Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Progress of the Russian tanker towards Nome

Since the Russian tanker bringing fuel to Nome, and the accompanying ice breaker started out on Tuesday having sailed 53 miles on Monday, it seemed, with only 100 miles to go, that this drama was over. However it managed to move forward only 50 ft on Tuesday, due to the ice conditions. The ice breaker spent much of the time trying to break the tanker free from an ice ridge. I am therefore putting up the map again, and showing the relative position of the tanker and the ice breaker the Healy so that I can more easily add updates to the story.

Position of the ships (the icebreaker is the Healy) relative to Nome at 5 pm Tuesday (Central time)

And I know that Nome is really on the coast, but the name is more to identify the target. And for those who missed the earlier post which lies two stories down, Nome in Alaska is running out of fuel, and a tanker, supposed to deliver that fuel on the 7th January is having difficulty getting to the harbor. Due to storms earlier in the winter the normal fuel barge could not make delivery, and so the tanker and the sole remaining American active duty ice breaker were called into service. (The second ice breaker is out of service being overhauled). But the ice is thick and under considerable pressure - hence the ridges - and the pressure can also close the passage that the Healy makes before the Renda can move down it.

UPDATE: Here is the latest position of the Ice breaker (and thus I presume the tanker) at 11 am on the 11th. (Central time) It seems a little further away, but could be trying to find a better way through the ice for the tanker.

And here is a picture from the Healy Aloft camera of the Renda, date stamped 20120111-0101. (I think that the last 4 digits are GMT, since the pictures are going up every hour and the latest one - still dark, and the icebreaker starting to move (it has headlights on and is no longer pointing at the tanker) - is stamped 6 hours ahead of Central US time, which is GMT).

UPDATE 2 (4:30 pm 11th) It is now possible to see both the Icebreaker (the Healy) and the Russian tanker on the plot.

24-hours after the top map location, the tanker does not appear to be making much progress.

The Coast Guard has stopped predicting when the vessels may arrive in Nome, and even when they do there may be more problems. The icebreaker has too deep a keel to get into the harbor, and there is a 25-ft deep ice ridge that has been discovered across the mouth of the harbor. This means that the Renda will have to park off-shore and pump the fuel through a hose to the tanks. It has enough hose on board to be able to do this.

UPDATE 3: The Renda made a good run and is now 50 miles from Nome. There have been numerous ice ridges giving problems.

Position of the vessels at 10:15 pm GMT 12th Jan.

FINAL UPDATE Friday 7 pm GMT: The tanker and breaker have made good progress and are about 8 miles from the city (you can see some of the city lights in shots from the Healy aloft camera that were taken overnight.


  1. I've read elsewhere that the Coast Guard's policy of rotating its officers (every 3 yrs?) means that the icebreaker(s) are staffed by people whose career path has little to do with the Arctic. It takes considerable experience to train a competent ice pilot, and the CG apparently doesn't have one.

  2. They have a pilot from Alaska Marine on board to guide them in. They can only move for about 45 minutes before the icebreaker has to cut them out again.