Wednesday, February 29, 2012

interview with Japanese solo NP skier Yasu Ogita: after 11 years the ultimate - Solo Trek to the North Pole unassisted!

"I'm in Iqaluit, Matty's place. I am getting ready for my expedition. I will go to Resolute tomorrow flight. These are answers: 1. I am nervous now. Thinking a lot of the situation. 2. 800 km is not so long distance for me, but Arctic Ocean is really different place, specially moving ice, and open leads."

Last week Yasunaga Ogita was preparing his food and gear in Iqaluit at Matty McNair’s where ExplorersWeb caught up with him.

Since 2000 Yasu has been doing expeditions in the Arctic; only in the Arctic, nowhere else, the Japanese solo skier told ExplorersWeb. Although nervous about the ultimate North Pole challenge he go solo because then he is free and can go his way, says Yasu.

Eleven years later, he will attempt a solo ski, no resupplies or kites, from Canada to the Geographic North Pole (90°N).

The uncertainty of the Arctic Ocean

For this expedition he is nervous admitted Yasu, and he is thinking a lot about “the situation”.

Compared to the expeditions he has done, 800 km is not so long distance for him, he said, “but the Arctic Ocean is really a different place, especially moving ice, and open leads. They are all uncertain, unpredictable things.”


At home he experimented with food and made some of it himself. Being Japanese there is rice on the menu. Apart from the freeze dried food he has pemmican, sausage, butter, nuts, chocolate and cookies. The weight of his daily food rations average 1.1 kg and contains 6000 kcal.

Learning from predecessors

Last year he and team mate Yusuke Kakuhata had done a 103-day sledge-hauling and backpacking expedition in the high Arctic, retracing John Franklin’s doomed Northwest Passage route and thereafter trekking beyond. What did he learn there that he will apply on this expedition?

“Our predecessors were great. They had no GPS, no maps, no high technology gear, no freeze dried foods. But they were traveling this harsh climate country. Now, are we degenerating? Compared with them, they went there fully aware that it might cost them their lives. Then it really happened; they did die.”

“We have lots of information and technology; much more than past explorers. I learned about their preparation during last year’s expedition. I want to apply that preparedness like them; but I don't want to die, of course.”

Below: Yasu preparing gear and vitamins for his solo NP expedition:

Yasunaga Ogita has spent many years in the Arctic preparing himself for this ultimate expedition to the Geographic North Pole; he has done expeditions “only in the Arctic and in no other place”, he stated.

- 2000 Resolute Bay to 1996 position of the North Magnetic Pole, 700 km skiing, 35 days, with a group.
- 2001 training in Resolute Bay for one month.
- 2002 Resolute to Grise Fiord, 500 km skiing solo, 24days.
- 2003 Victoria Island trip, around Cambridge Bay.
- 2004 Crossing Greenland ice cap by dog team with a friend; Siorapaluk to Ammasallik, 2000 km, 50 days.
- 2007 Resolute Bay to Cambridge Bay, 1000 km skiing solo.
- 2010 Resolute to 1996 North Magnetic Pole, 700 km skiing solo.
- 2011 Chasing Franklin expedition 1600 km, 103 days, Resolute - Gjoa Haven - Baker Lake

- 2012 - Will Attempt a Solo Trek to the North Pole unassisted to become the first Japanese to achieve such a record.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sacramento teacher headed to Antarctica after winning 'cool' competition

Kim Williams was picked in a "cool teacher" contest.

Sacramento sixth-grade teacher Kim Williams is heading to Antarctica after being selected as one of two winners of the "Coolest Teachers in the World" competition.

The Washington Elementary School veteran teacher will join explorer Robert Swan in the 2041 International Antarctic Expedition on Monday for a two-week journey she will share with her students when she returns.

Williams said that during the trip the group will explore the Antarctic Peninsula to learn about the continent's fragile ecosystem and the effects of climate change.

Williams said the Antarctic expedition will include hikes, camping and a polar plunge.

"I have to pinch myself every once in a while," Williams said. "I never in a million years …"

Williams was selected to participate following a national search sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools.

Fellow teacher Cate Arnold of Boston Latin School was also selected.

The council chose Williams based on her collaborations with California State University,Sacramento, and UC Davis that bring science, engineering and math graduate students and faculty into her classroom.

She has been teaching for 15 years and said incorporating environmental awareness into classroom studies has been a priority.

Williams started Washington Elementary's school garden and registered it as a 4-H Junior Master Gardner Program.

"The students are so excited for me," she said.

Williams will be blogging about her trip and answering questions online

Read more here:

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rainbow Warrior III - legacy continues with new ship

Rainbow Warrior III

She’s the first ship in our fleet designed and built specifically for Greenpeace. That means she's one of the most environmentally-friendly ships ever made. We are thrilled she's now fighting with us for a green and peaceful future.

After 22 tireless years at the campaigning frontline, the second Rainbow Warrior retired from her Greenpeace life on August 16th, 2011.

The ship – which replaced the original Rainbow Warrior after it was bombed in 1985 – helped end nuclear testing in the Pacific, blocked coal ports and closed down destructive fishing operations (to name but a few).

It’s a very proud legacy – and the third Rainbow Warrior, which entered operation on October 14th, 2011, is better equipped to carry it on than any Greenpeace ship before her.

A purpose-built campaigning ship

Ever since the first Greenpeace expedition set off in a ramshackle old fishing vessel we have relied on existing vessels refitted to meet our needs. With the new Rainbow Warrior, we had the chance to start with a blank canvas for the first time.
A fast and reliable vessel

The new Rainbow Warrior is as fast as many industrial vessels, with action boats that can be deployed in minutes – even in waves up to 3.5 meters high. Her helicopter landing pad means we can deploy a vital eye in the sky, enabling us to spot illegal fishing operations and shipments of illegal wood.
A base for science

The ship can carry specialised equipment up to 8 tons in weight. It’s designed so that scientists can work on board. By supporting original scientific research we help build understanding of what is happening to our planet’s ecosystems.
A floating communications hub

The on-board satellite communications system – featuring a built-in satellite uplink – means the new Rainbow Warrior is able to stream live footage from the scene of environmental crimes direct to the world’s media.
A shining example for green ship building

We wanted the third Rainbow Warrior to be as environmentally-friendly as possible for a ship of its type and Greenpeace has worked with some excellent engineers to make it happen.

The ship sails primarily under wind power. Its 55m-high A-Frame mast system can carry far more sail than a conventional mast of the same size. This is the first time this design has been installed on a vessel of the Rainbow Warrior’s size.

The Warrior does have electric drive engines to help out when the weather isn’t suitable, but these are also built with sustainability in mind. Heat from the engines is used to heat water and warm the cabins.

On board up to 59 cubic meters of grey and black water can be stored, avoiding any need for at sea disposal. And a special biological filtering system helps clean and recycle grey water.

