Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ice Waiting in Barrow

Barrow is proving to be quite a stop with now three Northwest Passage sailboats in the area. The Canadian Open Passage Expedition is in town. I consulted with Cameron Dueck over a year ago on how to transit the passage. Now here he and crew are, poised to move east, investigate for themselves, and see what happens. The other vessel is Baloum Gwen, a custom 49-foot metal sailboat skippered by Thierry Fabing of France which did the passage last year east to west. Now they are attempting to go back west to east. I believe this is unprecedented.

Everyone is looking at climate change issues. We have been meeting with NOAA scientists and whale experts including native eskimo whale captains. We played soccer on the blue field and while there heard stories of houses here in Barrow becoming unstable because the pilings weren't deep enough into the now unfrozen "permafrost." Traditional deep food storage in the permafrost is now in jeopardy as they need to be up to 25 feet deep instead of the 12-15. Hunters and fisherman are falling through the ice even in winter as warmer, fast-moving currents are melting the ice from beneath.

Today we listened to much of the Pt. Hope, Alaska, energy conference where oil companies were doing their usual things offering gifts of high-payng jobs and thriving local economies if only they are allowed to drill n Arctic waters. Native people are wondering what happens to their subsistence fishing and hunting when whales ears explode from seismic testing or these waters are fouled by an oil spill.
There are no large ship ports in the north and it is very shall. Quick response to a spill is virtually impossible.

These are a few of the issues and items we ponder as we wait for ice to clear to the east and continue on into the heart of the NW Passage.

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