Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TMF Expedition 2010 - links and summit snapshots


Canada Burnishes Its Position as Arctic Power - Arctic Holds Many Secrets to be Discovered

The Canadian government on Monday announced that it had failed, in a small Arctic expedition it mounted last week, to find the remains of two British ships that disappeared more than 150 years ago seeking the fabled Northwest Passage.
The trip had more than historical relevance: It marked the latest move in a bigger geopolitical game—Canada's ambition to burnish its position as an Arctic power.
As the globe logs an unusually hot summer, Canada is boosting its presence in the warming and increasingly accessible Arctic. Driven by the promise of rich resources and a desire to control its northern waterways, its government has in recent months made the Arctic the centerpiece of official visits, military exercises and above- and below-water missions. It has intercepted several Russian planes it says are probing its borders.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, second from right, and defense chief Walt Natynczyk, center, on an iceberg in Nunavut during Aug. 25 joint exercises between the Canadian Maritime Command and coast guard.
 "We live in a time of renewed foreign interest in Canada's Arctic," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday, as he toured the Far North and announced an airport upgrade and research station. "With foreign aircraft probing the skies, vessels plying northern waters and the eyes of the world gazing our way, we must remain vigilant."
The Arctic attention comes as polar states—which also include Russia and the U.S.—position themselves to benefit from an anticipated surge in Arctic resource exploration and shipping. Canada and other nations are mapping the Arctic Ocean floor, hoping to show their continental shelves, and thus their resource rights, extend far north of their coastlines.
The U.S., Canada and Denmark are working to resolve lingering territorial disputes to clear the way for oil or fisheries development. Earlier this month, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon unveiled the country's first Arctic foreign policy statement, which pledges to settle boundary disputes and stake offshore claims.
The economic stakes are high. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that some 22% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas lay above the Arctic Circle. Canada is conducting its own five-year, C$100 million study, due in 2013.
Bids for oil and gas exploration leases in the Beaufort Sea area of the western Arctic hit a record in June of 2008, including one for C$1.2 billion, according to a 2009 study by the Arctic Council, a grouping of eight nations.

Rough Crossings

Sailors and explorers have taken various paths in attempts to transit the Northwest Passage.See their routes -- and what happened to them.
"We're seeing a very, very significant change in attention'' to the Arctic, says Ken Coates, a specialist in northern Canadian history and dean of arts at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "Now Canada and others are saying whoever controls the Arctic can be the next Saudi Arabia."
Canada and other countries are also busy mapping the Arctic sea bed to show how far their continental landmasses extend underwater past their coastlines. The data will be submitted to a United Nations scientific commission to determine if countries can claim rights to resources under those continental shelves.
"It's possible our rights will run up against Russian or Danish rights somewhere in the central Arctic Ocean," said Michael Byers, a specialist in arctic law professor at the University of British Columbia.
One of the biggest unsettled issues is control over the Northwest Passage, the network of routes that winds through the 36,000 islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago. Explorers and even private boaters have navigated the passage over the last 100 years. According to the Arctic Council study, the passage would likely be too clogged with ice for regular transoceanic shipping for a decade.
The U.S. and other countries hold the passage is an international strait, meaning that even though Canada owns it, everyone should be free to go through. Canada calls it internal waters and argues that transiting ships and submarines must ask its permission to pass and obey its laws.
The push to control the Northwest Passage was at the heart of last week's search for the resting place of two British ships that set sail under Sir John Franklin from England in 1845 and disappeared exploring the passage. Canada has argued that finding the remains of ships such as the Terror and Erebus will show that Canada—or at least its former master, Britain—explored the passage before any other nationfirst.
That search came up empty. On Monday, expedition leaders said they had searched 150 square kilometers (58 square miles) of previously uncharted sea just north of the Canadian mainland but failed to find the ships.
Arctic experts say some of Canada's efforts are political theater. Only a few territorial boundaries are still in dispute. Russian bomber sorties are common, with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, logging around 50 intercepts in the past three years.
Boris Burmistrov, a specialist in bilateral relations at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, says the purpose of the Russian flights is training, and that Moscow and Ottawa are "on the same page" on Arctic sovereignty issues.
Canada and the U.S. are negotiating who can claim rights to a 6,250-square-mile area in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Canada's Yukon. Canada holds the boundary line follows the Alaska-Canada border due north "as far as the frozen sea," as outlined by an 1825 treaty originally between Russia and Britain. The U.S. says the boundary should follow a more northeasterly line equidistant from both countries' coasts.
Then there is Hans Island, a barren speck midway between Greenland and Canada's Ellesmere Island described in Canada's Arctic-policy statement as "a 1.3-square-kilometer Canadian island which Denmark claims.''
For years, Canada and Denmark disputed ownership in a lighthearted way, with the Danes depositing Danish flags and bottles of schnapps, and Canadian politicians responding with the maple-leaf standard and bottles of Canadian Club whiskey.
Negotiations are "very friendly," says Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen, the Danish ambassador to Canada, noting the two countries participate in joint military and scouting exercises up north and share research and mapping data.
Write to Phred Dvorak at phred.dvorak@wsj.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Around the world in 8 years on a cycle