The new Rainbow Warrior’s eco-credentials include:
A hull shape designed specifically for superior energy efficiency
A-frame mast and sails - optimised for highly effective sailing
Electric drive system (10 knots on only 300kW)
Extended environmental assessment of the ship
Highest environmental standards of all engines (IMO Tier-II)
Green ship class notation with Green Passport
Voluntary environmental protection class notation
Exhaust gas treatment, minimizing NOx emissions and Particulate Matters (PM)
Biological treatment of sewage and grey water
Central filling and venting system for fuel and oils to prevent spills
Environmentally friendly paint system
Re-use of engine heat to make hot water
The making of a Warrior

The construction of the ship was a (welcome) challenge for everyone involved – the experts were not only constructing a high-tech ship; it also had to meet the highest environmental standards.

The shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, started work on the hull in the summer of 2010. 340-tons of steel were then transported to the Fassmer Shipyard near Bremen, Germany, where the ship was fitted out.

Here, the hull’s rusty brown also gave way to a much more suitable colour – the Greenpeace green. A dove of peace and the striking colours of the rainbow finally made the new ship our Rainbow Warrior.

She entered water for the first time in July 2011 and was officially launched in Hamburg, Germany, in October the same year.

Port of registration: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Vessel Type: Motor Sail yacht with helicopter landing deck
Class: Germanischer Lloyd, Notations include Green Passport
Length Overall: 57.92m
Beam (Max): 11.30m
Draught (Max): 5.15m
Air Draught: 54.25m
Gross Tonnage : 855
Sailing Rig: Staysail Schooner, 2 A frame mast with 5 sails
Total sail surface: 1255 sq meter
Service Speed / Max Speed: 7 knots / 15 knots
Main & Auxiliary Engines: Caterpillar, IMO Tier II Certification
Cruising range: 9,500 nm
Accommodation: 30 persons
A beacon of hope

All Greenpeace ships are special, but our new Rainbow Warrior is one of a kind. She plays a key role in our campaigns, allowing us to bear witness and take action to prevent environmental crimes around the world.

“Since setting sail in 1978 the Rainbow Warrior has been on the frontline of the struggle against environmental abuse,” Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, said at the keel laying ceremony, which took place on July 10th, 2010 – the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the original Rainbow Warrior.

“She is an icon of non-violent direct action and a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world.”

about us
rainbow warrior,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Submergers and acquisitions - Personal Submarine

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A personal submarine is the latest must-have plaything for billionaires

Oceanic: Triton 3,300/3 submarine

As I look out over the calm sea, a transparent bubble breaks the surface like an enormous jellyfish. It rises as our inflatable dinghy pulls closer, until water is cascading down the two-metre-wide glass dome and a bright yellow deck appears.

This is the first Triton 3,300/3, a new model created by Florida-based Triton Submarines, one of only a few companies in the world building submersibles for personal use. The company has brought it here, to the Atlantic off the Bahamas, for testing and to demonstrate it to industry colleagues and potential buyers.

Our dinghy deposits me on deck. I climb a metal ladder attached to the dome and shimmy down through a hatch in the top. I settle into one of two passenger seats and we begin to descend, the water rising from chest to eye level and soon closing above my head. We have been swallowed up by blue.

Until very recently the notion of submarine tourism was pure fantasy. Over the past six years, though, Triton and companies such as Netherlands-based U-Boat Worx have been changing the game. The new submersibles are two-or-three seaters with windows on the sea, making the experience less like being a German sailor trapped in a U-boat and more like being Captain Nemo surveying the aquascape from the Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. And now, for the right price and about four weeks of training, you can buy one and pilot it yourself.

“I think there’s a healthy market for submarine tourism on these kinds of subs,” says Mike McDowell, who heads the company Deep Ocean Expeditions and has come to watch the 3,300/3’s debut. He’s been in the adventure travel business for 35 years, having co-founded a company that takes tourists to Antarctica and another, Space Adventures, that takes them to the International Space Station.

This year, using a Russian research submarine, Deep Ocean Expeditions will take passengers to visit the Titanic, which lies 3,800m below the surface. About 80 people will take the eight- to 10-hour trip, which costs $60,000 a head. The company is also offering upcoming trips to the Bismarck, to ocean-floor hydrothermal vents and, for $375,000, a 35-day, 15-dive journey across the north Atlantic.

Triton, meanwhile, says its revenue is growing as new models sell for higher prices. It had sold four submersibles in total before designing the 3,300/3. One earlier model, the 1,000/2 (which takes two people to just over 300m), went for $2m. The 3,300/3 is priced at $3m and already one customer has ordered two, intending to charter out one of those for between $5,000 and $7,000 per day.

Since its launch in 2005, U-Boat Worx says it has sold eight submarines and its range runs from the C-Quester, which can dive to 100m and sells for €875,000, to the C-Explorer, which can reach 1,000m and costs €2m. As of last year, one of its submarines is available to charter from a Marseilles-based firm.

These companies are counting on high-end adventure tourism remaining a growing segment of the tourist market despite the prevailing economic climate. Nearly 80m Americans will retire in the next 20 years, argues Triton president Patrick Lahey, who is at the controls for my test dive. “A good portion of these people are well-heeled and looking for something more than just lying on a beach in Cancun drinking margaritas.” He points to the fact that tourists’ desire to go where few others have been before is already helping recreational space travel become a viable business – seven tourists have now visited the International Space Station, paying tens of millions of dollars each, while Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space-flight business has nearly 500 bookings.

Sir Richard Branson with his prototype submarine

The submarine makers believe that personal subs will increasingly become the billionaire’s must-have plaything. And, as if to underline that point, Branson is also working on his own under-sea project, Virgin Oceanic. It has developed an innovative one-person submarine that Branson hopes will reach 11,000m in the Mariana Trench. After that, he says he will take the controls himself for a dive to 8,000m in the Puerto Rico Trench.

Triton claims the 3,330/3’s touchscreen-and-joystick control system makes it simpler to operate than previous generations, and despite being able to reach a depth of 1,000m it is relatively lightweight, making it easier to hoist on and off a yacht.

But most spectacular, from a passenger’s point of view, is that it has the largest acrylic sphere ever made for a manned submersible – and also the thickest. Even though the membrane between passenger and water is 17cm thick, it’s so transparent that it feels like looking through an ordinary pane of glass.

Underwater, the first thing I notice is how peaceful the downward drift feels. The second is that while I was nervous about becoming claustrophobic, that hasn’t happened. If anything, it’s the agoraphobic who should be wary of the 3,300/3, because it’s like floating in space. As we descend, the sea above us is still turquoise and below it is cobalt. I peer into open water, uncertain of how far I’m seeing. A reef shark sails overhead.

Lahey calls out the depth – 45m, 75m, 105m. We won’t be diving to her full capacity but we’re deeper than I’ve ever been scuba diving and the encroaching darkness becomes an indigo dusk. Triton also has a two-person submersible down here today and as we approach a wall in the sea floor Lahey radios the other captain to turn his lights on. Two pinpricks appear between us and the wall and I realise how colossal the vertical surface is, extending up, down and sideways as far as I can see. It’s the island of Grand Bahama, sloping steeply down to the ocean floor. When we turn our light to the wall we see lionfish, angelfish and squirrelfish minding their own business, and a curious barracuda.

Forty minutes go by in an instant and I don’t want to surface but this ride is just a teaser. The 3,300/3 can go for up to 10 hours, to deep shipwrecks or seamounts teeming with life.

