Everyone Knows it’s Windy in the Arctic

(UPDATED: I’ve got the links set up so that the spreadsheet will be updated frequently, with the most recent update (and predicted arrival) visible even in the thumbnail.)

The team of four men rowing in the Arctic has run into headwinds. Literally. They originally talked about making 100 kilometers on a good day (62 miles), and 40 kilometers on an average day.  Two weeks into the voyage, it was clear that things weren’t going according to plan. And sometime in September, the melt season ends and ice begins building up quickly. Their total journey was expected to last until mid to late September.

A few days ago, I wondered how they were doing  and was growing tired of doing the math in my head repeatedly. And as I’d recently discovered that their old position indicators are removed after a week, I set up a little spreadsheet to keep track. It was easy enough to track rates of speed, and ultimately project when they would finish the route based upon their average speed so far.  Here’s what I came up with — click on the small chart to enlarge it:
Click for the full chart

I didn’t want to post this before, as I wanted to give the fellows a shot at recovering from their very bad first week. But progress since then has been steady, if slow, and my projection of their finish date (currently after Thanksgiving!) is not getting better. There has been only one day when they exceeded their intended average (hitting a bit over 47km in a 24-hour period) and their net for the trip is half of that, and dropping.

Their current blog post is one of putting a brave face on a grim situation:

My last shift with Denis consisted of zero rowing. We started rowing but were making no progress due to the stiff headwinds so we spent three and half hours pushing the boat through the shallow water – we made 5.5 km in four hours. If we had calm conditions, we could row this in one hour with far less effort.

It’s unfortunate that “stiff headwinds” means anything of 15kts or better, since the nearly eight-meter (25ft) craft has a large surface area and only two rowers at a time. And these winds are mild, compared to what might be expected in the Arctic. They seem to say that they knew this (they’ve read a lot of Arctic history, and took those books with them). But they hoped for better, or that the winds would be behind them. I think that even last year, when an unusual storm produced a large Arctic melt, they’d have still had a hard time. The current slow progress has been even before they’ve gotten into ice-enforced slowdowns, and it seems likely that they will skid to a halt soon.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Crashx

    The VOYAGE and TRACK LEFT values are increasing dramatically. Why would the overall VOYAGE distance change at all. Isn’t that a fixed benchmark?

    I think something’s wrong.

  • Crash x

    Not sure I understand your columns correctly. But, the calculation for the ETA for Pond Inlet seems off.
    If they have 2715 km to go and are averaging 31.5 km/day, that would be about 86 days to go.

    Aug =31, Sept =30. So they reach their destination in late October, NOT September. They are closer to six weeks behind schedule than 6 days.
    Where did I make a mistake?

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