Cruising the Northwest Passage In Style

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

While working on finishing the story of my sea voyage last week down from Canada to Oregon, I was surprised to see that there is a new market in the world of marine “eco-tourism”. This one involves burning thousands and thousands of gallons of eeevil fossil crystal cruises polar bearsfuels so that rich folks can make a futile attempt to traverse the Northwest Passage, over the top of the US from Anchorage to New York. In a giant cruise ship. Not this year, not next year, but in the year 2016. Polar cruises of all kinds seem to be hot right now. As a seaman, I think that there are places where no cruise ship should go. Here’s a picture of an Antarctic cruise that went wrong …

explorer cruise ship

PHOTO SOURCE

Now, as others have commented, I’ll believe CO2 is a problem when the folks who claim it’s a problem act like it’s a problem. But what intrigued me was, how was the Crystal Cruise line going to deal with the fact that there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it all the way through the Northwest Passage in 2016? Would they issue refunds if they couldn’t complete the trip? Do you get half the money back if they only make it half way?

So I did some research on the Crystal Cruises site, and found a couple of oddities. First, since the cost of the cruise alone starts at $20,000 per person and goes up from there, we’re gonna assume that most contestants will be well past fifty years old … and as a result, subject to a variety of weaknesses of the flesh, including but not limited to dropping dead without prior notice. So on their “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page, the cruise ship operators put the following restriction on potential cruisees …

Due to the remote locations, emergency medical evacuation by plane from the Arctic regions can reach costs of $50,000 or more.  Therefore, proof of a minimum of $50,000 per person in Emergency Evacuation Repatriation insurance is required to participate in this cruise.

Well, that’ll keep out the feather merchants. However, on either the page advertising the 2016 Northwest Passage cruise or their FAQ page, I couldn’t find one word about too much ice. So I dug deeper, and here’s what I found in their fine print that applies to all cruises:

9. Itinerary/Right To Change/Detention: Crystal Cruises reserves the right at its sole option and discretion and that of the Captain of the Ship without liability for damages or refund of any kind, to deviate from the Ship’s advertised or ordinary itinerary or route, to delay, advance or cancel any sailing, to omit or change ports of call, to arrange for substantially equivalent transportation by another vessel and/or by other means of transportation, to cause the Guest to disembark from the Ship temporarily or permanently, to tow or to be towed or assist other vessels or to perform any similar act which, in its sole judgment and discretion, is justified for any reason. SOURCE

Holy moly, talk about signing your life away. Once you’re on their ship, they can do anything they damn well please, including saying they’re going to Tenerife and taking you to Texas instead, or tossing your poor benighted corpus off the ship if they don’t like the cut of your jib.

Oh, if the cruise is cancelled before it starts they’ll refund the ticket, but otherwise? Once the ship sails, they’ve got your money, and if there’s too much ice … tough. They’ll just shorten the cruise, go to Vladivostok instead, and call it good enough. And if you get sick? Pay for it yourself.

Clearly, we’re all in the wrong business …

Best to everyone,

w.

PS—Care to sign up? Do you have $20,000 to spare? Their web site is here, a news story on their crazy-like-a-fox plan is here. To their credit, the journalists do note the irony of burning fossil fuels in order to save the planet from fossil fuels.

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104 thoughts on “Cruising the Northwest Passage In Style

  1. Where is the faith in our melting of the Arctic? The Church of Climate Change has such a timid and faithless flock.

  2. Although Arctic ice has been generally shrinking for 30 years, it has been growing in the last few years. People who sign up for this cruise are taking a big risk.

  3. A big cruise ship is not getting through the NorthWest Passage this year. Even a large ice-breaker would not attempt it unless they had to save a big cruise ship.

  4. What I meant to add before hitting enter is, where are all of the greens, screaming bloody murder about this. You had better believe they will hire a ice breaker to ensure success of this cruise. That means any multi-year healthy ice that gets in its way will be broken…. Then again every scientific voyage into the arctic cuts through at least the fragile first year ice.

  5. I think the main purpose of that “$50,000 per person in Emergency Evacuation Repatriation insurance” is to cover eventualities like the one pictured. Let’s see, $50,000 per passenger, a couple hundred passengers: they just might decide to head on in even if the passage is blocked.

  6. Wadhams was right. Check out the year.

    New Scientist – 2 March 2002
    Arctic melting will open new sea passages
    Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,” he predicts.

  7. At the last Permafrost Conference in Yellowknife, NWT earlier this year.. Captian Joe spoke of his years sailing the NW passage.as a Captain. I asked him what was the average depth of the NW passage.You should hear his lecture on “The Mysterious Receding Sea” Interesting.

  8. Is that ship on its side a cruise ship? It doesn’t look much like the Caribbean type cruise ships we have all seen. The infamous Francesco Schettino was enjoying the favors of a female passenger when he ran a typical warm water cruise ship literally on the rocks. It ended up in much the same attitude as the one you show on the ice. But these real cruise ships look to my untutored eye much less sea worthy.

