Saturday, August 16, 2014

Volume-rendered global atmospheric model : the Earth like a living creature


This visualization shows early test renderings of a global computational model of Earth's atmosphere based on data from NASA's Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5).
This particular run, called Nature Run 2, was run on a supercomputer, spanned 2 years of simulation time at 30 minute intervals, and produced Petabytes of output.
The model uses a 7.5 km cube-sphere parameterization.
Geographic coordinate output volumes from the model are 5760 x 2881 x 72 voxels per time step.
For each voxel numerous physical parameters are available such as temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, humidity, etc.
This visualization uses a combination of the CLOUD and TAUIR parameters.

The visualization spans a little more than 7 days of simulation time which is 354 time steps.
The time period was chosen because a simulated category-4 typhoon developed off the coast of China.
The frames were rendered using Renderman.
Brickmap volumes generated for each time step are about 2.6 Gigabytes.
This short visualization referenced nearly a terabyte of brickmap files.
The 7 day period is repeated several times during the course of the visualization.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The secret life of plankton

New videography techniques have opened up the oceans' microscopic ecosystem, revealing it to be both mesmerizingly beautiful and astoundingly complex.
Marine biologist Tierney Thys teamed with Christian Sardet (CNRS/Tara Oceans), Noé Sardet and Sharif Mirshak to use footage from the Plankton Chronicles project to create a film designed to ignite wonder and curiosity about this hidden world that underpins our own food chain.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Should we be exploring the Oceans instead of Space?

A curious grouper looks into the view port of the Pisces submersible.
(Photo credit HURL / NOAA / NURP)

From io9 by Mark Strauss

For some, the irony is almost too much to bear.
While Congress is eager to fund a $2 billion expedition to search for oceans beneath Europa, some 95% of Earth's oceans are unexplored.
Given the role of oceans in regulating climate, and their untapped potential for food and health, is it time to rethink our priorities?
This debate has been going on for half a century.
Even John Steinbeck wrote an impassioned plea in 1966 to create a NASA for the oceans:
While the lifeless rubbled surface of the inconstant moon becomes increasingly littered with the burnt-out bones of vehicles, the bathyscaphe has visited the deep and unknown places of the earth only a few times. There is never much argument about appropriations for space shots, but a recent request for money to explore, map, and evaluate the hidden places of our mother earth brought howls of protest from Congressional leaders and the inevitable question—is it really necessary?
We must explore our world and then we must farm it and harvest its plant life…..And we must mine the minerals, refine the chemicals to our use. Surely the rewards are beyond anything we can now conceive, and will be increasingly needed in an over-populated and depleting world.
There is something for everyone in the sea—incredible beauty for the artist, the excitement and danger of exploration for the brave and restless, an open door for the ingenuity and inventiveness of the clever, a new world for the bored, food for the hungry, and incalculable material wealth for the acquisitive—and all of these in addition to the pure clean wonder of increasing knowledge.

Steinbeck's arguments are still heard among oceanographers and self-described "ocean nerds" today.
"As a scientist, I want to explore the great wonders our ocean has to offer," writes Conservation International's Greg Stone.
As a conservationist, I need to explore the vital human-ocean connection: how the ocean can provide for people and how our impacts affect the health of our oceans."
Likewise, Michael Conathan at the Center for American Progress argues:
In a time of shrinking budgets and increased scrutiny on the return for our investments, we should be taking a long, hard look at how we are prioritizing our exploration dollars. If the goal of government spending is to spur growth in the private sector, entrepreneurs are far more likely to find inspiration down in the depths of the ocean than up in the heavens. The ocean already provides us with about half the oxygen we breathe, our single largest source of protein, a wealth of mineral resources....
But even in a time of shrinking budgets, the priorities remain unchanged: NASA's exploration budget dominates the ocean exploration budget of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) by roughly 150-to-1.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We are awed by the beauty and diversity of marine life, including exotic creatures that look more alien than anything we've seen in science fiction.
We recognize the impact that environmental degradation of the oceans has on tourism and fishing industries. We express outrage over whale hunting.
And with every passing week, we hear more dire news about the ocean's longterm health: massive "dead zones," accumulating plastic debris, the growing threats to coral reefs.
So, why does ocean exploration hold less appeal than the exploration of space?
Conathan argues that part of this incongruity comes from access:
No matter where we live, we can go outside on a clear night, look up into the sky, and wonder about what's out there. We're presented with a spectacular vista of stars, planets, meteorites, and even the occasional comet or aurora. We have all been wishing on stars since we were children. Only the lucky few can gaze out at the ocean from their doorstep, and even those who do cannot see all that lies beneath the waves.
And those exotic, deep-sea creatures?
They often don't survive the trip to the surface.
Decompression is usually fatal.
Our ability to understand these animals remains limited, and we remain disconnected from deep ocean life.
And then, there's the harsh reality described by Ryan Carlyle, a subsea hydraulics engineer — ocean exploration can be excruciatingly boring:
The vast majority of the seafloor once you get >50 miles offshore is barren, featureless mud. On face, this is pretty similar to the empty expanses of outer space, but in space you can see all the way through the nothing, letting you identify targets for probes or telescopes. The goals of space exploration are visible from the Earth, so we can dream and imagine reaching into the heavens. But in the deep oceans, visibility is less than 100 feet and travel speed is measured in single-digit knots….Sure, there are beautiful and interesting features like geothermal vents and coral reefs. But throughout most of the ocean these are few and far between.
We stare up at the stars and dream of reaching them, but few people look off the side of a boat and wish they could go down there.
Or, put another way, here is a typical view from an undersea probe:

And, here's a view from a rover on Mars:

Let's face it.
When we see images from other planets, even the most mundane terrain captivates us, because we getting close-up glimpses of worlds where humanity has yet to visit.
What's always been true about exploration remains true today: Nothing intrigues us like the blank spots on a map.

The Case Against Space

One of the most ardent proponents of shifting our exploration priorities is Amitai Etzioni, the director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University.
In his 1964 book The Moon-Doggle, he said there was less to be gained in deep space than in near space — the sphere in which communication, navigations, weather, and reconnaissance satellites orbit — and argued for more investment in studying our own planet instead of the Moon.
Fifty years later, his views haven't changed; if anything he feels vindicated.
In the most recent issue of the journal, Issues In Science and Technology, he updates his 1964 argument, saying that we need to choose the "fruitful frontier" over the "final frontier."

The entire article is worth reading in full, but here are some highlights of his case for bringing our exploration budget down to Earth:

NASA does make helpful contributions to climate science by way of its monitoring programs…. However, there seem to be no viable solutions to climate change that involve space.
By contrast, it is already clear that the oceans offer a plethora of viable solutions to the Earth's most pressing troubles. For example, scientists have already demonstrated that the oceans serve as a "carbon sink." The oceans have absorbed almost one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emitted since the advent of the industrial revolution and have the potential to continue absorbing a large share of the CO2 released into the atmosphere. Researchers are exploring a variety of chemical, biological, and physical geoengineering projects to increase the ocean's capacity to absorb carbon. Additional federal funds should be allotted to determine the feasibility and safety of these projects and then to develop and implement any that are found acceptable.
Although aquaculture is rapidly expanding—more than 60% from 2000 to 2008—and represented more than 40% of global fisheries production in 2006, a number of challenges require attention if aquaculture is to significantly improve worldwide supplies of food. First, scientists have yet to understand the impact of climate change on aquaculture and fishing. Ocean acidification is likely to damage entire ecosystems, and rising temperatures cause marine organisms to migrate away from their original territory or die off entirely. It is important to study the ways that these processes will likely play out and how their effects might be mitigated.
On the issue of food, NASA is atypically mum. It does not claim it will feed the world with whatever it finds or plans to grow on Mars, Jupiter, or any other place light years away. The oceans are likely to be of great help.
While NASA has claimed that its space exploration "benefit[ted] pharmaceutical drug development"….Ocean research, as modest as it is, has already yielded several medical "spinoffs." The discovery of one species of Japanese black sponge, which produces a substance that successfully blocks division of tumorous cells, led researchers to develop a late-stage breast cancer drug. An expedition near the Bahamas led to the discovery of a bacterium that produces substances that are in the process of being synthesized as antibiotics and anticancer compounds. In addition to the aforementioned cancer fighting compounds, chemicals that combat neuropathic pain, treat asthma and inflammation, and reduce skin irritation have been isolated from marine organisms….[Yet] up to two-thirds of all marine life remains unidentified.
To Boldly Go
Furthermore, for years scientists have been fascinated by noises originating at the bottom of the ocean, known creatively as "the Bloop" and "Julia," among others. And the world's largest known "waterfall" can be found entirely underwater between Greenland and Iceland, where cold, dense Arctic water from the Greenland Sea drops more than 11,500 feet before reaching the seafloor of the Denmark Strait. Much remains poorly understood about these phenomena, their relevance to the surrounding ecosystem, and the ways in which climate change will affect their continued existence.
In short, there is much that humans have yet to understand about the depths of the oceans, further research into which could yield important insights about Earth's geological history and the evolution of humans and society. Addressing these questions surpasses the importance of another Mars rover or a space observatory designed to answer highly specific questions of importance mainly to a few dedicated astrophysicists, planetary scientists, and select colleagues.
In "Final Frontier vs. Fruitful Frontier" Etzioni writes that "deep space—NASA's favorite turf—is a distant, hostile, and barren place, the study of which yields few major discoveries and an abundance of overhyped claims.
By contrast, the oceans are nearby, and their study is a potential source of discoveries that could prove helpful for addressing a wide range of national concerns from climate change to disease; for reducing energy, mineral, and potable water shortages; for strengthening industry, security, and defenses against natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis; for increasing our knowledge about geological history; and much more."