KATHMANDU: Most people strive for outstanding achievements in their life, but then there are also a few who have not so astounding dreams but are equally outstanding... like a dream to cycle around the world. Chris Roach is one such person who dreams of cycling around the world in eight years.

And Roach is on his way.

Since leaving his hometown of New Castle in Australia 18 months ago, Roach has already cycled across seven countries — Australia, Indonesia, East Timor, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China. Nepal is the eighth stop on his map. This journey of his is a single man’s journey exploring human capabilities, cultures and landscapes all over the world.

Titled Cycle Strongman Expedition (CSX), Roach prefers to define his journey as “an epic socially and environmentally trans-migration around the globe on bicycle”.

Cycling into Kathmandu

Clad in muddy trousers and a tee-shirt with ragged back, the spectacled Roach has the look of a determined cyclist who knows how to make his dream come true. Pedalling through the Tibetan plateau, Roach is currently cycling on the roads of Kathmandu.

“It is a challenge to cycle on the roads of Kathmandu. Competing with other vehicles in the muddy and narrow roads is difficult yet full of fun,” said Roach sipping tea from a use-and-throw plastic cup. “Tea is very tasty here,” he reacted after his first sip.

Narrating his tale of green tea and noodles in China, he said, “I got to eat only green tea and noodles while in China. They tasted really very bad, but Nepal’s dal-bhat has lured me.”

Roach is staying in

Nepal for the next three months and then plans to head for Bhutan.

“The most exciting part of the expedition is the love and attention I get from people. A common thread of humanity is prevalent everywhere in this world,” shared Roach who complained, “Getting visas and acquiring permits is really difficult adding hurdles on the way of every traveller.”

Motivation to cycle

“Cycling is possibly the richest, most unique and beautiful way to travel,” said Roach, who was due to return to Australia to start a career in engineering when he met a fellow adventurer Tim Harvey while cycling from Norway to Turkey in 2004.

Harvey’s adventurous cycling stories motivated him towards cycling around the world. However, instead of travelling, he started working as an engineer when he had a major knee injury. His knee had to be reconstructed and it took three months before he could walk again and nine months before he could get back on bicycle.

“It was then I desired for a broader experience giving birth to the idea of expedition. I started telling everyone of my plans. I quit my job and started my voyage,” Roach recalled.

Now his bicycle is Roach’s all-time friend on this expedition that he expects to be of eight years’ duration. Though his bicycle looks simple, Roach informed, “It is tough, reliable, easily repaired in the field and performs under extreme conditions.”