    The ship lying over on the ice looks more like a freighter, not one of these modern over tall floating hotel-casinos.

  9. But what intrigued me was, how was the Crystal Cruise line going to deal with the fact that there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it all the way through the Northwest Passage in 2016? Would they issue refunds if they couldn’t complete the trip? Do you get half the money back if they only make it half way?

    I was wondering how much extra a customer would have to pay for a cruise where the ship was guaranteed to capsize; and if you had to pay extra for practice walking on the walls.

  10. ‘Oh, if the cruise is cancelled before it starts they’ll refund the ticket, but otherwise? Once the ship sails, they’ve got your money, and if there’s too much ice … tough.’

    I wouldn’t mind betting that if, having bought your ticket, you take a look at Anthony’s sea ice page and work out for yourself that the ship won’t get through, you’ll lose your money if you try to cancel.

  11. Just last summer the northwest passage was free of ice. Many made it through to tell their tale of catastrophic Arctic heating.

    Sail World – 29 Aug 2013
    North West Passage blocked with ice – yachts caught
    The Northwest Passage after decades of so-called global warming has a dramatic 60% more Arctic ice this year than at the same time last year. The future dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors are now threatened. A scattering of yachts attempting the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has now become blocked at both ends and the transit season may be ending early……..

    http://www.sail-world.com/USA/North-West-Passage-blocked-with-ice%E2%80%94yachts-caught/113788

    ==========================

    National Post – September 13, 2013
    Reality TV stars crossing Northwest Passage on jet skis forced to cancel Arctic trek after costly rescue
    Two fanciful expeditions to cross the Northwest Passage — one on jet skis, the other in a rowboat — have been turned back after crews found that their path through the Canadian Arctic was blocked by ice.

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/13/crew-filming-reality-tv-show-forced-to-cancel-trek-through-northwest-passage-on-jet-skis-after-costly-rescue/

  12. Maybe, if there was a time machine, we could send the cruise ship back to 1100 where they would find, as congressman Don Young said

    “Remember, the Arctic didn’t have any ice. And the Northwest Passage was wide open. They were raising grapes in Scotland for God sakes, had a huge winery. Iceland was a farming community. As some of the glaciers retreated they found villages that were covered with ice.”

    I guess the Anthropogenic Catastrophic Climate Warming Lemmings would have to scratch out their own lying eyes, all the while screaming “I don’t see any Medieval Warm Period!”

    And maybe we could leave them there.

  13. The NW Passage will soon be the route of preference for masses of climate refugees.
    I’m lobbying to get the Tim Hortons’ franchise. Double double?

  14. Then there were the rowers. It seems as if everyone believed what the scientists told them about the NW passage.

    CBCNews – Sep 03, 2013
    Sea ice, winds end rowers’ Northwest Passage bid early
    Vancouver rowers say they saw grizzly bears and beavers at the Arctic Ocean
    ……They were aiming to raise awareness about climate change by rowing through areas previously covered in ice, but in the end, they didn’t find what they were expecting……

    ….After learning that ice choked much of the route ahead, the group decided to end their trip at Cambridge Bay, about halfway to Pond Inlet…..

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/sea-ice-winds-end-rowers-northwest-passage-bid-early-1.1362408

    Oh what a shame.

  15. Here is the massive death spiral in all its glory.

    16 August 2014
    Massive Increase In Arctic Ice Over The Past Two Years
    Green shows gain since August 15, 2012. Red shows loss.

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/massive-increase-in-arctic-ice-over-the-past-two-years/

    The north west passage finally opens up.

    NSIDC – 16 August 2014
    Overview of conditions
    The Northwest Passage through the channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago remains choked with ice. Parts of the Northern Sea Route are still difficult to traverse because of high-concentration, near-shore ice between the Laptev and East Siberian seas and also north of the Taymyr Peninsula.

    http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

    Wadhams predicted this.

  16. Fact is that once you are on-board a cruise ship (any cruise line), you are at their mercy. They do not even need to leave the dock! I speak from personal experience.

  17. Last January the ex-fiance and I took a Quark cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. Quark’s people are well trained and will intimidate you into observing all of the safety rules. Consequently, there were no incidences, unlike with those Australian clowns. It was a breathtaking trip. The kayaking among the icebergs was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and we got to do it several times. It even surpasses doing the upper Amazon and crossing the Gobi Desert on camels. The organized jump into the cold sea was an experience, too. It was expensive, almost as much as the Passageway trip, but I’m months away from being 70 and I can’t take it with me.
    To Boyle, above: Companies that plan off the ship activities need a smaller ship with an open stern to store Zodiacs and kayaks and to facilitate getting people into them. There are are larger, more modern cruise ships down there, but you will never get off the ship to go ashore. It’s a “look, but don’t touch”. We were right in penguin and seal nesting areas. Carefully, of course. And we had open decks to film the numerous whales up close.

