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Monday, 9 September 2013

Point Barrow

The Alaska coastline after Point Barrow still trends more to the west than to the south. Nonetheless the 40 degree heading change we made on passing the point is very significant psychologically: our course is now SOUTH of west rather than NORTH of west.

In many years - though not this one which found our icy hardships elsewhere - the polar pack ice hovers just off Point Barrow. A slight shift of wind brings it crashing up against the land closing a boat's only exit from a wintry prison. Though this year's ice reports and forecasts place the pack many miles off the coast, hovering in the background of our minds is the spectre of past years. Our fast, fair-wind sail from Tuk had a bit of the feeling of racing a train toward a level crossing. We know the ice won't come - but what if it did.

After Barrow, and certainly after Icy Cape a bit beyond, the ice might decide to chase after us but, unlike along the coast behind us, we can sail away to the south faster than the ice can encroach.

There are certainly many miles more to sail ... even to Nome, our next likely inhabited stop. The air temperature still hovers chillingly around the freezing mark - sometimes above and sometimes below - and the water temperature is 3C [37F]. Outwardly, little seems to have changed.

Further on, in the Bering Sea and in the North Pacific, there will be plenty of time for apprehension due to autumn storms rather than to ice. But, for the moment, as we follow Alaska's Chukchi Sea coast down toward the Bering Strait, the predominant feeling is one of relief.

Pack ice Port-side (Bellot Strait) now safely in the past ...
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At 10/09/2013 04:30 (utc) our position was 71°31.30'N 156°01.83'W

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