In the bags he carries clothes for all conditions, spares, cooking gear, toiletries, sleeping bag, shoes, tent, sleeping mat, laptop, digital camera, tools, water filter, stove, food and water.

Our planet is fragile: His message

“One of the goals of this expedition is to highlight the plight of our fragile planet. The modern life of humans is destroying the natural environment. But the relationship of man and nature is most important and is in desperate need of balancing,” stated Roach, who wants to urge people to use bicycle as an environment-friendly means of commuting.

“Presenting myself as an example I hope to challenge, inspire and encourage internal debate and new ways of thinking to save the environment,” Roach said.

The expedition has teamed up with Carbon Conscious, a leading provider of ‘carbon credits’ to help the expedition become ‘carbon neutral’. Potential greenhouse gas emissions generated as a direct part of the expedition will be audited and greenhouse gas emissions offset by planting trees in the Western Australian wheat belt region.

“We must learn to change, change our habits, our lifestyles, and our relationship to the natural environment. Of course, one of the simplest ways to instigate this change is to leave the car at home and re-discover the simple pleasures of riding a bicycle! It’s good for you, good for our communities and good for the environment,” he added.

Socially responsible travel

When Roach informed people about his expedition, they were eager to help him. “But I felt uneasy to accept money from others as it was my personal journey,” recalled Roach who later planned to support Oxfam with the money collected during the expedition. Then he requested people to support Oxfam Australia who wanted to support his expedition. “It is an effort to raise $100,000 in the entire journey when I will have earned $1 for every kilometre travelled from the people who are interested to support this expedition,” he informed.

People can follow his journey on http://www.everydayhero.com.au/TheCycleStrongmanExpedition to help.

‘Ninth circle of Dante’s hell’ confounds British Arctic Explorers

by David James/ Books in Review

FAIRBANKS — Arctic literature is filled with heady accounts of the long, futile search for a navigable Northwest Passage running from Europe, over the top of North America, and onward to Asia. It was a horrific and frequently deadly enterprise that obsessed the British navy throughout the first half of the 19th century, and that has since been investigated by some of our finest authors.

It is no small accomplishment for any writer to compose a work that stands out for its excellence in this rarified canon. But such is the case for Anthony Brandt, whose lyrically written “The Man Who Ate His Boots” is a compelling, accessible narrative of one of the most dramatic periods of maritime exploration; a must-read for anyone fascinated by this history.

Brandt, an editor with National Geographic Society Press, offers an indispensable book that places Arctic exploration in the context of British history, introduces readers to the most prominent players in the lengthy drama, and repeatedly drives home the pointlessness of their efforts.

By 1818, when the British Admiralty sent out its first ship in an effort at discovering a quick route to the Pacific, England sat atop the world. As Brandt reminds readers, the British Empire had vanquished its rivals and faced no serious threat to its supremacy. This, in turn, convinced the British that they were a superior people capable of overcoming anything.

For the Admiralty, which lacked an enemy to fight and therefore a reason to exist, charting and conquering the Arctic was the logical next step. Opening up the Northwest Passage would be England’s gift to the world and prove British greatness beyond doubt. And as Brandt skillfully shows, it was this arrogance that would prove to be Britain’s undoing.

Among the many men — and one woman — that played key roles in the search, John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty and its chief of operations, was the most pivotal. Barrow was convinced that sea ice could not form over deep waters, and hence that the Arctic Ocean was an open body of water (this was a widely held opinion at the time). One had merely to penetrate the ice thought to ring this ocean, and then clear sailing could be had to the opposite hemisphere.

The picture Brant offers of Barrow is hardly flattering. Whalers, he notes, were quite familiar with sea ice and knew it could form anywhere that temperatures warranted. But Barrow ignored them. He also ignored the evidence brought back from the long string of expeditions that were stopped dead by ice that was found in virtually every direction. Barrow was stubbornly dismissive of anyone who contradicted his unfounded beliefs and of the ever-mounting evidence that proved him wrong. But he called the shots, and so the ships kept sailing north into failure.