  18. the blog “Northwestpassage2014″ on blogspot follows the current attempts of the sailors and boats trying to make the passage this summer. There are links to the boats own websites and logs and much information and links to charts showing ice conditions in the NWP as well as detailed weather maps. The blog is maintained by an experienced sailor and USCG licensed Ocean Master Motor and Steam Vessels, retired who is not loath to question decisions made by others in the harsh environment up north. The ice varies from day to day with the weather and much strategy is involved in choosing where and when to go. Apparently there is more ice this year so it is not certain that any will succeed without the help of ice breakers. The information on this blog is fantastic for armchair sailors.

  19. The Vikings were probably the last ones to cross the North West Passage with ease about 1,000 years ago, in a boat not much bigger than a rowboat with a flimsy sail plunked in the middle. But shhhh, please don’t tell the climate warmists about this, because it makes them rather unsettled.

  20. Their survivor kit probably has instructions on how to catch a polar bear for food. Since they are rather elusive, the preferred method is to first catch a polar bear cub so the mother will come to you. :)

  21. In the interest of fairness to the cruise line with respect to their “Itinerary/Right To Change/Detention” section; they have a legal and moral obligation to assist others in distress regardless of the itinerary.

  22. That ship on it’s side in the photo was indeed a small cruise ship. I took a cruise from South America to Antarctica on it (several years before it came to be on it’s side). Nice trip, though it was a bit rough crossing over to the Antarctic Peninsula (20-25 foot seas if I recall). Quite impressive watching a Wandering Albatross (largest wingspan of any living bird, upwards of 13 feet) follow us with no wing beats, just catching a little lift off each wave crest.

    Unfortunately one elderly passenger passed in his sleep during the return trip. He was repatriated onto a harbor support vessel at an unscheduled stop in Chile. He always wanted to see Antarctica in his lifetime and got his wish.

    Cheers, Kevin

  23. This is one prudent cruise line. The Arctic Ocean should be completely ice-free in 2015, according to many models, but they wait an additional year to be completely safe.

  24. There sure won’t be any passage this year. Things are beginning to freeze up again north of 80.

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    I don’t think they should hold out much hope for 2016 either, although the cruise folks don’t have to worry with their reams of fine print. With a contract like this, look to another few hundred arctic cruises to go into business if this ship fills up with its fools. How big a boat can you lay your hands on Willis?

  25. The ‘substantially equivalent’ clause is what says they will not take you to Vladivostok and leave you there. What they will do is get other, better equipped and smaller boats to take you to some place near an airport, and then FLY you there.

    As far as the NW passage being open…it is ALWAYS open, has always been open, and will continue to be open. Where open means that if you can keep your boat from being crushed by the ice long enough to thaw where you are…and you eventually comes out the other side, even if it is 20 years later…HEY! It’s a successful transit of the NW passage!

    It will be interesting to see in 10 years when the warmists have hired 10,000-strong force of men to go out with an armada of ice-breakers, along with the required giant cranes and other mass movers…to ensure that NOBODY gets turned back in their quest to cross the NW passage.

    And the lead will be “incident-free open-water NW passage transit”, and the photo will be of a 24-footer with 20 ice-breakers 600m ahead of it.

  26. NE Passage more likely to be open, but in any event an ice classified vessel would be the safest bet.
    I doubt that the advertised vessel is ice classified.

    But the whole thing should provide great entertainment. Buy popcorn futures, and shares in an icebreaker that might be conveniently near in the event of an emergency.

  27. Stargazer says:
    August 16, 2014 at 12:27 pm
    ////////////////
    Deviation clauses (such as the type cited by Willis), and indeed non performance clauses are commonplace in shipping. It is a historical thing, dating back to the days when a voyage truly was an adventure.

    It makes you appreciate how very difficult it must have been for the likes of Amundsen, who managed to sail the Northwest Passage, without the benefit of satellite imagery, to see the location of open water/thin ice, and without GPS to know the position of the ship in relation to open waters/thin ice.

    I think that a lot of people underestimate how very much more difficult it must have been for sailors who did not benefit from those modern aids. Indeed, it suggests that the ice conditions must have been far more open for them to have successfully prosecuted their yoages, or that they were particularly lucky.

    Anyone who wishes to claim that there is significantly less Arctic ice compared to the 1880s/1915 period should perform a voyage with no modern navigational aids (including no helicopters, and without backup from ice breakers and other forms of rescue craft). In that way, one would get a more representative picture of the present verses the past.

  28. The only way anyone is making the crossing for a long time to come will be in a hovercraft or a track-type vehicle, not a boat, & every vehicle will burn tons of fossil fuel & damage the pristine natural environment. Not that the massive Arctic infrastructure won’t shake it off as a miniscule event.
    All the rest is marketing-hype & clueless-kook nonsense.
    IMHO, YMMV … ;-)

  29. Oldseadog says:
    August 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    “NE Passage more likely to be open, but in any event an ice classified vessel would be the safest bet.
    I doubt that the advertised vessel is ice classified…..”
    ////////////////////////

    I would be pretty damn sure that it is/will be ice classed. It is an insurance issue.

