by Tamara Davis
Sidebar to "Studies of nuclear contamination in the Russian Arctic"
Today has made all the problems of the last two months disappear. When I woke up this morning, we were dead in the water and completely surrounded by pack ice. The sky is overcast and it is almost impossible to tell where the ice stops and the sky begins. We are still 100 miles from the straits and we have already lost our ability to follow the icebreaker. Yesterday we met up with another research vessel, the Professor Multinovsky and not one, but two nuclear-powered icebreakers, the Taimyr and the Viagotch.
[85K] The bright red, Russian icebreaker Polar Sea is one of the largest and strongest nuclear-powered icebreakers in the world.
We started our journey through the ice about 1900 on August 25. The water was covered only with islands of ice. The weather was perfect. . . The further we got to the east, the more ice coverage we encountered. When I went to bed last night, we were moving through leads in the pack ice.
At 0400, we came to a grinding halt. We had been following the Taimyr at a distance of about 100 meters. The Viagotch was in the lead and the Multinovsky followed us. The ice had grown so thick that even 100 meters was too far to follow the icebreaker. The ice parted just enough to allow one boat through and closed up too quickly for us to follow. We had already lost the Multinovsky. She was stuck a few kilometers behind us. The Viagotch had returned to its area of work, which is southwest of us.
We passed two immense tow ropes to the Taimyr and she fed them onto her enormous capstans. We can now walk back and forth between our vessel and the icebreaker if we want to, which no one seems to want to do. . .
. . .We are being towed at a speed of six knots through two-meter-thick pack ice. It is truly a spectacular sight. No one in our party expected ice like this. . .
. . .We have begun our white bear watches. We have been told that this is bear country. When we were stuck in the ice it was a little scary to think about the possiblity of a polar bear wandering by and climbing on board. . .
. . .We have had no word from the Multinovsky. There is an area of open water in front of us. When we reach this area we will break free from the Taimyr and proceed on to the next section of ice. The Taimyr is going back to free the Multinovsky from her frozen prison. . .
. . .The open area I saw was an optical illusion. I don't know what is happening to the other vessel. They tell us that we will soon be able to see the northern lights. . .
. . .That's all for now. If we get completely stuck I will send out a distress signal. Perhaps we will be like the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica; we will be out on the ice with sledge hammers and saws cutting leads in the ice to pass through.
Oceanography, Texas A&M University
Updated September 13, 1995