Next, Lahey hopes to start working on the Full Ocean Depth Triton, capable of reaching 10,973m. “This is comparable to the ships built by the British, Spanish and Portuguese in the late 1400s,” he says. “They offer human beings an opportunity to visit vast areas of our planet that we have never explored and know little or nothing about.

“People are sceptical,” he adds. “But we’re used to that.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fabled ex-Canadian frigate turned luxury yacht opens to London sightseers

The Newly Restored Christina O, Former Private Yacht Of Aristotle Onassis, And Her Tender Cruise At Sea April 24, 2001 In The Mediterranean.
Photograph by: Getty Images , Getty Images

Nearly 70 years after it joined the D-Day armada across the English Channel and helped launch the liberation of Europe, a Canadian frigate from the Second World War is back in British waters this week and open to sightseers at its London mooring for hour-long tours at 15 British pounds a pop.

But the curious visitors won't be hearing much about the perilous U-boat patrols or other war stories that unfolded on the decks of the former HMCS Stormont, a ship that only truly became famous after it was sold off by the Canadian government and luxuriously refitted in the 1950s by Greek businessman Aristotle Onassis — who went on to host many of the world's most glamorous and powerful guests aboard his legendary warship-turned-mega-yacht Christina O.

The storied vessel arrived in late January at the Docklands port district along the Thames River, quickly generating a buzz via websites maintained by London-area ship-spotters.

It soon emerged that the yacht — where Onassis successfully wooed opera superstar Maria Callas, and later the presidential widow Jacqueline Kennedy — would be staying in Britain until June, with the public invited to take audio-guided tours recalling the days when visitors as diversely renowned as Sir Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe strolled Christina O's opulent decks.

"Step back in time and visit the most famous super-yacht in the world," states the sales pitch for tours that began this week and are on offer until June at the Docklands.

"Walk around this floating treasure and relive one of the most glamorous eras of the 20th century," adds the online description of the tour, highlighting an onboard exhibition "packed with memorabilia" from the yacht's heyday before Onassis's death in 1975.

"Hear stories of Princess Grace, Jackie O, and Winston Churchill. See where one of the most famous affairs of all time started."

Christina O's latest incarnation as a dockside tourist attraction is all part of the ship's new identity as a commercial enterprise trading on its richly layered past.

Built in 1943 at the Canadian Vickers shipyard in Montreal, HMCS Stormont took its name from a former county south of Ottawa.

It served in the famous Murmansk Run convoys, maintaining a supply line to the Soviet Union through treacherous Arctic waters at the height of the Second World War.

The ship also escorted troops and munitions across the North Atlantic and hunted submarines before its participation in "Operation Neptune" — code name for the landing phase during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

During one extended wartime voyage between Gibraltar, Murmansk and Halifax, HMCS Stormont was at sea for 63 straight days — the single longest mission of any Canadian frigate during the 1939-45 conflict.

But the ship's war-era exploits have long been overshadowed by its postwar service as Onassis's personal playground for the rich and famous.

The frigate was purchased from the Canadian government after the war and later given a $4-million makeover by the Greek shipping tycoon, who acquired Stormont in 1954 and renamed the vessel after his daughter, Christina.

Among the attractions onboard the 99-metre yacht are a full-sized swimming pool, a spiral staircase, 19 lavishly decorated staterooms and Ari's, the fabled watering hole with bar stools covered in minke whale foreskin.

"Madame, you are sitting on the largest penis in the world," Onassis is said to have told Monroe and his other Hollywood invitees over the years, including Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor.

In 1956, Monaco's Prince Rainier and film star Grace Kelly had their wedding reception on the ship, which Egypt's dethroned King Farouk once described as "the last word in opulence."

In 1957, then-U.S. senator John F. Kennedy met Churchill, Britain's wartime prime minister, aboard the yacht, which also boasts a collection of priceless artwork and rare books.

Around that time, the decommissioned gunship became the setting where Onassis secretly courted Callas before he dumped the diva for Kennedy — subsequently known as "Jackie O" — in the late 1960s.

The ex-Stormont was eventually refurbished and relaunched in 1999 by Greek businessman Yannis Papanicolaou, who made it available for a princely sum of $5 million for one month of high-seas partying at the turn of the millennium.

Later, 10-day luxury cruises could be had for about $40,000 per couple.

Since 2006, Christina O has been available as a charter yacht for clients able to afford rental fees of up to $60,000 per day.

And in 2009, apparently in a bid to reach a bigger pool of potential customers, the ship's current owners began offering a one-night, Callas-themed, meals-and-entertainment package out of Monte Carlo for $3,000 per passenger.

The musical Mediterranean cruise, called the "Maria Callas Experience," was billed at the time as an "exclusive opportunity to be transported into the jet-set era of the 1950s and 1960s" — and to explore the places where "the most passionate, chronicled and ill-fated romances of the 20th century" unfolded.

Now, at least for the next four months, any tourist in London — perhaps even some of the few surviving Canadian veterans who served on HMCS Stormont during the war — can spend an hour soaking up the ship's colourful history for the equivalent of about $23.50.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

How an 1870s marine expedition changed oceanography and drove eight sailors insane


How an 1870s marine expedition changed oceanography and drove eight sailors insane

When was the first voyage of the Challenger? No, not the Space Shuttle — the original Challenger, a sea ship that sailed in 1872. The HMS Challenger traversed the world's oceans for four years, drove some of its sailors completely insane, caused about a quarter of the crew to jump ship, and forever changed the face of ocean science.

Is there a way to scroll past the nature channels without seeing one that describes the richness of the ocean and the life that teems in its depth? In the early 1800s, the ocean was something to fish in and to get across. What happened below 1500 feet was of no concern to anyone, although scientists calculated that the pressure, the temperature, and the lack of sunlight meant that no life existed below. The bottom of the ocean was presumed to be as lifeless as the surface of the moon, though it was far less known. In 1872, the HMS Challenger was sent out to circumnavigate the globe, with a crew of around 240 sailors and scientists. When it got back in 1876, it had 144 people aboard, losing people to madness, death, sickness, and sheer desperation to escape the voyage. It also held a wealth of information that launched a new era of exploration, and a new field of science.

The HMS Challenger sounds like a dream assignment to anyone who has ever imagined exploring new territory or making a contribution to science. It was set to go around to the globe, via some of the most beautiful islands in the world, taking reading and collecting life from regions never studied. Then reality set in. The routine of the Challenger was this: the ship would sail to a certain part of the ocean, send down lines to a certain depth, take temperature and pressure readings, send nets or dredgers down, and haul up whatever life they could find. It would do this at several points nearby, should it find anything interesting. Then it would move on and do the same the next day. And the next. For the scientists it was a thrilling, if stressful, time. For the crew it was excruciating. The manual labor was repetitive and backbreaking. To maintain accuracy of readings, the work also had to be extremely precise.

Although ship's records only vaguely references sailors 'going mad,' or leaving the ship at various ports, it's known that at least eight people did go insane during the voyage, and one threw himself into the sea. Others picked the more conventional method of waiting until they got to a likely port and running like hell. Still others died of sickness or simply became sick and were put ashore at the next port and left. (This strategy of simply putting people ashore and letting them hope they could find some other way to get home was pretty common at the time. The ships' logbook mentions finding two brothers, both whalers, who were set on a slip of a beach next to huge unscalable cliffs to hunt seals, and left there by a ship that didn't return for them.)

