Twenty-eight days trapped in ice… so far

Update – It’s over.  The rescue was completed Sunday when the Sodruzhestvo reached clear waters and resumed fishing.  A representative from the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency said the rescue operation was unprecedented:

“A number of ships got stuck in the Sea of Okhotsk in 1965, but they had to stay where they were until March and dog-drawn sleighs supplied them with food from Sakhalin. ”

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EU Referendum Blogspot has been following the continuing rescues in the Sea of Okhotsk.  (See also previous post at DITC here). Since distress signals were sent on 31st December, three vessels have been rescued from the treacherous Gulf of Sakhalin.  Earlier this week the icebreakers Krasin and Admiral Makarov towed the refrigerator ship Bereg Nadezhdy (Coast of Hope) 12 miles to safety.  The icebreakers have now resumed operations returning for a fourth ship,  the Sodruzhestvo (Commonwealth) with her crew of ~300.

Russian icebreakers Krasin and Admiral Makarov. (Photo: RIA Novosti via Voice of Russia)

From: Voice of Russia:

“Russia’s icebreakers The Krasin and The Admiral Makarov have resumed an operation to rescue the Sodruzhestvo fishery ship out of an ice trap in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Krasin icebreaker is towing the ship and the Admiral Makarov is leading the convoy forcing its way through the ice.”
Photo Gallery here

The whole operation is caught rather nicely on Ship Tracker (h/t ES).  It necessitated refuelling of the ice-bound ship, replacement of snapped tow ropes, and a coordinated attack by the two icebreakers, one breaking the channel, one widening it while towing its charge.

Movements of the Krasin since 30th December. (Source http://www.sailwx.info/)

The progress of the icebreakers has been painfully slow, though the wind-compacted and hummocked ice.   Movement has been as little as a few 100 metres some days.  The latest reports suggest that, after covering 8 nautical miles today the ships have about 30 more miles to go and it will be at least two or three days before the ships reach open water.

AMSR-E Sea Ice map for Sea of Okhotsk (Source: Universität Bremen)

The sea ice map above shows the build up of ice for which the Gulf of Sakhalin is notorious;  this is typically driven by northerly winds.  According to Cryosphere Today the sea ice area anomaly this season in the Sea of Okhotsk is 2-300,000 sq km below normal – most likely due to wind compaction.

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