Brandt recounts the journeys of such famous explorers as John Ross, who commanded the 1818 expedition, thought he saw mountains where none existed, and turned back from his goal, earning Barrow’s permanent scorn. We also meet William Edward Parry, who sailed with Ross and then returned three more times to the Arctic, twice as commander of sea voyages and the final time as the leader of an attempt at reaching the North Pole by sled and boat (his failure to find open water on this effort did nothing to deter belief in a Polar Sea).

John Franklin led two overland expeditions through northern Canada. The first resulted in multiple deaths, and while Franklin learned enough to prevent serious tragedy on his second trip to America’s northern coastline, he never found evidence of a sea passage. He did, however, become a British hero, known as “the man who ate his boots,” after he and his men were forced to boil shoe leather to avoid starvation.

It is Franklin, or rather, his ghost, who becomes the focus of the book’s final hundred pages. In 1845 he set sail on one last, highly celebrated effort at finding the Northwest Passage and was never seen again. For the British, the disappearance of a national hero was too great a burden to be borne, and the Admiralty spent large sums of money and plenty of human lives trying first to rescue him, and later, when hope had been lost, to simply learn of his fate.

This effort was driven in no small part by Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane. She devoted the rest of her life first to her husband’s rescue, and when that failed, to his canonization in the British mind. On the second count she was highly successful.

It was ultimately John Rae, who was mapping the north and not looking for Franklin, who discovered the expedition’s fate. A group of Inuit who were carrying items that had belonged to Franklin and his men told Rae the sailors had starved to death, but not before resorting to cannibalism.

The news was too much for the British, who refused to believe good English seamen would eat each other. The truth was ignored, and the men became national martyrs. But their loss closed the book on England’s Arctic enterprise. The price was too high, the reward nonexistent.

The Arctic, as Brandt notes, could not be penetrated, because “Ice stretched to the horizon, built up on the coastlines, moved with the currents, broke and piled up floe on floe, held ships tight in its embrace, and crushed them at will.” It was “the ninth circle of Dante’s hell, nothingness itself.”

Anthony Brandt has written a sparkling account of a nation’s folly. The British believed themselves impervious. Nature proved otherwise. It’s a lesson that should be heeded by any country that believes it can’t possibly fail.

David James lives in Fairbanks.

The Man Who Ate His Boots
by Anthony Brandt

Alfred A. Knopf • 466 pages • 2010

Read more:Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - ‘Ninth circle of Dante’s hell’ confounds British Arctic explorers

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First new images of Titanic debris field emerge

UPDATE: 20100831

ABOARD THE JEAN CHARCOT – As we continue to float two-plus miles above the wreck of the Titanic, there was a significant scientific development Friday.
The Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) nicknamed “Ginger” and “Mary Ann” that were launched earlier this week to crisscross the ocean floor and retrieve information have now come home to the ship.

They left on a pre-determined route: “Ginger” traveled north and south and “MaryAnn” traveled east and west.
As they traveled about 40 yards above the sea bed, following a pattern like “mowing the yard,” the two AUV’s fired outside-scan-sonar.
Woods Hole Oceanographic teams working with the Waitt Institute, which owns the AUV’s, have now downloaded the side-scan sonar.
The picture that is emerging is a first of its kind, stunning image of the five-mile, by three-mile area where the Titanic came to rest.
The images are color-coded, but with some expert input, what you may not see at first glance becomes quite obvious.
Titanic expedition leader David Gallo says this is an “awesome” moment.

He and his team knew the Titanic broke into two pieces, but nobody realized the debris field was a large as it is.

Upwards of 40 percent of the area where the Titanic sank has never been mapped or documented – until now.

Up next: 3-D images. If all goes according to the plan, those images will come to the surface by Saturday morning.

This underwater geology is science you can clearly follow with a good expert, so click on the video to follow what the maps mean.

