines as we approach some Ice.

Jason deployed a kite from the stern and sent up a camera, which was fascinating to watch. The camera was focused on us, but a hundred yards in the air to our leeward. Showing the ice around us as we slipped through the flows.

Sailing with a reef in, is a great way to slow your speed in through the ice.
Sailing with a reef in, is a great way to slow your speed in through the ice.
The sea was glittered with floating SUV sized chunks.
The sea was glittered with floating SUV sized chunks.

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Staying alert is a must.
Staying alert is a must.

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All hands were on deck. Taking in the excitement and magic of it all. When just to our windward, I spotted a perfect little harbor for Empiricus.

Dan and Will in the cockpit as we approach thicker Ice flows.
Dan and Will in the cockpit as we approach thicker Ice flows.
Gently sailing through the flows.
Gently sailing through the flows.

A notch, melted into the ice, looked to inviting to pass up and the massive cake called out. Beckoning to be explored.

Now abeam of the notch, I steered her head to wind, as the crew doused the gently luffing main and genoa.

We slowly drifted into the flow, and came to a gentle, yet sudden stop, as the bobstay cut a groove into the ice.

Tucked into a harbor of floating Ice.  We ran ice screws into the flow and tied off to the drifting pack.
Tucked into a harbor of floating Ice. We ran ice screws into the flow and tied off to the drifting pack.

Our homemade grapple hooks worked only marginally to secure us to the flow. So Ice screws were inserted as we one by one made our way onto this strange floating surface.

The shotgun was brought out to the flow, in case of Polar Bears as we wandered around in amazement.

Explorer pose, with; gun, ship, campfire and sunset.  40 miles offshore on a 10 acre ice flow.  Note the kite camera floating behind Empiricus.
Explorer pose, with; gun, ship, campfire and sunset. 40 miles offshore on a 10 acre ice flow. Note the kite camera floating behind Empiricus.

Like children enjoyed Frosty the Snowman, in the childhood ferry tale. We played and frolicked as the edges, gave way around us. Making splashing and hissing sounds as it separated just yards away.

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Time to leave.  This platform is breaking up quickly.
Time to leave. This platform is breaking up quickly.

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Will sets up his video equipment for some documentary footage.
Will sets up his video equipment for some documentary footage.
Jason warming up by the fire after a plunge into the icy ocean.
Jason warming up by the fire after a plunge into the icy ocean.

With the sun, casting an orange yellow glow, just above the horizon, we each took a dip in the crystal clear water. Leaping off the bowsprit into the frigid icy hole, just of the Starboard Bow.

Plunging into a dark hole in the ice, to look up at blue surrounding you, while returning to the surface, is a shockingly beautiful experience.

We lit a fire on the ice soon after, and sipped lightly on some rum. Each making our own toasts. No cameras, no recordings. Just us, in the moment with the platform rapidly dissolving beneath our feet.

One of the greatest moments of my life.
One of the greatest moments of my life.

As the flow changed and broke apart, the ice began surrounding our rudder.

Time to leave.  This platform is breaking up quickly.
Time to leave. This platform is breaking up quickly.

It was time to go. We quietly cut loose, shoved off with an Ice pole, to get our rudder in clear water, and backed away.

Not a breath of wind remained, as we had sailed all the wind to be had.

There are memorable days and times in our lives. Then there are surreal, dreamy leaps of overwhelming excitement and beauty. These are found in the unexpected places at unlikely times.

They cannot be fully explained through any media. They cannot be downloaded, or captured and broadcast in their entirety. They must be experienced by your every cell. By our own eyes, ears and every hair on our heads.

We must seek these moments out.

Life is a gift. Unwrap it.
Capt. Jesse Osborn
SV EMPIRICUS
Position70 Deg 11.4’ N x 145 Deg 10.6’ West

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6 thoughts on “A surreal passage to a melting Island.

  1. WOW, (overused) 😉 incredible photos give me chills, which is convenient since I’m sitting in the Anchortown airport headed to Houston where it’s 100 degrees. Safe and adventurous travels

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