    Of course, that does not mean that the ship is an ice breaker.

  30. Sounds like the perfect venue for an IPCC meeting. Guest speakers to include Algore and Chris Turney.

  31. Whoops, I rechecked my references, the Wandering Albatross has a wingspan up to 11 foot 6 inches, not 13 feet, but still impressive as all get out. Spends almost it’s whole life “at sea”, except for breeding “vacations” on land. Magnificent animal.

    And the MS Explorer had a “ice rated” hull, but there are many classes of ice ratings, apparently it when someplace where it was outclassed by the ice.

    Cheers, Kevin

  32. Might have forgotten to tell you all that there exist two maps from before Hudson entered today’s Hudson Bay showing not only Hudson Bay but coast all way from Hudson Bay to Berings Straith…..
    one of the is engraved on a Royal globe engraved (but NA wrongly mirrored by engraver in Flandern 1560) —– On that map please find Mississippi, Missouri resp. Florida engraved……

    Northwest passage was open between 980 AD to 1341 according to contemporary documents I have access to. Not only maps.

  33. Forget the Magical Mystery Tour…. to who knows where. Greens wanting to get to the bottom of things and experience genuine Future Climate Disaster should take the Yellow Submarine tour and live in the submariner’s standard 2500 ppm CO2, NASA’s “our common enemy..the major pollutant produced by humans” http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20090029352.pdf

    More fuel efficient and they won’t disturb the polar bears.

  34. RE: Zek202 8/16at 12:42 pm
    the blog “Northwestpassage2014″ on blogspot follows the current attempts of the sailors and boats trying to make the passage this summer.

    Here is the page for WILL THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE OPEN IN 2014? The Itinerary is not Decisive. But the Experience is. Either a Storm or an Icebreaker or both will make the difference in 2014
    He posts the Canadian Ice Survey maps for
    August 23, 2013 (last year. pretty free with only two choke points)
    August 15, 2014 (90-100% blocked for much of the passage).
    He also shows weather maps for a predicted Aug 20-26 storm that is the joker in the deck.
    At the bottom of his post, he repeats is prediction (from Aug 22, 2013) of 2014

    ◾30+% concentration ice extent is near or at the minimum for the year
    ◾There will be a huge increase in the amount of 1+ year old ice next spring
    ◾The Northern Passage will not open up for the 2014 year

    A gutsy prediction a year out.

  35. You now know why Green Peace is loaded with cash reserves. Too much money in the hands of very stupid people.

  36. norah4you says:
    August 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm
    Northwest passage was open between 980 AD to 1341 according to contemporary documents I have access to. Not only maps.
    =====
    norah…this map from 1418 shows the NWP open too

  37. @Richard Guy 8/16 at 11:54 am
    Captian Joe spoke of his years sailing the NW passage.as a Captain. I asked him what was the average depth of the NW passage

    I think the minimum channel depth is the more important fact. How shallow must the draft of any ship be to have a hope of making the crossing? And for which passage? I’ve heard there are seven passages mapped for small boat and yachts. But how many are suitable for the Crystal ships? Are tides important?

  38. I think they should go from New York to Anchorage. That way if the conditions look bad they can stop off in Bar Harbor for a couple weeks, Issue coupons for unlimited free drinks in all the local pubs and no one will be upset.

  39. @Latitude 8/16 at 2:05 pm
    norah…this map from 1418 shows the NWP open too
    It also shows a Northeast passage that Portuguese reportedly used to trade with Japan.
    is the map authentic? What is the source of the link? (Economist 2006)

    But the map also shows California as an island with the Gulf of California connecting with either Puget Sound or San Francisco Bay. I also think the map shows the Saint Lawrence Seaway to be a second path to the arctic. Which just goes to show, what a cartographer puts on a piece of paper isn’t necessarily true and my be conjecture unsupported by observation.

    It is amazing how good the early maps were, before the invention of the chronometer. But this map purportedly a 17th century copy from a 1418 original, begs a skeptical eye.

    http://www.howardforums.com/archive/index.php/t-825771.html

  40. Curious George says:
    August 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    This is one prudent cruise line. The Arctic Ocean should be completely ice-free in 2015, according to many models, but they wait an additional year to be completely safe.

    .
    Thank you for a good belly laugh!!

  41. Curious George,

    Meanwhile there is, at this point, just a hint of a worrying upwards trend in Arctic ice cover…

  42. I think that flying from JFK to Delhi and return on Air India for about $1,100 is a better deal. Better view of the ice, better view or the ocean and a better view of the geography. Use the extra money to spend a week or two or three touring India — you’ll have a great time and learn a lot.

  43. BallBounces says:
    August 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm
    ************************************************
    I must admit I had never visited a Tim Horton’s until I got a coffee at one of two in Whitehorse last week :) It is very good coffee.