Related links from Kerry Sanders:
Underwater equipment launched in Titanic search
Keeping an eye on the weather enroute to Titanic wreckage
Diving down to document Titanic debris

Friday, August 27, 2010

Map of who owns the Arctic

Map of who owns Arctic

Do you know who owns the Arctic? As it turns out, it's a pretty messy subject:
In August 2007 Russian scientists sent a submarine to the Arctic Ocean seabed at 90° North to gather data in support of Russia's claim that the North Pole is part of the Russian continental shelf. The expedition provoked a hostile reaction from other Arctic littoral states and prompted media speculation that Russia's action might trigger a "new Cold War" over the resources of the Arctic.
Luckily things are at least a little more in control now though. Well, sort of. Canada, Denmark and the US still need to define their continental shelf limits. Keep in mind that the shelf can be more than 200 nautical miles from these countries' coastal baselines.
The International Boundaries Research Unit provides this map [pdf] of claimed boundaries and areas that will potentially be claimed in the future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NORTHWEST PASSAGE - all routes are OPEN (ice free)

Which route would you take?  The high road? (click image for larger size)

ARCTIC DRIFTER science lab will gather data as is "rolls" around the Arctic

Arctic Drifter science lab gathers data as it travels

They say that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but here is a variation on that proverb - we're talking about the Arctic Drifter science lab that comes in a large ball form factor, where it will blow across the vast arctic regions of the globe while gathering essential data using its integrated sensors while at it. Thanks to the idea from New York based Studio Les BĂȘtes, the Arctic Drifter will be cushioned by huge inflatable bags which transforms it into a 50-ft diameter ball, protecting the science lab which has been suspended within. Should the boffins inside decide to stop at a particular place, all they need to do is deflate enough bags to form a flat spot, and the bag will remain "anchored" so to speak. You won't roll around inside as though you're zorbing though, as the lab itself has been constructed within a gimbal that helps keep it upright all the time, while a roll cage will ensure the lab remains protected just in case there is a collision. Will it roll over polar bears by accident if this concept actually comes to life?

Russian gas tanker forges Arctic NORTHEAST passage to China

MOSCOW — A Russian gas tanker is this month making a historic voyage across the famed Northeast passage as receding ice opens up an elusive trade route from Asia to the West sought for centuries by explorers.
The 114,564-tonne tanker Baltica, escorted by the world's two most powerful nuclear ice breakers, sailed from Russia's northernmost port of Murmansk on August 14.
The largest vessel to ever navigate once-impassable route, the Baltica is due to deliver its cargo of gas condensate to China in the first weeks of September.
Russian television has shown the tanker making cautious progress through chunky sheets of ice in the wake of the steel-rimmed ice breakers, as a polar bear loped across ice floes within shouting distance of the ships.
"Never before has a ship of this size passed via the Northeast sea passage," said Captain Alexander Nikiforov in an interview with Russian channel NTV.
The trailblazing voyage by Russian state-owned shipping giant Sovcomflot is the latest Kremlin bid to mark out its stake over the energy-rich Arctic, where retreating ice cover amid global warming is opening new strategic trade routes.
Russia hopes to make the Arctic route a competitor to the Suez Canal and increase cargo traffic along its Siberian coast from two millions tonne a year now to 30 million tonnes -- profiting off taxes and the lease of its unique fleet of nuclear ice breakers.
The Northeast passage is tens of thousands of kilometres shorter than existing routes, stretching 13,000 kilometres along Russian shores to Asia compared to the 22,000-kilometres passage via the Suez Canal, Sovcomflot said.
"The aim of the voyage is to determine the feasibility of delivering energy on a regular, economically viable and safe basis along the Northern Sea Route from the Barents and Kara Seas to the markets of Southeast Asia," Sovcomflot said in statement.
But mariners admit many obstacles remain before Russia's shipping route might steal business from established southern thoroughfares -- not least because of a summer that lasts just a few weeks.
Sovcomflot said it must find new deep-water routes to steer heavy tankers through the perilous coastal waters and contend with free-floating icebergs that make the route hard to time and unreliable.
"The summer in Arctic waters lasts 2-2.5 months. It's winter the rest of the time," chief engineer Boris Abakhov told NTV, bundled in a parka and wool hat aboard the mighty ice-breaker Rossiya.
As the tanker neared the most precarious stretch of its journey -- via the Vilkitsky Strait, leading around Siberia's northernmost tip -- mariners floated a wreath in memory of sailors who died in the icy waters, television showed.
The shallow, ice-choked strait, named after Russian explorer Boris Vilkitsky who mapped it in 1913, separates the Kara Sea from the Laptev Sea about halfway along the Siberian coastline.
In 1553, the British adventurer Sir Hugh Willoughby perished with his crew in the Arctic waters on an expedition to discover a northern route to China.
While Russia has long shipped small cargo along its sprawling Arctic shores, two German cargo ships made the first commercial trip last summer from South Korea to the Netherlands even as UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the Arctic may be ice-less as soon as 2037.
Since a Russian expedition planted a flag at the North Pole in 2007, the five Arctic nations -- Russia, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Canada -- have grown more vocal in their competing claims over swaths of the energy-rich territory.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Future Capital chief executive set for Northwest Passage expedition with BEAR GRYLLS