The HMS Challenger's mission was rough on everyone, and disastrous to some, but something did come out of it: all of oceanography. The voyage invented the science, changing it from something done casually by 'naturalists' and scientifically-minded staff aboard ships to a reason for going to sea in the first place. The voyage brought back 4,700 marine specimens from areas that were considered lifeless. The crew discovered mountains under the sea, which many thought were the lost city of Atlantis. They discovered the Marianas Trench, the lowest spot on Earth. They brought back enough material, overall, for a fifteen-volume text that took nearly two decades to complete. They shifted the idea of exploring the depths from a Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea fiction to scientific possibility. The first few deep sea explorers, who went down to terrifying depths in glorified tin cans, and unmanned divers and everyone who heads down to the depths for science is participating in a science, and a mindset, kicked off by that one, long miserable voyage of discovery.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In just a few days time, Zeena al Towayya will become the first Omani woman to go on an expedition to the Antarctic. The IT professional will be joining the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2041 on February 25. The news was announced at a press conference at the Caledonian College of Engineering, who is supporting the expedition, earlier this week.

Zeena will be taking after fellow Omanis Bader al Rahbi and Ali al Esry, who joined the expedition last year. On February 27, she will join a team of 72 people from all over the globe in Ushuaia, Argentina, from where they will continue by ship to begin their journey in the Antarctic. The group will be led by founder of IAE 2041, Robert Swan, a polar explorer and environmental leader who is also the first person to have walked to both the North and South Poles.

“I am glad to be part of a team that aims to promote recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change,” said Zeena during the press conference. “I will gain firsthand knowledge of the continent’s fragile ecosystem, experience its wildlife and observe the magnificent landscapes of the Antarctic.”

IAE 2041 has been conducting corporate expeditions to the Antarctic since 2003. Its goal is to educate on and promote the protection of the Antarctic Treaty. The treaty, which will be open to modification or amendment in the year 2041, aims to keep the area demilitarised, establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, promote international scientific cooperation and set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

Zeena hopes that with the help of Bader and Ali, she will be able to convince Oman to sign the protocol for the treaty, which has 27 other signatory countries. “As an expedition member, I will be responsible for informing, engaging and inspiring Omani youths to be proactive and take initiatives that will protect the environment and provide a sustainable future,” said Zeena.

“On my return, I plan to give lectures at colleges, schools and community gatherings. I always had a vision to do voluntary work, become a leader of positive change and conserve the environment.”

Adventurer plans solo Arctic expedition

A Japanese adventurer is aiming to become the country's first person to complete a solo trek to the North Pole.

Yasunaga Ogita is planning to complete the 800km journey from Canada and if he succeeds, will become only the fourth person ever to achieve the mission.

The 34-year-old from Hokkaido will set off in March pulling a sledge loaded with around 100kg of fuel, food and supplies for the expedition, which is expected to take around 50 days, the Mainichi Daily reported.

Since 2000, Ogita has made 11 trips to the Arctic, trekking a total of around 7,000km, including a 700km trip across the Arctic with fellow adventurer Mitsuro Oba.

Ahead of his trip, Ogita told the news provider: "There is only a fine line between adventure and recklessness. Making experiences and building knowledge will lead to adventure."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the fateful expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic that claimed the lives of him and his crew.

Monday, February 20, 2012

UMaine researchers help lead 81,000-nautical-mile scientific ocean expedition

Photo courtesy of C. Sardet/Tara expeditions - University of Maine marine science professor Lee Karp-Boss (sitting, right) explains part of the scientific research behind the 2 1/2-year Tara Oceans Expedition to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (sitting, second from right) and his wife, Yoo (Ban) Soon-taek (sitting, left). Sitting next to the secretary general's wife is French fashion designer Agnes B., the owner of the Tara and a financial contributor to its research.

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — A 2½-year ocean-trotting scientific expedition is nearing its end, and a University of Maine researcher is gathering some of the last bits of data on a journey that spans 81,000 nautical miles and 60 ports of call.

Lee Karp-Boss, a marine science professor at UMaine, left New York City on Feb. 12 aboard the 118-foot schooner Tara, where she will serve as chief scientist on one of the last legs of the journey, according to her husband and fellow UMaine professor Emmanuel Boss.

This leg of the journey will take 15 crew members and scientists from New York to Bermuda, Boss said from his home Saturday morning.

Tara set sail from Lorient, France, in September of 2009 and has been gathering data and organism samples ever since in an effort to reveal more about biodiversity in oceans that cover 70 percent of the planet.

Data gathered on the Tara’s expedition could help researchers determine the organization of ocean ecosystems and how global climate change might be affecting ocean organisms, Boss said.

Karp-Boss specializes in the study of phytoplankton and their form, function and relationship to the environment.

Boss’s expertise is ocean optics, which uses the color and clarity of ocean water identify and learn about the organisms that live in the water. He was chief scientist on a separate leg of the Tara expedition that went from Panama City, Panama, to Savannah, Ga.

“We have satellites in space that look at the ocean, and the only way we can see the ocean and the effect of biology on the ocean on a daily scale is through the changes in the color of the ocean,” Boss said.

Equipment on the ship measures the properties of the water while seven nets with different pore size gather samples of organisms, Boss said. That information can give scientists a better idea of how organisms affect the oceans they inhabit and allow researchers to determine what’s living in the water based on images from a satellite.

Work onboard the Tara has drawn interest from the United Nations, which has kicked in funding for the expedition and sent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on a tour of the Tara after a New York City conference on Feb. 9 that highlighted the importance of ocean research, Boss said.

Karp-Boss used a water tank filled with salt and fresh water to demonstrate ocean stratification — or the layering of ocean water because of varied properties such as salt content — and help explain why the Tara’s work is important to revealing more about ocean life, Boss said.

Karp-Boss and Boss co-authored a booklet highlighting ocean-related experiments such as the one the Tara scientists showed Ban during his hour-and-a-half-long excursion on the schooner. That booklet is available for free at

Rotating crews of seven scientists stay on board for one leg, which typically lasts three weeks, sampling several stations along the way, which typically run 18-36 hours. The captain is replaced every six months, crew members switch off every three months and the scientists work on one-leg shifts, according to Boss.

There are 50 laboratories from 15 countries collaborating on the research. Most of the expeditions backers are based in France, where Tara got its start.

The Tara is owned by French fashion designer Agnes B., a supporter of environmental causes who has invested more than $3 million euros — or nearly $4 million U.S. — each year of the expedition, according to Boss.

The expedition is mostly funded by European groups, but NASA, the U.S. Navy, UN and several American universities, including UMaine, also have contributed. Even the prince of Monaco pumped funds into the venture.

The Tara will return to France on March 31, where it will be on display as an educational tool for students and the public. Plans are in the works for an expedition to the Arctic in 2015 and another expedition to study coral reefs a few years later, according to Boss.

More information about the Tara expedition and its research may be found at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discover Svalbard with photographer Florian Schulz!