Etzioni argues that NASA's projects, especially those dedicated to exploring deep space and to manned missions, can readily be cut, with billions moved from distant planets to nearby oceans.
Echoing that letter written by John Steinbeck nearly 50 years ago, Etzioni concludes, "The United States needs an agency that can spearhead a major drive to explore the oceans—an agency that has yet to be envisioned and created."

Links :

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lies, damned lies and maps

From The Diplomat by James R. Holmes

Cartography helps set the parameters within which debates over policy and strategy unfold.

We mathematicians often stand accused of skullduggery, but we’ve got nothing on cartographers. Mark Twain jested that there were lies, damned lies, and statistics.
An old book from the 1950s instructs readers How to Lie with Statistics.
So fraught is the situation that University of Wisconsin math professor Jordan Ellenberg wrote an entire book — and a laugh-out-loud funny one at that — to debunk faulty mathematical thinking and the misadventures to which it gives rise.
Such are the consequences of our dark art.

But if numbers inform — and sometimes misinform — think about maps.
A map or nautical chart is a picture.
It’s a visual medium that conveys lots of seemingly factual information at a glance.
One vignette. Europeans, and Europeanists, fret constantly that the United States must turn its back on Europe to pivot to Asia.
You have to blame the Mercator map of the world for such claims.
If Washington, D.C. is America’s geopolitical pivot point, and if we assume U.S. leaders can only gaze in one direction, then pivoting to the Far East does indeed mean doing an about-face.

Mercator projection

When I discuss the rebalance with various audiences, consequently, I’ve taken to showing the pivot on a Mercator map … and then showing it on a polar azimuthal equidistant projection a spaceman’s-eye view down on the North Pole.

When you do so, behold!
Forces based on the U.S. west coast and Hawaii surge across the Pacific Ocean, sweeping around one side of the Eurasian periphery.
But forces based on the east coast reach Asia through the Mediterranean and Red seas, their closest route to the western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
That pathway takes them around Eurasia’s other side.

Bottom line: naval task forces may steam past rather than to Europe, but they’re hardly vacating Atlantic and European waters.
Indeed, when you plot the Pacific and Atlantic/Mediterranean/Red Sea/Indian Ocean pathways on the map, it appears as though North America is hugging Eurasia.
That’s a kinder, gentler mental image than someone turning a cold shoulder, n’est-ce pas?

Richard Edes Harrison - working methods from Data Deluge

It’s also more accurate.
Maps, then, can mislead.
Or they can signal how someone or some group of people looks at the world.
And in the hands of clever cartographers, they can shape how various audiences look at the world.
Mapmakers like Richard Edes Harrison, for instance, drew up projections during World War II that make the North Atlantic look like an inland sea — and North America and Western Europe like the halves of a grand North Atlantic community.
That helped coalesce transatlantic unity for war and, subsequently, for cold war.

Diplomatic historian and Naval Diplomat mentor Alan Henrikson fashioned the concept of “mental maps” back in the 1970s to make sense of all this.
Professor Henrikson defines a mental map as a “spatial frame of reference, which is usually centered on an imagined point of origin within the core area of a country from which the activities of that society are organized and proceed.”
How political leaders, military officers, and ordinary people conceive of the world guides “the foreign thrusts as well as the domestic initiatives of a regime and nation.”

So ideas about geospatial relationships, whether accurate or inaccurate, mold foreign policy and strategy.
So does the location of Henrikson’s central reference point.
Which brings us to China.
Last month the conversation about China’s rise alighted briefly on a new map that depicts South China Sea waters and disputed lands along the Indo-Chinese frontier as part of metropolitan China.
A statement of political purpose?
Cartographic imagery is just another tool whereby Beijing wages its “three warfares.”
It projects China’s territorial claims to audiences foreign and domestic, largely through party-controlled outlets, for psychological effect.
That’s the three warfares in a nutshell.