North West Passage Expedition with Bear Grylls from Helga Viegas on Vimeo.

By Emily.perryman

Friday, August 20, 2010

Students on Ice Expedition - Arctic 2010 and Antarctica 2011 for College Credits

Today the students arrived in Kuujjuaq QC, departing the M.V. Orlova and readying themselves for the flight back to Ottawa. Some said their farewell as a number of the northern students departed to their respective places of origin.
The plane to Ottawa is about to board, and the students are preparing for the lengthy flight home. Upon arrival they will head to Carleton University and await their departures as students are gradually shuttled back to the airport and the group continues with their goodbyes.
The trip was an astounding success, inspiring many young minds, and affecting many lives. The experience, memories, and adventures shared on the expedition will surely not be forgotten by any of the participants, one of the largest group ever to participate.

To learn about the expedition and all that took place, visit the Arctic 2010 website.





The ARCTIC - a growing search and rescue challenge

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine by Mr. Rick Button, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue, and LT Amber S. Ward, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Maritime and International Law.

The Arctic was once a nearly impassable environment. Not any longer. The rapidly receding Arctic ice is opening up enough to allow summer sailing through both the Northeast and Northwest Passages. Many shipping companies are looking to cut costs by using these shipping routes at the top of the world.

As a result, nations responsible for aeronautical and maritime search and rescue (SAR) in the Arctic are facing the potential for an increase in disasters. With the enormous distances, vast barren landscapes, and harsh conditions, the challenge for Arctic nations is immense. The troubling reality is that there is limited search and rescue response capability in the Arctic.

The good news is that SAR authorities recognize the significance of the Arctic changes. Local, regional, national, and international cooperation to support lifesaving is stronger than ever.

Coast Guard SAR ProgramThe primary objective of the Coast Guard SAR program is to save lives at sea. The search and rescue program is highly respected within the international community, and the Coast Guard takes seriously its responsibility as an international SAR leader.

Based on priorities outlined in the National Security Council’s interagency review of Arctic policy, it is anticipated that the Coast Guard’s role and missions in the Arctic will continue to expand.

Arctic Exercises
In preparation for its increasing responsibilities, the Coast Guard has been conducting exercises while patrolling in the Arctic Ocean, determining which assets are best capable of operating in the icy climate. As a result, the Coast Guard learned key lessons to improve its arctic SAR capabilities.