Discover Svalbard with photographer Florian Schulz!

We want to share with you the unique opportunity to join Florian on a 14 day arctic adventure to explore the archipelago of Svalbard. For his new companion book "To The Arctic" to the upcoming IMAX film Florian explored the Arctic in the course of 18 months in the past years. Svalbard has become one of his favorite spots. Now you can join him on this expedition.
We will embark on this arctic expedition to explore the Svalbard archipelago from June 04 to June 18, 2012.

Interested? Please contact us by, Thursday March 1st, 2012!

While we certainly hope to discover polar bears, this expedition is more about exploring and documenting the arctic ecosystem as a whole. We will visit large bird colonies where animals number in the hundred-thousands, look for walrus haul outs, look for arctic foxes and spend time capturing the magic of the arctic landscape.
A good amount of our effort of course will be searching for the great white bear. In the past expeditions we had great success finding and photographing polar bears but we will all have to work together scanning the landscapes and taking turns on polar bear watch while we are at anchor. As the light is best during the night hours, we might turn around our clocks to sleep during the day.
The total cost per person for the14 day expedition is 9,000.- EUR.
This includes all meals, snacks, soft drinks, zodiac and guide. The cost of the trip does not include your flight to and from Svalbard nor any hotel accommodations. It only includes the boat trip. We will of course, pick you up at the airport.
On board the sailboat we will have two zodiacs that we can launch once we are anchored to head out to explore the coast or visit bird colonies. Overall the trip should be seen as an exploration of Svalbard for nature enthusiasts that enjoy photography.
While it is not a photography workshop Florian will give insights into his photography, share tips and tricks and give little photography "seminars" in the evenings.
The skill level of photography is not that important as is the passion for taking pictures and the interest in observing wildlife as we sometimes may spend an extended amount of time photographing in one single area.
If you are interested in joining us, please make sure to get in touch with us by March 1st, 2012.
Thank you!
For more details contact: Emil Herrera-Schulz / +49 (0) 7503 2173 /

Patagonian Expedition Race 2012: going crazy on the icy seas

Will Gray reports on the navigational nightmares that have plagued early stages of the 375-mile Patagonian Expedition Race.

Patagonian Expedition Race 2012: going crazy on the icy seas 
"Barely 12 hours into this epic eight-day multisport journey, the waters that Ferdinand Magellan successfully navigated nearly 500 years ago had proven too much for the Brazilian team" Photo: ALAMY 

The epic journey has begun, but for some it is already over.

Spotted amidst the frothy waves on the Strait of Magellan, with their kayak pointing in the wrong direction, the Brazilian team ‘Go Crazy’ were lost at sea, some distance from their target of Isla Dawson.

Barely 12 hours into this epic eight-day multisport journey, the waters that Ferdinand Magellan successfully navigated nearly 500 years ago had proven too much for these adventurers. They eventually reached their destination safely, but several hours after the other 18 four-man groups and well outside the first cut-off time.

It was a brief adventure for the Brazilians, but they did get to see one of the region’s most prized spectacles: at 2.30am on Tuesday, at the start line in Punta Arenas, the sky opened up to reveal a spectacular starscape.


Gearing up for 'the Last Wild Race' 13 Feb 2012
South America's far-flung paradise 21 Jan 2012
The world's 20 greatest adventures 21 Jan 2011
The world's most dangerous beaches 12 Oct 2011
The world's most dangerous roads 20 Sep 2011
The world's scariest train rides 04 Oct 2011

A cold and harsh Patagonian wind also greeted the racers as they began their opening bicycle run – and it helped blow them quickly down the coast. A calm morning stillness set in as the lead group then took to the water.

Briton Nick Gracie described the morning ride as a "warm-up". He has won this annual event three times before, and his team were the first to climb into their kayaks, hours before most normal folk would consider getting up.

The trip across to Isla Dawson looked short, but as the morning wore on the seas roughed up, and the latter teams struggled in the spray, carefully watched over by the Chilean Navy, who look after racers' safety on the water.

The target for the opening two days was to reach Tierra del Fuego. By nightfall on day one the teams were already taking a welcome rest, having lugged their kayaks over 10km of bushy ground to the entrance of Canal Whiteside, where regulations required them to wait until dawn before returning to the water to complete their route to the archipelago.

The Patagonian Expedition Race is an incredible logistical challenge, in which the support staff find themselves racing the racers, utilising Patagonia's transport infrastructure to reach each checkpoint before the teams do.

Sometimes they struggle to keep the pace as they are forced to take wide detours around mountains and fjords, while teams trek on through. Other times it is the teams who get slowed down by the Patagonian equivalent of a brick wall – thick twisted bush or thorny bracken that slows the pace down to as little as half a mile an hour.

This uncertainty means strict cut-off times are required, which can sadly halt the fun a little too early for some.

So, as the Brazilians contemplate a return to warmer climes, the remaining teams continue to the magical land of Tierra del Fuego.

Over the coming day or two, they will tackle boggy and forested valleys, passing along the Rio Condor and through the Karukinka Natural Park – when they come out is anyone’s guess.

For more on the race, go to
To learn more about the region go to

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 YUKON QUEST 1,000-mile sled race decided by 26 seconds

Hugh Neff, crossing the finish line to win the Yukon Quest, credits Walter, a 7-year-old Alaskan husky, for leading his comeback victory. (Scott Chesney, Yukon Quest / February 14, 2012)

By Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune reporter

February 15, 2012

Near the end of a 1,000-mile dog sled race, in the middle of the night in the middle of Canada's Great White North, a 44-year-old man who grew up in Evanston hitched his hopes to an indomitable 7-year-old Alaskan husky named for the running back who had pulled the Bears to many a triumph.

And Walter pulled Hugh Neff's team to the first victory of his mushing career after the closest finish in the history of the Yukon Quest, a race many consider tougher than the better-known Iditarod.

"This was all about heart, and Walter had the heart of Sweetness," Neff said by telephone Tuesday from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

At 5:14 a.m. local time Tuesday, almost 11 days after he and 14 dogs had left Fairbanks, Alaska, Neff had become the race's 29th winner by just 26 seconds over Allen Moore. The smallest previous winning margin was four minutes in 2009, when Neff was second.

"It was quite a comeback," said Neff, a Loyola Academy graduate who moved from Evanston to Alaska 17 years ago and began sled dog racing three years later.

Having been assessed a 30-minute penalty for leaving his mandatory ax behind in Dawson City, where he had forgotten to repack the implement after using it to chop fish, Neff began the final 100-mile leg 42 minutes behind Moore.

Halfway through the leg, a fan told Neff he had cut the deficit to about 20 minutes. That is where Walter took over.

Sled dogs have two kinds of running styles, Neff explained. Some trot, while others lope, which is more like a sprint. Despite being about 15 pounds heavier than most dogs in the race, Walter morphed into Usain Bolt — for several hours.

"He was too big for this kind of track, but he literally loped 60 miles," Neff said.

When he had closed the gap to about 200 yards, Neff turned on his miner's lamp to avoid surprising his rival. That turned out to be a mistake, as Moore upped his tempo after seeing the light, making the chase last another six miles.