  44. I had this over on Tips and Notes last week:

    Follow the pea under the shell, folks:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/08/09/rise_in_arctic_tourism_may_benefit_search_for_lost_franklin_ships.html

    Headline: “Rise in Arctic tourism may benefit search for lost Franklin ships”

    In the article: “According to one study, the number of Arctic cruise itineraries doubled between 2005 and 2013. Last year, there were 23 voyages planned by eight ships.”

    Got that? “Itineraries” and “planned”.

    Anyone know were we can find out how many of those 8 actually made it?

  45. rovingbroker says:
    August 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    “I think that flying from JFK to Delhi and return on Air India for about $1,100 is a better deal.”

    I’ve flown 3 trips to China from Toronto. They fly over the east coast of Greenland across Siberia and down to Beijing. Wow what a spectacular view of the Arctic. Business class, but I’m glad I wasn’t paying for it.

  46. Will – Timmy’s coffee used to be made with day-old, used grounds from the local Big Mac outlets, but both they and McD now make excellent java, with McCafe being best, IMO.

  47. Jack H Barnes (August 16, 2014 at 11:29 am) “When was the last time the Northwest passage was open for traffic? 2012?”

    My godmother made the voyage in a French cruise ship last summer (2013). It was stormy at the beginning near Greenland and a little dicey getting past Someset Island, but no problem after that (they took the southern route).

    The French boat is reinforced for a little light icebreaking. I think the cruise cost about $10k. Part of the money went towards paying for some light weight scientists to lecture them along the way.

  48. Why not offer a virtual cruise through the Northwest Passage? If computer models can predict ice-free conditions, they certainly can whip up an imaginary voyage.

  49. “…I’ll believe CO2 is a problem when the folks who claim it’s a problem act like it’s a problem.”

    Um, I’ll believe CO2 might be a problem when the folks who claim it is a problem act like it is a problem.

    But, that’s just me.

  50. I wish potential passengers luck in getting $50,0000 insurance for emergency evacuation. Most policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions. Would ice be a pre-existing condition? Travel insurance policies are some of the most complained. They have so many ‘out’ clauses as to be almost useless. A bit like the warranty for damage on a suit-case we almost bought, it didn’t cover damage caused during carriage on any form of commercial transportation!

  51. Andrew,

    I can almost see the minute print, “the use of this product invalidates it’s guarantee”…

    Andy.

  52. On their FAQ page, way down the page under the heading “Safety”, Item # 3 reads:

    3. Isn’t the Northwest Passage too full of ice to transit?

    Crystal Serenity plans to transit during the period of when ice concentration is minimal. The typical conditions along the planned route during the Arctic summer are substantially free of ice. With these extremely low ice concentrations, keeping the ship well clear of ice is entirely feasible.

    In addition, an escort vessel will accompany Crystal Serenity. The escort vessel will have ice breaking capabilities and would be able to assist in the extremely unlikely event that the ice concentration becomes a challenge for Crystal Serenity. Further, we will be working very closely with the Canadian Ice Services to monitor ice conditions to ensure they remain safe for transit.

  53. “…over the top of the US from Anchorage to New York. ”

    I think you’ll find the bit of land you’d be going “over the top of” is called Canada. Last time I heard it was not part of the US.

  54. “But what intrigued me was, how was the Crystal Cruise line going to deal with the fact that there’s a good chance they won’t be able to make it all the way through the Northwest Passage in 2016?”

    Hey Willis, you have not been paying attention. The Arctic will be ice free in the summer of 2016. That’s been known since 2007. ;)

  55. Google earth. Zero in on Cambridge Bay at 105 degrees. Street maps will show a small cruise ship anchored in the harbor on its way through the passage in 2012. That has been going on for years. Sometimes these ships have had close encounters with the ocean bottom and often there has been ice breaker assistance. Commercial shipping to resupply arctic coastal communities now flows from east to west but in ice strengthened vessels and often with ice breakers leading. Guys like Willis would understand; sometimes conditions are good; sometimes not so much.

  56. “In addition, an escort vessel will accompany Crystal Serenity. The escort vessel will have ice breaking capabilities and would be able to assist in the extremely unlikely event that the ice concentration becomes a challenge for Crystal Serenity. ”

    Hey man, that is a bog standard cruise ship. Not even a reinforced hull to cope with a bit of ice. No [responsible] captain would have the intention of taking a vessel like that through the NW passage.

    They’ll cruise up north of Alaska, wave at the wild life then decide it too dangerous, call it off and head back. Why waste fuel and take risks when the money’s in the bank.

    Anyone that signs up for that will get suckered ( and rightly so ).

  57. Zek202 says:
    August 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    The blog “Northwestpassage2014″ on blogspot follows the current attempts of the sailors and boats trying to make the passage this summer. … The information on this blog is fantastic for armchair sailors.

    Ah yes, I was thinking it was about time to hunt it down this year, especially since my wife and I just got back from a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Nova Scotia.