China’s new map made a major splash, but such tactics are nothing new for Beijing.
Party leaders, of course, embraced a Republic of China map portraying the waters within a nine-dashed (and now, apparently, ten-dashed) line enclosing most of the South China Sea.
It marks out a zone of “indisputable sovereignty” where China’s fiat is law. Some observers connect cartography with sea-power theory.
In 2001, writing in the Communist Party daily Nanfang Ribao, one pundit deplored Chinese maps’ propensity to exclude waters claimed under Chinese law.
He cites Alfred Thayer Mahan’s “theory that mastery of the seas determined a nation’s destiny, its rise and fall.”
Mahan’s geopolitical vision, he says, spurred the construction of a powerful U.S. Navy that’s “still at our doorstep.”
China should make Mahan’s logic its own, putting to sea great merchant and naval fleets.

Appearances count for scribblers of such leanings.
The Nanfang Ribao author likens the Chinese landmass to a rooster, an image unworthy of China’s majesty.
Including the sea areas claimed by China, however, gives the nation an appealing shape on the map — namely a torch.
On maps encompassing both land and sea, “the tray and handle of the ‘torch’ is the blue ocean, symbolizing that the ocean provides the ‘fuel’ for the blazing torch.”
This represents “a totally accurate characterization of the dependency relationship between the Chinese mainland in the future and the natural resources of China’s seas.”
“Chinese map,” he intones, “you are the collected emotion and wisdom of the Chinese people, their coagulated blood and raging fire, symbolic of their power and personality, the embodiment of their worth and spirit.”

 Dr. Yung’s Map of Competing Territorial Claims in the South China Sea

Heady stuff.
Maps, it seems, constitute one more medium for national messaging and branding, and for political and cultural interchange.
For China, maps broadcast political purpose and the resolve to back purposes with the full weight of Chinese power.
Within China, the same maps shape how rank-and-file citizens see Asia and their nation’s place in it.
Cartography, then, helps set the parameters within which debates over policy and strategy unfold.
And it funnels not-strictly-rational passions toward the nation in directions mapmakers and their political masters want them to go.
A picture’s worth a thousand words — and who doesn’t prefer a torch to a rooster?

Links :

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The battle for the North Pole: Melting ice brings competition for resources

Arctic sea ice: climate change, oil and trade

From DerSpiegel by Gerald Traufetter

Climate change is freeing the Arctic of ice -- and spurring a global competition for the natural resources stored beneath.
Countries that border the sea are staking new territorial claims and oil giants are dispatching geologists.
But what will the tug-of-war mean for the indigenous people and wildlife?

Melting Ice Brings Competition for Resources

Bo Madsen, a climate researcher, is plagued by a simple question: How heavy is the world's largest island? More importantly, Madsen wants to know how quickly its weight is changing.
"This is no academic question," the Dane, a scientist at the National Space Institute and the Technical University of Denmark, yells over the whipping of the rotor blades.
"The answer will determine the fate of millions of people."

 Greenland with the Marine GeoGarage

Greenland's majestic landscape glides by beneath the helicopter.
A mottled gray-and-white glacier tongue winds its way down a series of mountain slopes.
Farther up, the jagged terrain gives way to a smooth, seemingly endless expanse of white, capped by a glistening aura that makes it difficult to distinguish between the sky and the surface of the ice cap.
The scientists have spent the last two hours flying over the edge of the inland ice in their Super Puma helicopter.
The gigantic ice cap is close to three kilometers (1.86 miles) thick.
If it were to melt, sea levels worldwide would rise by seven meters (23 feet), spelling the end for many coastal cities.

"Did we load the cordless screwdriver?" the 53-year-old Madsen asks his partner, American scientist Eric Kendrick. There is tension in the air, almost as heavy as the metallic chirping of the chopper's drive shafts.

How does one measure the recession of an ice cap?
A lone mountain peak protrudes from the glacier ice.
This is where the Danish and American geophysicists plan to set up their measuring equipment.
Their project, called GNET, will be part of a formidable scientific observation network, an early warning system of measuring stations and satellites designed to monitor the Greenland ice cap.

"The stations measure the height of the mountain tops once every 30 seconds," Madsen explains, "down to the nearest half a millimeter."
This precision is made possible by the radio signals emitted by GPS navigation satellites orbiting the earth.
The data give the scientists an indirect gauge of how fast the ice is melting, because rising land means, simply, that the weight of the ice resting on it is decreasing.