Neff crossed the finish line with just eight of his original 14 dogs pulling the sled and one as a passenger during the final five miles. It is common for some dogs to be left behind with medical staff at one of the race's checkpoints because they are too tired to continue.

"You are only as fast as your slowest dog," Neff said.

Neff had begun racing three years after arriving in Alaska with two pet dogs — neither a husky — a backpack, $200 and no idea what dog mushing was.

A checkered academic career at the University of Illinois led him to follow a call to the northern wilderness first heard by reading Jack London as a child.

He acknowledged the impact of books on his life by carrying a copy of Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" in his gear during the race. In a program called "Read Across Alaska," Neff gives several dozen speeches a year in schools, stressing literacy and living your dreams on behalf of the National Education Association, a sponsor of his sled team.

"I'm living mine," he said.

Friends from the Athabascan people, for whom sleds are a traditional form of transportation, introduced Neff to mushing. He now owns Laughing Eyes Kennel in Tok, Alaska and races in both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod every year.

"I'm the iron man of dog mushing," he said.

Since 2000, he has done the two 1,000-mile races 20 times — 12 Yukon Quests, eight Iditarods. He was the Iditarod's rookie of the year in 2004 and plans to run it again in March.

"The Iditarod is more glamorous, but the Quest is about the North and the history of the North," he said.

Compared to the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest has more climbs of substantial elevation, comes at a time of year with less daylight and generally colder weather, uses fewer dogs and has fewer checkpoints at greater mileage separation.

That means the mushers have to carry more gear and food for dogs that Neff said eat 10,000 calories a day.

"It's all about dog care," he said. "In many cases, the humans are the wimps. I'll be huffing and puffing at the top of mountains and the dogs are fine."

Neff mushed for 9 days, 17 hours, 14 minutes and 49 seconds, much in unseasonably warm, 30-degree temperatures. His reward for beating a field with 23 starters, only four of whom had finished by late Tuesday afternoon, included a first prize of $28,395.

"In this part of the world, this is as big as winning the Indy 500 or March Madness," he said. "My life is going to get pretty interesting soon."

It has been for a dog's age.,0,6100422.story

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jumping into murky mix in Red Devil, Alaska's PJs save a life

Alaska's brave, parachuting PJs save a life in remote Red Devil. Aaron Jansen illustration

Bitter winds were blowing snow sideways across a desolate runway in the tiny, dying community of Red Devil, Alaska, on Feb. 1 when the doctors dropped out of a night sky to save a young man fighting for his life.

This just doesn't happen anywhere else in America.

"It was dark. It was windy. It was really cold," Red Devil resident Ed Lepalla said by telephone Friday, and his neighbor's son, 20-year-old Ryan Morgan was in grave medical danger that night. Morgan had undergone a surgical endoscopy days before and now was in pain and vomiting. Doctors in Bethel, a regional hub 160 miles to the southwest, notified the Alaska Air National Guard that unless someone got Morgan started on an IV he might not make it to morning.

A life-saving service in the far north, the Air Guard took this call -- like dozens of others. At 8:30 p.m., according to Maj. Guy Hayes, the 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons launched at the request of the 11th Air Force Rescue Coordination Center based near Anchorage. Though the rescue squadrons have been involved in some high-profile saves of downed pilots, climbers and adventurers over the years, "this was call was more typical of what they do when they aren't busy training their butts off to rescue pilots downed in combat in hostile places like Iraq or Afghanistan.

In Alaska, the only enemy Air Guard has to worry about is the weather.

When it is benign, they usually stay home. The state has plenty of commercial carriers serving rural areas. Under normal conditions, they can pick up the sick and injured in remote villages, even land on glaciers to retrieve climbers struggling after accidents. The Guard only gets called when the weather turns ugly.

Deadly weather

It was crap on Feb. 1. Hayes, in a bit of an understatement, described conditions in a press release as "low cloud cover and unfavorable weather." The reality: a storm was raging across Western Alaska. It would cost one young Alaskan his life. Only hours before National Guard rescuers took off toward Red Devil, 20-year-old Jed Alexie got lost on his way to Toksook Bay, a village just west of Bethel. The friend with whom he had been crossing Nelson Island by snowmachine made it to the village of Toksook Bay, but Alexie did not.

A search was organized in Toksook the following morning. Planes could not fly. Villagers went out on snowmachines. The weather was so bad it drove them back, tough people though they are. Alexie would not be found for a full day. By then, the weather would have killed him. It was the same weather confronting pilots at the controls of an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter and an HC-130 airplane on the 250-mile flight west from Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, to Red Devil, official population 19 and falling.

"There's probably only about 15 here now," Jim Graham said Friday by phone. "The school closed down." There weren't enough students to support it. Once a mining community, Red Devil has been dying ever since the mercury mine closed for the final time in 1971. There were some sporadic jobs in mine cleanup during the years that followed and a little logging was done in the area, but no sort of economy anyone could count on. Graham was in town from Bethel only to shovel snow off the roofs of a couple properties he owns along the Kuskokwim River. He was afraid they might collapse.

"We've got around 5 feet of snow," he said. "We got a lot of snow."

Much of it was blowing around on the night of Feb. 1. It made life difficult for the Guard. Standard procedure in these sorts of rescue operations is to fly to the site in the Pavehawk, pick up the patient and deliver him or her to the nearest hospital or bring them back to Anchorage. The HC-130 flies top cover for the Helo-1 and packs extra gas to refuel the Pavehawk as necessary.
Where's hole in weather?

On this trip, it would need to refuel the Pavehawk before it ever got to Red Devil. The helicopter burned too much fuel probing Rainy, Merrill, Lake Clark and Shellabarger passes in the Aleutian Range looking for a hole in the weather. The pilots never did find a way through into the Kuskokwim River valley to the north. They were, Hayes later reported, "forced to return to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson."

That's when the Guard decided to improvise. The search-and-rescue duty officer for the mission queried the pararescuemen on the airplane -- PJs as they're normally called -- about whether they thought it possible to parachute into Red Devil. He "directed us to get through to see if it was viable for us to execute a jump mission from the HC-130," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Maddama of the 212th.

The HC-130 had no trouble climbing up and over the Aleutian mountains, but once over Red Devil, the pilots found the ground obscured by clouds. Nobody was going out the back door of the plane in those conditions, so the aircraft circled until it started to run out of fuel. The plane was down to what the pilot calculated to be its last pass when the PJs, and a suffering Morgan, caught a break.

"Finally on the last flyover," Maddama said, "we could see lights on the landing strip and were cleared to jump."
'We couldn't see them'

Wearing 60-pound packs, he and Tech. Sgt. Dan Warren, a visiting PJ from the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, left the warm aircraft for a bitterly cold, 15-below night with blowing snow. Red Devil was 3,000-feet below.

"We couldn't see them when they came down," Lepalla said. "It was too dark." But the PJs could see their landing zone.

"Fortunately, we were communicating with a ground party in Red Devil, and they used their snowmachines and ATVs to light the drop zone, providing us a reference to safely land," Maddama said.

Lepalla admitted it was a little odd having to help a parachuter, but you do what you have to in rural Alaska.