    The main entry point is http://northwestpassage2014.blogspot.com/ It’s a busy blog already this season.

    http://northwestpassage2014.blogspot.com/2014/08/sv-suilven-to-go-or-not-to-go-stops.html reports one boat that is turning around:

    We were very glad that we had decided to go over to Cuming Inlet, as this turned out to be our last port of call in Canada. We looked at another ice chart, which showed very little change, and emailed our contact, Peter Semotiuk, to ask for his judgement as to what was likely to happen. He was still saying that in his view it could be 7 to 10 days before the ice opened up through to Cambridge Bay, but he couldn’t be certain. We did our calculations again, and even seven days more wait would put us in Cambridge Bay very late with another 1700 miles to get to Nome in Alaska, the first place where it might be possible to leave the boat, and a further 900 miles on to Humboldt which had been recommended as a good place to overwinter. If we did back out, delaying by a week to 10 days would mean deteriorating conditions to get down to Newfoundland or Maine. So, finally, sadly, decision made, we would call it a day and sail back to Greenland.

    Also,

    Two Scots with PIE IN THE SKY DREAMS to challenge Northwest Passage in one season – here we go again… lol
    Leven Brown, left, and Jamie Douglas-Hamilton are planning a new challenge. Picture: Neil Hanna

    WHEN? It is to late to start in 2014 so it must be a 2015 attempt? HERE WE GO AGAIN WITH LOTS OF RHETORIC CHIT CHAT NONSENSE.

    TWO Scots who led a record-breaking rowing expedition across the Indian Ocean have set their sights on tackling the notorious Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean.

  58. opps, that the JAXA data which is invalid for backwards comparison since the redefined how they calculate it last year. Note that they avoid putting last years data which the obvious glitch last year.

  59. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
    “Sounds like the perfect venue for an IPCC meeting. Guest speakers to include Algore and Chris Turney.”

    I presume you are referring to Dr Christ (mas) Turkey of University of NSW: went to the Antarctic and got stuffed.

    Ensuing disruption of genuine Antarctic research, not much appreciate by real scientists working on the continent.

  60. The NW passage opened up during the last peak of the warming/cooling cycle. About sixty years ago. For a few years. I give it less than even odds that it will be passable in the summer of 2016.

  61. Latitude says:
    August 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm Re. Open Northwest passage map 1418.
    That map neiter I nor any of my friends at NEARA discussed looking at old maps. It might be a copied version of the map delivered in Norway to the King in 1364 at the same time as Ivar Bardson delivered the tithes from Gardar See’s dioceses in NA and Greenland. The later well documented. The former documented in two contemporary sources…

  62. norah4you says:
    “It might be a copied version of the map delivered in Norway to the King in 1364 at the same time as Ivar Bardson delivered the tithes from Gardar See’s dioceses in NA and Greenland. The later well documented. The former documented in two contemporary sources…”

    Sorry but no. I happen to have read Ivar Bardsons account. In the original language. It is one of our most important sources of information on the Norse settlement in Greenland. However itt makes NO mention of any map and it does NOT mention any tithe or “diocese” in NA. It is exclusively concerned with Greenland.

  63. I’ve been on a number of ”eco-cruises” both in Arctic and Antarctic waters and I agree with Willy. It is insane taking one of these huge cruise ships with thousands of people aboard into such treacherous waters where rescue capabilities are minimal. Also meaningless, because you can’t go anywhere really interesting with such a monster, and if you could, you can’t get the passengers ashore (or back aboard), not in a reasonable amount of time anyhow. I’ve seen these big cruise ships up at Svalbard (Spitzbergen) a few times, and there is only two places they can go to there: Longyearbyen and Ny Ålesund. Personally I wouldn’t go on such a trip for free.
    The best ships for such ventures are small and handy but seaworthy and carry less than 100 passengers. The Russian “Akademik” and “Professor” class ex-research vessels are pretty ideal, though they are no icebreakers as the “ship of fools” expedition found out.
    And yes, if you go you should have first-class travel insurance. There is insurance that will cover expensive evacuations, though it is not cheap. And carry in mind that from many areas quick evacuation is quite literally impossible. No airfields and too far away for helicopters. So check that the ship has good medical facilities.
    Incidentally the first cruise ship ever that went through the Northwest passage was “Lindblad Explorer” in 1984. This is same ship that is shown sinking after hitting a growler in Bransfield Passage at the top of the post. One of the few good things about the NW passage is that there are no icebergs to collide with, except at the beginning/end in Baffins Bay. The land is too low and the climate too dry for glaciers to form in the Parry Archipelago, so no icebergs. Sea-ice is not nearly so hard and dangerous to collide with as growlers or bergy bits.
    Another thing. I’ve often wondered what ordinary passengers do on such cruises. If you are a bird-watcher (like me) or interested in marine mammals there is always something interesting to look at (or at least look for), but otherwise watching the sea for days on end in transit must be extremely dull.