The researchers have already installed two dozen of these stations all over Greenland, and they have been transmitting data for the past year.
According to initial calculations, Greenland has lost 150 billion tons of ice a year in the last four years.
This is five times the size of the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps.

GNET will provide certainty, for the first time, on one of the most important questions of global warming: How quickly is the Greenland ice cap melting?
Will it take hundreds of years?
Or is the ice melting faster than that?
"Soon we will be able to tell mankind by how much sea levels will actually rise in the next 100 years."

Climate researchers like Madsen are the chroniclers of an unprecedented change.
The amplified greenhouse effect caused by the burning of fossil fuels heats the earth's atmosphere, and nowhere else in the world do the consequences become noticeable as quickly as in the still-frosty Arctic regions.

Temperatures along the icy shores of the northern Arctic Ocean are rising twice as fast as in the more southerly latitudes.
Computer models predict a rise in temperatures there by up to eight degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
"We are on the front lines of climate change," says Madsen.
While global warming is still a problem of the future in many places, the big thaw at the North Pole has been underway for some time.
Since the mid-1970s, the white crust of sea ice covering the North Pole in the summer months has shrunk by about half, from eight million to four million square kilometers (3.1 million to 1.55 million square miles).
This has exposed an expanse of water more than 10 times the size of Germany, or somewhat larger than India.

Satellite images reveal that this is another record year.
The Northwest Passage has been ice-free since early August for the second year in a row.
And there is practically no pack ice left in the Northeast Passage, north of the Siberian coast.
This is unprecedented in recent history.
Temperatures are rising in the North Atlantic, and the permafrost soil in Siberia, Canada and Alaska is softening.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Arctic is subject to "stronger and faster warming than any other region."

Arctic animal and plant species must adjust to far more extreme changes than elsewhere -- or face the threat of extinction.
It is not surprising that the polar bear has become a symbol of climate change.
People also live in the Arctic region.
The Inuit are the ancestral settlers of the north. They number about 100,000 and are scattered across Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia.
Their familiar habitat is sinking as the permafrost soil softens.

Some stand to benefit from the end of the ice era.
As if awakening from a deep sleep, the five nations bordering the Arctic -- the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark -- are already grasping for new riches:
  • As the wheat farming zone shifts farther to the north in Siberia, the Russians are looking forward to rich harvests.
  • Farmers in Greenland recently began growing potatoes and broccoli, making the territory less dependant on shipments from the south.
  • US aluminum producer Alcoa plans to build a huge aluminum smelter near Greenland's capital city, Nuuk. Hydroelectric power from melting glaciers will provide the electricity for the plant.
  • As the ice melts, previously impassable shipping routes become navigable. Large amounts of money and effort are already being poured into expanding ports like Murmansk, Churchill and Hammerfest.
  • Most of all, the Arctic is releasing unimagined amounts of resources, especially oil and gas, but also various ores.
 HMS Superb, USS Billfish, and USS Sea Devil in a North Pole rendezvous in 1987
(U.S. Navy Photo)

An Arctic Cold War?

National covetousness and unclear rights of ownership could even lead to a cold war in the Arctic Ocean.
Although the foreign ministers of the five Arctic nations came to a diplomatically worded agreement this spring to further strengthen "cooperation in the Arctic Ocean," this certainly does not stop these countries from embarking on a massive military buildup in the region.

Canada, for example, is adding 1,000 additional soldiers to its Arctic Ranger troops, investing more than $3 billion (€2.1 billion) in new Arctic patrol ships and building a new naval station at Nanisivik for $100 million (€70 million).
"The first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: Use it or lose it," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he announced plans to expand Canadian territorial waters by a half-million square kilometers (193,000 square miles) at the end of last month.

The United States, for its part, is currently surveying the ocean floor north of Alaska.
Following in the footsteps of the Russians, the United States hopes to assert extensive territorial claims in the region before the United Nations.
Part of Washington's plans include spending an estimated $1.5 billion (€1.05 billion) on new ice-breakers, as Michael Chertoff, the head of the powerful Department of Homeland Security, said recently when he visited Alaska with Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the US Coast Guard.
"All I know is there's open water where there didn't used to be, and I'm responsible for it," the admiral said in a booming voice.

In a few weeks, the White House plans to unveil a new political strategy for the Arctic, the first since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
There are smoldering territorial conflicts between Denmark and Canada, and between Russia and Norway.

