Admiral Bellingshausen to negotiate the Northwest passage through summer

The Admiral Bellingshausen sailing past an ice berg on its trip to navigate the Northwest passage.
The Admiral Bellingshausen sailing past an ice berg on its trip to navigate the Northwest passage. Source: ERR

Estonian yacht the Admiral Bellingshausen is making a bid to pass through the famed Northwest passage this summer, ERR's Menu Portal reports. The vessel has already extensively sailed at the other end of the globe.

Tiit Pruuli, head of the expedition, told ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" that there is no getting away from the wet and cold on the Bellingshausen that far North, even in summer. "It couldn't be deemed major suffering as yet, but it's hardly a Caribbean cruise either. You can feel the icy breath of the Arctic," Pruuli, already at sea, told "Ringvaade's" Grete Lõbu, via video-link.

The Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic with the Pacific, is only navigable, by most vessels, for a very short period of the year. "We hope that we will prevail, though the weather forecasts for this summer are not particularly bright," Pruuli added. "There is plenty of ice, and the ice pack moves quite a lot. But we still hope to make it through. The most critical point will come at the end of September to the beginning of August," he went on.

Pruuli conceded that there is little answer to the forces of nature, meaning that the lives and well-being of the crew and the vessel are paramount. "In the case of last resort, one has to turn back when there's nothing else that can be done," he added.

Even that is not guaranteed – the pack ice can enclose the vessel off from the route whence it came, though tech, satellites, skilled ice pilots and more will help to minimize this risk, Pruuli added.

The original "Ringvaade" slot (in Estonian) is here.

While the Vikings and others once navigated the region, the "Little Ice Age" of the late middle ages and early modern periods put paid to attempts to make it through the labyrinthian Northwest Passage, which can be done via more than one route and from two directions (ie. from the Atlantic or from the Pacific), again. One of the most famous, if ill-fated expeditions aimed at doing so, took place in the 1840s and was led by British Royal Navy officer Sir John Franklin. It has been immortalized both in song and by the fact that the relatively well-preserved remains of some of the expedition's crew members were exhumed in the 1980s.

The Admiral Bellingshausen is a 24-meter, Dutch-built ketch, named after explorer, Imperial Russian naval officer and Saaremaa native Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (1778-1852), widely credited with having discovered the Antarctic ice shelf, at completely the opposite end of the globe from the Bellingshausen's current location.

A 2019-2020 expedition saw the Admiral Bellingshausen sail to Antarctica.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kerttu Kaldoja

Source: 'Ringvaade'

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