  64. Andrew N says:
    August 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm
    /////////////

    Ice in the Arctic is not a pre-existing condition, just like snow on a skiing trip is not a preexisting condition, nor for that matter is the ocean on a sea voyage.

    One simply has to make full disclosure, so that the underwriters can assess the risk, and hence the premium.

    I have little doubt that insurance will be quite expensive, after all insurance companies run at considerable profit and they can’t do this unless they charge large premiums which more than compensate for the risk involved..

  65. The concentration of ice in the Arctic is higher this year than in 2012 and 2013 Ice it will be faster accumulate fast-, as was particularly in northern Canada.

  66. I’m pretty sure I read that there will be another ship shadowing them in case it goes belly up, an ice-breaker.

  67. There is a tourist icebreaker up there – the “National Geographic (NG) Explorer”. Last position
    69N 55W (Baffin Bay, W of Greenland) a week ago.

  68. Arctic Sunrise (Greenpeace) has made it back to Amsterdam.
    50 Let Pobedy was at the N. Pole on the 11 Aug.

  69. Mike (UK) says:
    August 17, 2014 at 3:02 am

    I’m pretty sure I read that there will be another ship shadowing them in case it goes belly up, an ice-breaker.

    There are many references to an escort ship in their FAQ at http://www.crystalcruises.com/ContentPage.aspx?ID=191 and http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Crystal-Cruises-Responds-to-Arctic-Concerns-2014-07-30 says

    In addition, an escort vessel will accompany Crystal Serenity. The escort vessel will have ice breaking capabilities and would be able to assist in the extremely unlikely event that the ice concentration becomes a challenge for Crystal Serenity, he says. Further, Crystal Cruises will be working very closely with the Canadian Ice Services to monitor ice conditions to ensure they remain safe for transit.

    The escort vessel will carry oil pollution mitigation gear to supplement that which Crystal Serenity always has on board. It will also carry additional response and damage control equipment and personnel specifically trained in its use. A helicopter is planned to be carried on board the escort vessel to allow for real time ice condition reconnaissance, external medical assistance or evacuation and logistics support.

  70. The Northwest Passage (NWP) goes through Baffin Bay, Canadian Archipelago, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) used by Russia goes through Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, Eastern Siberian Sea, to Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea.

    “During early September 2013 the Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy led a flotilla of Russian navy ships through the Russian portion of the Northern Sea Route in preparation for establishing regular patrols. About 400 ships are expected to transit the Russian portion of the route during the 2013 season, up from about 40 during 2012.”
    Ihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Sea_Route

    In actual fact, with the unexpected ice recovery, only 71 ships crossed the Northern Sea Route in 2013. The NWP did not open at all because of the iced Archipelago.

  71. tty 12:46 – excellent post!
    That late in the season bird sightings will be rare. They can expect lots of fog and pretty dreary coast line most of the way.

  72. Here’s the shipping industry’s expectations for this year:

    “With the expectation that the northeastern passage bordering Russian will open* in mid-August, and the northwestern passage on the Canadian side will follow soon after, the Weathernews forecasts the NSR will be open almost a full month earlier. GIC simulation models show the route starting to close again in early-October, leaving the route open for about six weeks for ships to sail through the Arctic sea while avoiding areas of concentrated sea ice.”

    “According to the NSRA (Northern Sea Route Administration) in Russia, over 400 vessels have applied for permission to sail through the northeastern passage of the NSR as of July 22nd. This shows that the global shipping industry is actively adopting the NSR as an alternative route to longer and more costly routes via canals or around the tip of South Africa. Right now there are already about thirty voyages sailing through the Artic Sea. Due to the risks involved with vessels sailing via the NSR, the need for detailed information on ice conditions has been increasing along with shipping traffic. Based on data analysis and predictions of the Global Ice Center, Weathernews is supporting the shipping industry sailing through the NSR.”

    *”Open” is defined as a state (judged to from satellite data) where a vessel can sail the NSR via any passage without hitting sea ice.

    http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Arctic-Predictions-for-2014-2014-08-11

    Last year out of 400 permissions, 71 made the journey. Let’s see what happens this year.

  73. Arctic shipping remains a distant dream for now, transport minister says

    All the enthusiastic talk about shipping through the Arctic will remain mostly just that — talk — for the foreseeable future, says Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

    She bluntly offered a list of concerns — including from insurance companies who, she said, are the ones really calling the shots about what ships would be allowed to pass through the area.

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/arctic-shipping-remains-a-distant-dream-for-now-transport-minister-says-1.1744751

  74. The Canadian Forces are already preparing for arctic cruise ship disasters:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/08/13/canadian-forces-to-ground-cruise-ship-near-iqaluit-in-10-million-rescue-exercise/

    Meanwhile the Russians have had tours on nuclear powered icebreakers and are busy building more. The latest is that they might have to stop the tours because commercial needs are picking up.

    http://barentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2014/07/no-more-nuclear-power-arctic-tourists-29-07

    http://en.ria.ru/russia/20140807/191814028/New-Russian-Nuclear-Powered-Icebreakers-Named-Arctic-Siberia-and.html

  75. “Anyone know what finally happened to the ship “Explorer”? I would guess that it sank when the ice melted, but…?”