Energized by visions of mineral resources soon to be released from the grip of the ice, politicians, too, are discovering polar research.
Millions upon millions of dollars are suddenly becoming available, as the Arctic experiences, in this year's International Polar Year, an onslaught of climate researchers, ecologists and geologists.
The governments have an ulterior motive, hoping that science will help back up their territorial claims.
Denmark is spending close to €340 million ($486 million) on polar research.

From the pragmatists' standpoint, the Arctic Ocean is opening up at just the right time.
Exploding prices are fueling an onslaught on the riches of the North.
The British-Dutch energy conglomerate Shell, for example, spent a record sum of $2 billion (€1.4 billion) for licenses in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Strait.

Energy multinational BP recently spent $1 billion (€700 million) for oil exploration rights in the pack ice in Canada's Mackenzie River estuary region.
A $16.2 billion (€11.3 billion) pipeline will connect the new energy-producing region with areas to the south.
The Danish company DONG Energy A/S began collecting seismic data in Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland.

Oil and Ice: The Risks of Drilling in Alaska's Arctic Ocean

A forecast issued by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in July has ignited both fascination and greed.
For the first time, the agency provided a detailed estimate of the Arctic region's oil and gas potential.
The USGS concludes that the region north of the Arctic Circle holds the equivalent of 412 billion barrels of oil, or close to one-quarter of the world's undiscovered but technically reachable oil and gas reserves.
This is significantly more than proven reserves in Saudi Arabia.

The true dawning of the Arctic boom has only been made possible by satellite navigation and nuclear-powered icebreakers -- and climate change.
By accelerating global warming, the wasteful burning of oil and gas is causing the ice in the North to melt, thereby clearing the way to the Arctic, where, ironically enough, gigantic oil and gas reserves lie waiting to be exploited.
Geologists, resource hunters, zoologists and the military -- all are taking advantage of the brief polar summer to deprive the last wilderness of its secrets.

The "Polar Pioneer" drilling platform

Geir Richardsen, 47, will probably never get used to the cumbersome procedure involved in squeezing himself into his protective gear.
He forces the uncooperative neoprene over his head, pulls it over his hands and smiles in amusement at how odd they look, sheathed in plastic.
But Richardsen, a geophysicist working for the Norwegian energy conglomerate StatoilHydro, knows perfectly well that his helicopter is flying over water where the temperature is barely above freezing. "Without the suit, you would freeze to death in minutes."

Richardsen normally wears a pinstriped suit to work, in an air-conditioned office with carefully trimmed indoor plants.
But when this workweek begins, he will be standing in a filthy mix of mud, oil and viscous drilling fluid.
"There is something to celebrate," the Norwegian says.
His helicopter makes one last victory lap around the drilling platform before touching down safely on the landing pad.
The steel monstrosity stands in the Barents Sea, almost halfway between the North Cape and the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

This platform is still a rarity in the rough-and-ready oil business
"But that will change," says Richardsen.
The name "Polar Pioneer" is more than appropriate.
The drilling platform is currently the northernmost operating platform of its type.
The horrendous costs (hundreds of thousands for a single day of drilling) seem to be paying off.
The rotary head struck gas three days ago -- the reason for Richardsen's visit.

For majority state-owned StatoilHydro, the new gas field, dubbed Ververis, is a test zone for the further exploration of Arctic energy resources.
"In my student days, if anyone had told me to drill for gas up here," says Richardsen, "I would have laughed out loud."
Too cold, too dangerous, too expensive -- that was every expert's assessment at the time.

In Canada and the United States, lawsuits initially stood in the way of exploratory drilling off the Arctic coast. Norway, on the other hand, proved to be more intrepid.
"We want to be the leaders in developing the Arctic reserves," says Richardsen, who heads StatoilHydro's oil and gas exploration efforts north of the Arctic Circle.

Workers, their red protective suits covered with a pervasive layer of grime, balance the suspended metal parts.
The rods come crashing down onto the corrugated metal floor of the platform, spewing sludge extracted from the depths.
Everything moves in keeping with the choreography of chief driller Egil Slåtbråten, who sits at a joystick in a Plexiglas cockpit.

Slåtbråten's job became complicated the day the drill reached the gas deposit. Suddenly everything had to move quickly.
"Raise the counterpressure so the gas doesn't shoot up into the well," says Slåtbråten, the folds of skin on his neck tightening with the strain. The methane was under 395 bar of pressure.
But the geologists wanted all kinds of samples, which meant that Slåtbråten had to drill laterally into the layer of rock that contained the gas, and then seal off the hole.