Technically, the PJs aren't medically certified doctors, but they are highly trained emergency medical technicians, and in emergencies and combat zones they've been known to play the doctor role quite well. In this case, their job was pretty simple: get on the ground and get to Gordon. A handful of Red Devil residents there to greet them were happy to help with snowmachine rides.

"The patient was really sick," Maddama said. "We assessed him and provided medicine for his nausea and vomiting. We also checked his blood pressure, which was pretty low, so we gave him (IV) fluids to get his blood pressure back up."

Then they consulted with physicians in Bethel, who decided surgery might be necessary to save Morgan's life. They suggested the best thing to do would be to take him straight to Anchorage as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, "all the aircraft had returned to JBER because of fuel and weather," Maddama said. "We stayed with the patient over the next nine hours until the search and rescue duty officer could get a HH-60 in there to pull us out ... He would have gone into septic shock within 48 hours if he wasn't treated.

"Tech. Sgt. Warren did a great job as the medic, and it took all three squadrons to execute this mission," Maddama added.

The Pavehawk finally got into Red Devil at 11 a.m. the next day to pick up Gordon and fly him to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage. He was taken from there to the Alaska Native Medical Center and has since recovered. Gordon reported via a Facebook email Friday that he was "OK. It was just bad side effects from meds from the docs in Bethel."

"There's been a lot of excitement in the last two weeks for a little dinky town," Lepalla added.

A fire, too

Just a couple days before the PJs parachuted in to rescue Gordon, the Red Devil Lodge caught fire. It was one of the few still functioning businesses in the community. The newer part of the lodge, which used to be a store, was saved. But the old bar and what used to be the main house of the late Robert Vanderpool, a legendary Bush pilot long known for his service to Natives all along the Kuskokwim, reportedly burned to the ground. Vanderpool died in 2010, but his son, Bob and daughter-in-law Gail, continued to run the lodge and operate an air taxi service out of Red Devil. They could not be reached Friday.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Risk Assessment for Offshore Passagemaking

Risk Assessment for Offshore Passagemaking
Steve D'Antonio
All photos copyright Steve D'Antonio
Part IIn part one of this two part series I'll discuss the means by which you can assess and minimize risk when cruising.
Cruising affords an uncommonly satisfying way of reaching hidden gems, like this vista in The Faroe Islands.

Cruising and Risk AssessmentAs one might expect, I'm given the opportunity to cruise aboard a variety of vessels making passages in various parts of the world, from icebreakers in Antarctica and naval vessels in the North Atlantic to recreational trawlers and sailing vessels in British Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
Before I take advantage of such an opportunity, however, I carefully assess the likelihood of how "successful" the passage will be.  The definition of "success", by the way, varies with the opportunity.  I ask myself a series of questions, starting with, 'what do I hope to get out of making this passage?'  In the vast majority of cases, the first answer is, 'enjoyment', I love to cruise, particularly to far-off locales, the more remote and the higher the latitude the better (more on that in a moment).This is followed by my desire to stay fresh in my trade with regular sea time, then broadening my experience as there's simply no substitute for doing what you write about or advise others on, and finally in gathering editorial and photographic material.
Even a 30-foot vessel can safely make blue water, offshore passages. The preparation of the vessel and crew, however, are paramount in minimizing risk.

I'm often asked at lecture events, "why did you take that 30-foot, single screw trawler to Bermuda anyway, wasn't it risky?", referring to a passage I made back in 2002 (I authored an article detailing the preparations that were made for the passage in Nov/Dec PassageMaker Magazine). The short answer is, I did it because it was an adventure I wanted to undertake and I believed it could be done while minimizing risk.  Indeed, there was risk; however, risk is part of cruising and it increases exponentially every time you cast off your lines.  In this case, and in many other passages I've made, I assessed the risk factor and minimized it to the extent I could, and then got underway.

The highest priority was the vessel.  While she was diminutive, with the modifications that were made to her she was well found.  I made absolutely certain she was seaworthy, reliable and safe and that we had the necessary tools, spares, communication and safety gear aboard.  The next priority was the crew, making certain we were prepared mentally and physically and capable of dealing with any manner of failure we could have anticipated.  Finally, close attention was paid to weather, sea conditions and the forecast.  With those steps, the riskiness of this passage was substantially reduced, and it was completed successfully.
Out-of-the-way destinations require a greater measure of self reliance. Failures or issues often must be resolved with the tools and knowledge aboard. The balancing act is to minimize the possibility of problems while still going cruising.

Is the Vessel and the Crew up to the Passage?
I'm cautious about accepting invitations to cruise aboard vessels owned by others, particularly if I'm making a high latitude passage where conditions are likely to be tumultuous and help not close at hand.  In 2010 I accepted such an invitation, and made such a passage, from Scotland to Iceland via the Faroe Islands, aboard Tony Fleming's own Fleming 65, Venture II (I shared details about this passage in the Jul/Aug 2011 PassageMaker)

Because I was intimately familiar with the vessel's design and the manufacturer's workmanship and reputation, as well as Tony's and his crew's experience, I was comfortable signing up for this voyage.  We did encounter stretches of extremely unsettled weather, beating mercilessly into head seas north of the Faroes, for an interminable twelve hours.  While lying in my amidships berth, airborne much of the time, literally, I distinctly recall thinking, 'I wonder if the hull to deck joint is glassed and through bolted' (I later determined the answer was, thankfully, 'yes'). I also thought, multiple times, 'we have to reach the bottom of this trough eventually', as each fall to the bottom felt truly endless.  While on watch in the pilot house, I had to sit Indian style in the helmsman's chair and lock my knees under the arm rests to prevent myself from being ejected.  With each passing head sea we summated, Venture II felt as if she were being driven off a cliff.
When the going gets rough, the last thing you want to worry about is equipment failures or systems malfunctions.  Even with the best weather forecasting, you may occasionally find yourself in a situation where you must simply hunker down and wait out the storm.  These short, steep eight foot seas, encountered between the Faroe Westman Islands, pounded this vessel and her crew mercilessly for over twelve hours.  For this and other reasons, the vessel must be well found and her systems rugged and reliable.

I've been in much less severe conditions and have emerged from my cabin to find the vessel a shambles, broken crockery, cracked windows, appliances adrift and the stench of diesel fuel and, well, you get the idea.  I'm happy to report that the causality list aboard Venture II after that jaunt was insignificant; all of the reading lamp bulb filaments had broken (these were the only non-led lamps aboard, and the bulbs themselves remained intact), one bottle of very good Berserker Scottish bear exploded in the drinks fridge and a wine glass shattered.  Not bad considering the squareness and steepness of the seas.  It was bone jarring, filling rattling and not very fun.  To make matters worse, I suffer from seasickness and tried a new, to me at least, medication, the scopolamine patch.  Not only did it fail to prevent me from feeling awful, that I've grown accustomed to, it made my mouth taste as if I were sucking on an aluminum lollypop and, I couldn't stop sneezing.  Ugh.  Yet, I'd return for this or a similar passage without hesitation.  Why?  Because adventure and cruising are deeply satisfying to me, there's nothing like it in the world and while it has its regrettable moments, whenever I'm not doing it I wish I were.
One thing is for certain, after the storm, there will be a calm. The sea can seem fickle and capricious at times, but oh so beautiful when the mood strikes her.