    It sank with no loss of life about 10 hours after striking hard multi-year ice. The ship is on it’s side in the photo surrounded by ice, not supported by the ice.

    Somebody had a link to the accident above. That ship completed about 250 cruises in that environment before the accident.

    Cheers, Kevin.

  76. tty says:
    August 17, 2014 at 12:46 am
    I’ve been on a number of ”eco-cruises” both in Arctic and Antarctic waters and I agree with Willy. It is insane taking one of these huge cruise ships with thousands of people aboard into such treacherous waters where rescue capabilities are minimal. ……………………….
    Another thing. I’ve often wondered what ordinary passengers do on such cruises. If you are a bird-watcher (like me) or interested in marine mammals there is always something interesting to look at (or at least look for), but otherwise watching the sea for days on end in transit must be extremely dull.

    And
    Lyle says:
    August 17, 2014 at 6:03 am
    tty 12:46 – excellent post!
    That late in the season bird sightings will be rare. They can expect lots of fog and pretty dreary coast line most of the way.
    ******************************************************************************************************

    Don’t worry they have it all in hand, or have I misunderstood? :-)

    Crystal Cruises Responds to Arctic Concerns

    • Additional officers will join the bridge team for the voyage,

    http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Crystal-Cruises-Responds-to-Arctic-Concerns-2014-07-30

    SteveT

  77. Stephen Rasey says August 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm
    I think marine insurance has been calling the shots on sea travel for most the past two thousand years.

    True

  78. “New Scientist – 2 March 2002
    Arctic melting will open new sea passages
    Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,” he predicts. ”

    In my best Don Adams voice Missed it by that much. ;)

  79. Willis,

    We had a bet a few years ago about Arctic ice extent, which I have lost. I give permission to WUWT to give you email address so that you can contact me and we can work out how I can pay you. Hopefully, you will read this – I have tried a couple of times through this site to get in contact with you, but have not yet succeeded.

    David

  80. @SteveT 8/18 2:04 pm

    but otherwise watching the sea for days on end in transit must be extremely dull.
    …Crystal Cruises Responds to Arctic Concerns
    …• Additional officers will join the bridge team for the voyage,

    Morale officers?
    Political officers?
    Supply Officers?
    Officer of the Guard?
    Laundry Officer?
    Public Relations Officer?
    Censor Officer?

  81. Capt Chris says:
    August 17, 2014 at 2:07 am

    There has been a very lively debate about this foolhardy Crystal Cruises endeavour on a number of LinkedIn maritime forums over the past several weeks with lots more expert opinion. This debate solicited an interesting response from Crystal at http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Crystal-Cruises-Responds-to-Arctic-Concerns-2014-07-30 .

    Thanks for that, Capt. It’s an interesting response, although not extremely informative.

    w.

  82. David Gould says:
    August 17, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Willis,

    We had a bet a few years ago about Arctic ice extent, which I have lost. I give permission to WUWT to give you email address so that you can contact me and we can work out how I can pay you. Hopefully, you will read this – I have tried a couple of times through this site to get in contact with you, but have not yet succeeded.

    David

    Egads, sire, you are an honest and honorable man! Not sure my system is prepared for such …

    And if I remembered the bet, dang, I’d be all over it … but then it appears to have been the subject of a minor memory leakage, I have no recollection of the bet in any form.

    So let me offer you a deal. I’ll gladly release you from any and all obligations of payment, in exchange for you telling us just what the bet was all about …

    My very best to you,

    w.

  83. Hello Willis,

    The bet was for $100. Back in late 2010/early 2011, I made the prediction in a thread on this site that Arctic ice extent on the JAXA daily figures would fall below one million square kilometres before November 2014. You challenged me on that prediction and asked whether I would be willing to bet on it. I thought for a moment and then accepted. My reasoning was that the current trend was non-linear, suggestive of a quadratic, and that by 2014, when the solar cycle could be expected to peak, there might also well be an el nino that would raise surface ocean temperatures sufficiently to push Arctic ice below that – admittedly very low – threshold.

    I am ambivalent about losing the bet, I have to say. While obviously I wanted to win, I am actually glad that things did not come anywhere near to my prediction and that I was too alarmed. I was concerned in 2012 when ice extent dropped below four million square kilometres, as that seemed to indicate that my prediction had a possibility of coming true.

    There have been three statements that I have made on global warming that have kind of been in the terms of a bet, although this was the only one for money. Two of them have been falsified; one of them has come true. This indicates that things are not in as bad shape as I thought, which is great.

    A very simple bet. I lost by an extremely large margin – at this stage, I think that 2014 will not even come in below 2010, let alone 3.6 million square kilometres below.

    If there is anything more that I remember, I will let you know.

    Thanks

    David

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