"It's a completely sealed system," says Terje Svendsen, explaining that this is why it is so pleasantly warm on the work deck. Svendsen is a deck hand, which makes him responsible for everything that happens on the deck of the platform.
He takes Richardsen on a tour of the "Polar Pioneer," out of its protective shell and down to the last level above the surface of the water.

At this level, it is possible to see the drill pipe as it disappears into the swells.
Deep below, at a depth of 2,926 meters (9,597 feet), the metal is eating its way through rock. "A nice summer's day," says Svendsen, as Richardsen turns up his collar.
When the feared polar low-pressure systems come roaring in, the spray slaps against the men's faces and freezes immediately onto metal parts.
"We break off the ice with axes," says the 50-year-old deck hand.

But even Svendsen's good spirits have their limits.
"You know," he says to Richardsen, "there's a reason I have a vacation house in Thailand."

 The area covered by Arctic sea ice has been shrinking for many years, offering access to untapped oil and gas deposits during the summer months in future.
It could also open up new shipping routes, such as the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route, which are much shorter than the Panama and Suez Canal routes.

Russia Flexes its Muscles

Meanwhile, at StatoilHydro's research and development laboratory in the central Norwegian city of Trondheim, engineers are developing new technologies for dealing with the harsh Arctic environment.
They examine ways to use tugboats to push icebergs out of the way, test special solvents that thicken the oil in ice-cold water and design tanker hulls that can't be crushed by the ice
In the first producing gas field in the Barents Sea, known as Snøhvit (snow white) StatoilHydro, without further ado, placed the entire production unit on the ocean floor so that icebergs can simply drift across the system.

StatoilHydro plans to have its Arctic oil and gas production running at full speed by 2030.
"We're currently taking giant steps up a technology ladder," Richardsen says proudly.

The Norwegians are self-confident.
But what happens to production in the midst of a polar low-pressure system?
When it comes to toughing it out in the polar regions, the descendants of explorer Roald Amundsen -- the first person to reach both the North and South Poles -- are not about to be upstaged.
But politics are a different story altogether.
Norway, a country of 4.7 million people, shares the Barents Sea with Russia, and a 155,000-square kilometer (60,000-square mile) section is considered disputed.
Another dispute, over Spitsbergen and its status under international law, has been smoldering since 1920.

The Russian Defense Ministry provoked Norway when it sent the warship "Severomorsk" to cruise the waters off Spitsbergen this summer.
Two days later, the Russian air force conducted firing exercises over the Barents Sea with Tu-22M3 supersonic bombers.

It was all part of a series of previously arranged exercises.
But Russian military leaders later said, with the poker faces and rhetoric of the powerful, that they had "reestablished a military presence in the Arctic."
The fronts in the new Cold War are still drawn between the old blocs, and the theaters are the same, but exactly where these fronts are located remains unclear.

Karsten Piepjohn hasn't shaved in four weeks, and the hairs of his beard are beginning to curl around his mouth. He isn't the only one sporting the wilderness-chic look.
It is only 8 p.m., but Piepjohn and his fellow researchers from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), based in the northern German city of Hanover, are exhausted as they sit on benches around a table.
A wind from the north, from the sea, is tugging at the lines of the main tent.
The team's camp is less than 900 kilometers (560 miles) from the North Pole.

"The Russians have flushed out half the world," says Piepjohn -- his own team's backers from the German Economics Ministry included.
Piepjohn, a geologist, is referring to the spectacular actions of an eccentric Russian member of parliament, who traveled to the North Pole by submarine last year and had a Russian flag driven into the seabed there -- a meaningless act of appropriation under international law.

Years ago, who would have been interested in discovering what happened to this glaciated island, part of the Canadian Arctic today, 100 million years ago?
But times have changed.
"We may be looking back to the Paleozoic age," says Piepjohn, "but what we discover in the process is critical to the policies of today."

Suddenly scientists are no longer interested in basic research alone.
Instead, they are shifting their attention to mineral resources -- and everything hinges on the question of who just owns the North Pole.

The reason this is so important lies in a complex provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that the territorial claims of each member state extend beyond the 200 nautical-mile zone if the country has proven that its own continental shelf protrudes beyond this zone.

 Prolongation of the continental shelf in the Arctic.
The Gakkel Ridge is shown in red on the right.
The area marked in red on the left cannot be claimed by any littoral state as it is circumscribed by the 2500 metre sobath.
The Lomonosov Ridge lies to the left of the Gakkel Ridge between two 2500 metre isobaths.

