Well…. they’re in a tough spot. As I write this, team Arctic Row is anchored about 2 miles south of Barrow, Alaska, about 100 feet from shore. The wind is coming from the south, which is the direction they need to go in, and is strong enough to prevent them making any forward progress. They’ve made two or three attempts in the last few days, which has only netted them those 2 miles to the south in total. That’s frustrating, but wait, it gets worse.
There is a “weather system” happening in the area, which one of their analysts tells them is “an event seldom seen in the Arctic”. I’m not sure what makes it so unusual, but the bottom line is that the storm is pushing mass amounts of ice in the direction of Barrow, and right into our 4 friends in a rowboat. If the ice comes close enough to shore, which it’s predicted to do, it could push the boat right up on to the beach, which wouldn’t be dangerous for the guys, but would likely damage the boat enough to end the trip. That said, icebergs sit deeper in the water than rowboats do, so there’s a decent chance that the ice could run aground before reaching the water’s edge, and a channel of open water could remain. Theoretically.
If there were a protected harbor to pull into, that would help. The problem is, contrary to what I thought I understood the other day, Barrow doesn’t have a harbor of any kind. Shelter is only available 50 miles to the south, which given the rowing conditions (only two hard-earned miles in the last 3 days) is impossibly far away without some kind of miracle.
They’re in touch with the Barrow police department, who could help them pull the boat out of the water if needed. That would allow them to wait out the storm on shore, but doing that would lose them their status as a non-stop expedition, which is important to them, to the world of ocean rowing, and to the record books.
So for the time being, they’re sitting and waiting. If the winds subside enough for them to row, they will make every effort to get south. If not, they’ll have to make tough choices between the less-than-ideal options available.
If your fingers have not been crossed for them yet, now is the time!
PS. The upside of the stagnation of the last few days is that they’ve had plenty of time to chat with me, catch up on emails, and play Angry Birds. They’ve also been answering your questions, which I’ll post shortly. Stay tuned!