On the Horizon
The Coast Guard Search and Rescue program is committed to maintaining a world leadership position in maritime SAR and minimizing the loss of life, injury, and property loss and damage in the maritime environment. Bearing these objectives in mind, the Coast Guard will continue to work toward meeting the challenge of providing critical rescue assistance in one of Earth’s most extreme environments.

For more information:Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2009.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

`It was five degrees in Arctic Ocean' - SETTING NEW RECORDS

For this young swimmer, breaking records seems to be a habit. On August 9, Bhakti Sharma (20) from Udaipur became the second female swimmer in the world to swim across the Arctic Ocean.

Earlier, Bhakti also swam across the Indian Ocean in 2004, English Channel in 2006, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea in 2007, and the English Channel in 2008 with her mother Leena Sharma (44). They broke a world record by becoming the first mother-daughter duo to cross the English Channel.

"It was five degrees Celsius when I swam in the Arctic, the water was near freezing point and I knew, if I managed to swim beyond 30 minutes, it would be commendable. After coming out of the water, my body was numb and I couldn't move my fingers. I was also swimming with killer whales, jelly fishes and star fishes,'' says Bhakti, who was in the city on Monday. "To prepare myself, I poured 12,500 kg of ice in a pool at Udaipur and swam at a temperature of four degrees in February.''

Despite facing obstacles, Bhakti is keen to continue swimming in future. "We later plan to swim across the Antarctic Ocean. For that, we require our own boat, a lot of funding and our own team of specialists,'' says her mother.

"We were only sponsored once-by the Vedanta group-when I swam across the Mediterranean Sea. When we approach sponsors, they are often reluctant,'' adds Bhakti, recalling how hard it was for her to get funding.

The lack of infrastructure and funds, the hectic life of an athlete and the indifference of the government are some of the impediments in a swimmer's career. However, Bhakti is lucky to have received tremendous support from her family.

"My mother was my coach. She quit her job at the Bank of India to concentrate on me and my younger brother Shlok's (9) swimming career. She has been coaching me since I was two-and-a-half years old. It was my mother who encouraged me to swim across the seas,'' said Bhakti. According to Bhakti, her mother did research on how to approach organisations that planned swims across seas, the various routes and she even accompanied her everywhere on her arduous journey.

Read more: `It was five degrees in Arctic Ocean' - Mumbai - City - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/It-was-five-degrees-in-Arctic-Ocean/articleshow/6322056.cms#ixzz0wrvzGaBv

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Traces Found of Ill-Fated 1912 Arctic Expedition

A Russian expedition returned from Arctic waters this week with new information on one of the country's most enduring mysteries: the fate of Georgii Brusilov's expedition aboard the ship St. Anna, which sailed from the northern port of Archangelsk in August 1912 in a bid to become the first Russian ship to negotiate the Northern Sea Passage to the Pacific Ocean. It never made it. 

Halfway through, in the Kara Sea, the ship was frozen fast in pack ice that began to draw it implacably northward. The crew endured two winters at the mercy of the shifting ice. In early 1914, with the vessel apparently drifting ever closer to the North Pole, the navigator, Valerian Albanov, had had enough. With part of the crew, he embarked on a grueling march over the ice, of which he was one of only two survivors. The St. Anna itself, along with the remaining crew, disappeared. 

Russians find traces of ill-fated 1912 Arctic Expedition
Vladimir Melnik
Evgenii Fershter, center with some of his team, first started planning an expedition to find the Saint Anna in 2005.
That basic tale, recounted in Albanov's celebrated memoirs, was the source for Veniamin Kaverin's novel "Two Captains," known to every Russian child and twice adapted for the screen. "I will find the expedition!" says the novel's hero. "I don't believe that it has vanished without a trace!" 

Russian explorer Evgenii Fershter felt the same way, and he started planning a search mission for the remains of the St. Anna and her crew in 2005. Another Arctic expert, Oleg Prodan, joined the effort and became the leader of this summer's expedition. 