In the next installment, I'll discuss a recent passage I made in Newfoundland, as well as reviewing key elements for the technical side of successful cruising.
The following photo montage encampasses a small sampling of over two thousand images captured during this month-long passage. Enjoy!

For more information on the services provided by Steve D'Antonio Marine Consulting, Inc. please e mail Steve at
or call 804-776-0981

Risk Assessment for Offshore Passagemaking - Part II
Steve D'Antonio
All photos copyright Steve D'Antonio
Newfoundland Bound
Fair winds, clear skies, and a well-found vessel makes for picture perfect cruising

When I received an invitation to cruise aboard a Nordhavn 68, it had the making for a perfect passage, for me.  I knew the boat and the owner very well; as a consulting client, I worked closely with him during the vessel’s build and commissioning.  When he mentioned he was bound for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, there was little else I needed to know. Both places are high latitude, and I count them among my favorite cruising grounds, particularly the latter.  

However, had I not known the vessel so well, I would have posed a long list of questions before agreeing to make the passage, starting with, how many miles did she have under her keel since commissioning?  All new vessels, especially complex vessels as this one was, have breaking-in periods.  Shakedown cruises are designed to shake out defects, flaws and problems in new and refit vessels, and they should occur in relatively protected water, close to homeport, where skilled help is readily available.  This vessel had several thousand miles, including an offshore passage to Bermuda and over a year under her belt, giving her a clean bill of health for cruising to a remote location.
Cruising to far off locals has a quality all its own, and if isolation and limitless natural beauty is your goal, high latitudes offer it many times over.  Self-sufficiency under these circumstances, however, has a price and the first step is knowledge.

I would also want to know how she was equipped and provisioned.  Because all of my passage making is aboard vessels belonging to others, I always travel with my own PLB (Personal Locator Beacon, a mini-EPIRB) and handheld GPS.  Beyond that, however, I have to be certain the vessel has the right stuff where important gear and equipment are concerned.  Properly installed and thoroughly tested navigation and communication gear, up to date safety equipment including life rafts, PFDs, and flares are, of course vitally important.
M.S. Endeavour traveled to some of the least populated (with the exception of these fur seals) and most remote places on earth, Antarctica and the Arctic among them. Assistance, if available at all, could take weeks to arrive. As a result, this vessel is extremely well-equipped and operated by an exceptionally knowledgeable crew.

This vessel was well equipped indeed.  In addition to the essentials, she has some goodies as well. Among the most interesting is one that is particularly well suited for high latitude cruising, a retractable Wesmar Sonar.  The first time I used this sonar was in Antarctica. The vessel I cruised aboard had one, enabling her to make her way into poorly charted, rock strewn inlets, bays and channels.  Newfoundland’s rockbound coast was made for sonar of this sort, and we tested it on several occasions.  At one point, while entering an extremely narrow passage in a location called Ireland’s Eye, I privately debated if we should continue.  As if he were reading my mind, the owner said, “This is why I installed the sonar.”  With that, we safely threaded the eye of the needle, of Ireland’s Eye.  The following day, once again with the aid of the sonar, we made our way into and dropped the hook in yet another rocky cove.   After setting the anchor, I looked at the sonar screen and noticed an odd blip and thought perhaps it was a rock or pinnacle.  Only after a moment did I realize that I was looking at the return from the vessel’s own anchor chain.  That served to further reinforce my confidence in the sonar as a superb piece of gear.
Having the ability to confidently "see" what is happening below and ahead of your vessel is a stress-reducer when cruising in unfamiliar, or poorly charted waters. This "searchlight" sonar enables this vessel to enter poorly charted, infrequently visited inlets and bays, which is part of the attraction.  Charts for many remote areas often rely on surveys made by early explorers and whalers, with lead line and sextant.  

In addition to the gear and the vessel, I was also confident in the crew.  The owner had hovered over this project during her build and on several occasions I told him that I believed he likely knew her and her systems, having personally selected nearly all of them, better than the folks who had built her.   That’s high praise and I don’t offer it without careful forethought.  In my experience, few vessel owners know their vessel well enough, and rest assured, you can never know your vessel too well. 
The importance of this, intimacy with your own vessel, cannot be over stated.  Knowing your systems very well is an essential aspect of successful, trouble-free cruising, whether in home waters or afar.  In my experience, far too few vessel owners make the effort to know all the gear aboard their vessel and this lack of familiarity often proves to be a liability.  At the very least, there should be no piece of gear aboard your vessel that you can’t identify.  If any equipment is a mystery, make it your business to determine not only what it does, but you should also understand its maintenance needs and likely failure modes and how to prevent them.
Speaking of service, this vessel also utilizes Wheelhouse Technologies maintenance program ( ).  Wheelhouse guides users through predictive and preventive maintenance procedures for every piece of gear aboard.  Additionally, their SeaKits program can kit-out and replenish a vessel with spare parts and rebuild kits for all of that same equipment.  I’ve written about Wheelhouse Technologies, I believe in its value, and it’s the only product I endorse.  Therefore, when I’m invited to cruise aboard a vessel that has this program and it’s up to date, I immediately have a greater sense of confidence in the vessel’s systems and their reliability.
This vessel maintains a well-organized, interactive electronic systems documentation program as well as a complete set of equipment manuals and vessel systems schematics.  The value of having this information readily accessible, on board, cannot be overestimated. 

Carrying a warehouse-load of spares will be of little value to you if you don’t have the tools to diagnose problems and then replace components that fail.  Folks frequently ask me in lectures, “How do I know what tools to have aboard.”  The short answer is, you know which tools you need by using them as often as possible.  There are tool lists; I’ve written article on this subject and I provide a list to my clients.   If you want to know what you might need to change a serpentine belt on your engine, while dockside change it, and if you want to know what tools you need to replace an impeller, while dockside, replace one.  While you can never have enough tools in my opinion, the vessel I cruised aboard for this Newfoundland passage was extremely well equipped with a wide variety of hand tools and diagnostic equipment, including a multimeter and infra red pyrometer (both should be in every vessel’s tool kit.)
No task is insurmountable provided the correct tools, spares and knowledge are at hand. Having the confidence to say, "I can fix that" and knowing that the equipment and manuals are aboard the vessel should be the goal of the truly self-sufficient cruiser. 

During our passage there were minor failures, as there are during every cruise.  Thanks to the tools and spares we had aboard, as well as the “crew’s” knowledge of the systems, we were able to contend with them quickly and easily.

Do the Math
The size, value or complexity of your vessel is irrelevant.  Before you set out on any passage, whether it’s to one of my favorite high-latitude locales like Iceland or South Georgia, or if it’s simply a weekend cruise, do the math.  Make certain your vessel is seaworthy, reliable and safe, make sure she is fit for the type of conditions you may encounter, and make certain you and your crew are prepared for those conditions and any problems that may arise.  Leave as little to chance as possible and you will have reduced, but not eliminated, the risk.  Then, have fun.
Images from the Newfoundland passage…

For more information on the services provided by Steve D'Antonio Marine Consulting, Inc. please e mail Steve at
or call 804-776-0981