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The researchers aboard MSV Nordica are documenting their journey through the Northwest Passage

Thanks to Arctia Ltd, several researchers will get to travel on board the MSV Nordica for the Arctic 100 Expedition through the Northwest Passage (NWP). The researchers will get a taste of life on an icebreaker, an exhilarating view of the Arctic, and an opportunity to put questions to well-trained mariners. Despite dubious internet connections, the researchers  plan to write daily blog posts to share their experiences with the rest of the world.

We attempted to reach the MSV Nordica for comment on the amazing journey and the inspiration for the blog. We spoke to Ice Navigator Captain David (Duke) Snider, who, despite his busy schedule, made time to write to us about the Arctic 100 Expedition Blog and his own blog.

Left to right: Martech Polar Trainee Ice Navigator Nigel Greenwood, Canadian Coast Guard Captain Victor Gronmyr, CEO and Principal Consultant at Martech Polar Consulting Ltd David (Duke) Snider
Left to right: Martech Polar Trainee Ice Navigator Nigel Greenwood, Canadian Coast Guard Captain Victor Gronmyr, CEO and Principal Consultant at Martech Polar Consulting Ltd David (Duke) Snider

What is the goal of the expedition?

“First and foremost, this voyage is a re-positioning transit of MSV Nordica. The ship had been under charter for ice management work in Sakhalin and it was determined that the most expedient route home to Finland, given the ship’s capability and the season, was through the Northwest Passage. When it was determined that the NWP voyage would in fact occur, Arctia decided to invite researchers to take advantage of the voyage and board in Vancouver for the transit. Because the decision to make the voyage occurred just within the last few weeks, there was insufficient time to apply and receive approval for substantial research including sampling, so the research is restricted to observations only. However, you can imagine the incredible experiential value of transiting the NWP and seeing, even restricted to the ship, what the route is like, and having the opportunity to talk to mariners on board with experience. We also have on board observers from the Canadian and United States Coast Guard that are seeing how the Finnish designs and technology differ from their own traditional icebreakers.”

Who are the writers for Arctic 100 Expedition Blog?

“For this voyage the ship owners (Arctia) have set up a Facebook page and they are encouraging the researchers on board to post regular blogs. My own blog is separate from that. I expect that with the number of researchers on board there will be a number that will try to get out daily blogs, but I am simply too busy with my role as Ice Navigator to achieve that sort of output myself. Unfortunately, when I have time to write, there is little to write about. When we get to the ice, and it gets more interesting, I have less time to write. When connectivity becomes less reliable, blogging will be restricted.”

What inspired you to start your own blog?

“I have a fairly robust online presence, either through Facebook, Twitter (@icenav57), Pinterest or my Tumblr blog (@icenav57). When connectivity and client standards permit, I try to get “the word” out there about shipping in ice and other marine related matters. I intermittently blog about various matters in shipping and ice navigation. My main purpose in all of this is to educate more than to entertain. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about what is happening in the polar regions, particularly with respect to shipping. What I hope to do is to combat the myths and misconceptions and provide facts from the perspective of an experienced Ice Navigator and mariner.”

What stories can we expect from both blogs?

“The researchers and others will be writing about the exciting new things they are seeing from their own perspectives, about what they learn and experience. What I will be writing about is the reality of what it takes to traverse the NWP. This is not about drama; it is not about harrowing experiences. It is about competent, experienced mariners with special skills necessary to work in a potentially hostile environment that is different than anywhere else on the planet. It is about what makes the polar regions in general, and the Arctic and Northwest Passage more specifically, not a region for the misinformed or ill prepared.”

How long are the blogs running for?

“My blog will run as long as I have something I think I need to write about. The stories specific to this voyage and those of the researchers that are being posted to Arctia’s Facebook page will end as most of them disembark in Nuuk.”

How positive are you that the blog can run daily, considering technical and communicational limits?

“There is no certainty. In fact, that is one of the first bits of education to those who have never been here before. We lose mobile phone coverage as soon as we cleared out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca - surprising to some. The ship has limited bandwidth for access to internet, but operations come first and the first thing to be dropped when operational data transfer degrades is the access to blogs by researchers. When we get further north, the connectivity gets less reliable, and as we near the northern limits of the satellite footprints for several days, mid voyage, the internet connectivity will be virtually zero except for vital operational requirements.”

Lucky for us, we caught the ship in time to talk to Captain Snider. Hopefully, we can keep on learning from the Captain, the researchers and the mariners on MSV Nordica.

If you want more content on Arctic shipping and icebreakers, make sure to book your ticket to Arctic Shipping Forum in Montreal.

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