"The St. Anna is probably lost forever," Fershter says. He suspects that the pack ice carried the ship to unfrozen waters where, crushed by the floes, it sank. As a result, Prodan says, "What happened to Brusilov and his crew will probably remain a mystery. But it may be possible to discover what happened to the people who left with the navigator, Albanov, to find land."

Albanov's memoirs leave much untold, including the dangerous tensions Fershter and others believe flared on the doomed ship in the endless night of the Arctic winter of 1913-1914. Whatever the conflict between Albanov and Brusilov, the crew of the St. Anna was divided in April 1914. Albanov led 13 men on a fantastic trek over more than 250 miles of floating ice toward the archipelago of Franz Josef Land off the northern coast of Siberia. Their goal was Nortbruk Island, where they hoped to find supplies at the encampment of a British expedition led by Frederick Jackson.

For more than two months they traversed the twilit ice, hampered by ridges, crevices and shifting floes. Two of the men fled, taking with them food, guns and the group's only compass. Albanov's men staved off starvation by hunting polar bears. But on July 8, they reached Alexander Island, the farthest northwestern reach of Franz Josef Land, where they found the two runaways. Despite high emotions, Albanov allowed them to rejoin the group.

Albanov divided his men, taking three in a pair of handmade kayaks while the rest continued on foot over islands and ice crossings. Gliding over the frozen waters, the kayaks lost each other in the sea mists. Only Albanov and Alexander Konrad, a ship's hand, reached Jackson's camp.

In a wild stroke of luck, a ship from another Arctic voyage pulled into the camp for fuel and rescued Albanov and Konrad. They sailed back to find their colleagues, but they were nowhere to be seen.

Using satellite maps and other technology to evaluate the terrain, Fershter and his colleagues had charted the land party's most likely route and determined to follow in their footsteps. With modern equipment, they faced few of the travails suffered by Albanov's party, although Fershter recalls "70 mph winds that made pitching camp an adventure." 

Russians find traces of ill-fated 1912 Arctic Expedition
Vladimir Melnik
The expedition found the bones of a Saint Anna crew member, foreground, in the desolate landscape of the Franz Josef Land.
Their first find was the body of one of the lost seamen. Nearby, they found the crew's belongings: a bucket, rifle cartridges, glasses made by the ship's engineer from bottles of rum, a knife, snowshoes, a pocket watch and a spoon with the initials of one of the crewmen. "We all grew up with the story of 'Two Captains,' " Prodan says. "Grown men were overwhelmed, filled with wonder to find and touch what they read about as children."

Near the body lay something still more intriguing: a well-preserved diary page from May 1913, when the whole crew was still aboard the St. Anna. Supplies were already running low ("today we got our last brick of tobacco; the matches ran out long ago"). A polar bear that approached the ship was killed to feed the crew. Capt. Brusilov, somewhat recovered from an unspecified malady, was carried out to inspect his vessel. The diary offers a window into daily life in the most extreme conditions.

The team found three more documents, including part of a notebook whose pages they did not try to peel open, but sent back for examination by experts. "We found over 10 written pages in all," Prodan reports.

Russians find traces of ill-fated 1912 Arctic Expedition
Vladimir Melnik
A knife from the lost expedition was found this summer on an island in the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land.
Prodan and Fershter agree that their "discoveries raise as many questions as they answer." It is unlikely, for example, that the man whose body they found froze to death a mere six miles from Cape Neale, yet the terrain there posed no dangers and the remains show no signs of a predator's teeth. It was too close to their starting point to be a camp, and yet many of the group's crucial possessions were left there.

The team raised a memorial cross for the dead crewman before returning to the mainland. In the coming weeks, the recovered documents will be read. They may provide answers to these and to haunting questions about the drama played out among the crew in their last days on the ship.

Next summer, the team hopes to return to seek the remaining crewmen and further evidence of their fate. The St. Anna's mysteries may yet be brought to light, almost a century later.