The combination of a specialist maritime publisher and an experienced ice captain should be expected to produce a very readable and informative review of polar navigation and the reader will not be disappointed. Although the target audience may be professional seamen, the subject of ice navigation and climate change will appeal to a much wider readership, particularly as the author has made a good job of describing the topics in language that is widely understandable outside the prime target audience.
NAME: Polar Ship Operations, A Practical Guide
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Captain Duke Snider FNI
PUBLISHER: The Nautical Institute
BINDING: Soft back
GENRE: Non fiction
DESCRIPTION: The combination of a specialist maritime publisher and an experienced ice captain should be expected to produce a very readable and informative review of polar navigation and the reader will not be disappointed. Although the target audience may be professional seamen, the subject of ice navigation and climate change will appeal to a much wider readership, particularly as the author has made a good job of describing the topics in language that is widely understandable outside the prime target audience. All of the traditional requirements for safe navigation apply to those sailing in polar regions, to which is then added the isolation and the challenges of working in extreme low temperatures, strong currents and violent storms, beyond the reach of Search And Rescue services that most sailors almost take for granted on most sea routes. There is some considerable debate about climate change because it is a long way from being a settled science, but the Arctic is now providing windows of opportunity for navigation during summer ice melt periods. The Soviet Union established a Northern Sea Route which was regularly used by ice hardened merchant vessels and icebreakers during a short one or two month period every year. This activity was controlled by an authority from Murmansk. With the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a period when the route was less used, but considerable effort has recently been put into increased use of the navigation. When British solo sailor Adrian Flanagan embarked on the first vertical circumnavigation by sea, he had a choice of either using the Russian Northern Sea Route or the North West Passage. He decided to sail west about from Britain, heading for the Antarctic and rounding Cape Horn into the Pacific before heading for the Bering Strait and then along the Russian Northern Sea route back to Britain. He became the first sailor to be permitted to sail the NSR single handed and without an ice pilot, when normally the minimum requirement is three full watches and an ice pilot on even the smallest craft. The yacht also could not meet the specifications designed for ice hardened merchant craft and the authority to sail was issued under the personal instruction of President Putin. Timing the passage was a great challenge and, after checking in with the FSB before passing through the Bering Strait Adrian came under the command of the NRS controllers in Murmansk and was assisted by the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. Sailing a 40 foot titanium stainless steel yacht, Adrian was heavily dependent on satphone communications and study by his shore-based team of special satellite radar images with comment and advice from AARI. The voyage was complicated by the slow sailing speed of the heavily built yacht. He reached the Strait at Proliv Vil Kitskogo but the ice stubbornly refused to recede. ARRI advised a dash through an intercoastal channel that was periodically clearing but suffering a large polar bear population which would have made an escape across the ice very dangerous if the yacht became icebound, rescue being several days away at best. The NSR managers favoured a passage in convoy with three small merchant ships and two nuclear icebreakers. This was also subject to considerable risk and in the event conditions prevented the convoy forming and making the passage, the merchant ships returning to port where they had already spent three years waiting for a break in the ice. Adrian and his yacht were then taken through the Strait on a 20,000 ton ice hardened timber carrier with two nuclear icebreakers as escort. His yacht was lifted fully rigged by the timber carrier, 4 miles offshore, using the ship’s cranes. That example provides one view of the challenges of Arctic navigation. In recent years the North West Passage has provided some breaks in the ice, has been navigated by yachts and merchant ships, but still presents many considerable risks to navigators. The author has naturally concentrated on merchant shipping in polar waters and provides a comprehensive review that includes all of the principles of navigation in these conditions. The text is effectively supported by excellent photographs and drawings in colour. This should provide an essential reference work for years to come that will assist professionals and all those who are interested in polar exploration, navigation and exploitation. With growing use of polar waters for passenger cruise ships and expectations of oil and mineral extraction, this practical guide is very well timed and welcome.