Each nation must submit its scientifically supported claims to a United Nations body with the odd name UNCLOS.
The Russians took the most cavalier approach to the task, by simply selecting the two longest mountain chains in the northern Arctic Ocean -- the Lomonossov Ridge and the Alpha Ridge -- and declaring them part of their continental shelf.
In doing so, they hoped to quickly lay claim to an enormous Arctic region covering more than 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles).

But anyone who hopes to truly grasp the current geology of the Arctic must embark on a journey into the past.
On the next morning, Piepjohn and his crew board their helicopter to take precisely such a trip.
The BGR geologists are reconstructing the formation of the Arctic, and the key to that lies in a time long ago, when palm trees rustled in the wind here.

It was about 400 million years ago, and a large, open sea did not exist in the region. Instead, as Piepjohn assumes, the area was the site of a gigantic collision.
The original continents, Baltica and Laurentia, collided "exactly here, on Ellesmere," says Piepjohn, clapping his hands together and laughing.
"What we're looking for now is the compression zone."

The traces of this continental collision are still visible from the helicopter.
"Look, over there, a fold!" says Andreas Läufer, 43.
With a wave of his hand, the geologist indicates to the pilot that he should allow the helicopter to hover over the ridge.
The layers of rock are shaped as if God had been practicing origami.
Läufer reads the formations the way others would read a history book.

"Spitsbergen, this northernmost bit of the European continent, is an excellent geological match for this rock that we find today on the other side of the North Pole," explains Werner von Gosen, a geology professor from the southern German city of Erlangen.

After the great collision, the two continents Baltica and Laurentia became wedged together and then drifted apart again.
That, says Gosen, is how the northern Arctic Ocean was formed.

The details of this powerful continental drift have sweeping consequences. "In the warm, prehistoric past of the Arctic, large reserves of oil and gas were formed," says Piepjohn.

The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: Where are they today?

 Ellesmere island with the Marine GeoGarage

"Geologists have already found oil in the southern part of Ellesmere," says the BGR geologist.
But if Ellesmere and Siberia, separated by the northern Arctic Ocean today, were still connected when these fossil fuel reserves were created, there would have to be large undiscovered reserves off Russia's northern coast today.

The discoveries by the BGR team could also have important consequences for the drawing of territorial borders in the Arctic.
If the theory Piepjohn and his team are proposing, namely that Laurentia, the precursor to the North American continent, and Eurasian Baltica were one long ago, it could mean that the underwater Lomonossov Ridge is attached to both the Siberian and the Canadian continental shelf -- just off the coast of Ellesmere.
In that case, the maritime border between Canada and Russia would have to be drawn exactly in the middle of the long undersea ridge, creating a stalemate situation.

One of the curiosities of this vast continental puzzle is that when today's northern Eurasia and the original American continent split apart about 60 million years ago, a fragment of Europe remained attached to the northern part of Ellesmere.
"That's why we are in fact standing on European soil," Piepjohn says facetiously, and quickly adds: "Geologically speaking, of course!"

The Opening of the Northwest Passage

The powers that be arrive here in the form of a man wearing freshly polished, black leather shoes. Commanding Officer Marc Rothwell, captain of the "Louis S. St-Laurent," a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, orders his crew to drop anchor in the sea ice near Cornwallis Island.
He climbs onto the bridge.
Rothwell has been sailing the seas for 28 years, most of that time in the Arctic.
His job is to "show Canada's colors" in the North.

Several year ago, Rothwell's ship was one of the few capable of digging its way through the pack ice to bring supplies to the few scattered settlements in the Canadian Arctic.
But today shipping traffic has grown dramatically, and it will continue to do so.
Rothwell monitors a shipping lane that is expected to compete with the Panama Canal in a few years: the legendary Northwest Passage, which weaves its way through the archipelagos of the Canadian Arctic and shortens the nautical distance between New York and Shanghai by more than 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles).

The first man to sail through the Passage, in 1906, was Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
"Back then he had to spend two winters en route," says the captain.
Today, Rothwell expects to slip through the narrow, frosty passageway in less than a week.

He bends over and carefully studies a satellite map the Canadian Ice Service radioed to him.
Rothwell knows that his most important ally is the summer sun, which has melted large puddles into the white surface all around his ship.
"The water surfaces absorb significantly more heat," says Rothwell, "and the ice melts away quickly."

In the past, a powerful ocean current pushed large amounts of ice from the Beaufort Sea in the west into the Northwest Passage, creating insurmountable barriers.
But ice production is on the decline.
"The ice has never receded as far north as it has in the last two years," says Rothwell.

A critical point appears to have been crossed long ago, a point that could mark the end of the constant ice cap in the northern Arctic Ocean.
Once the perennial ice melts, the water will heat up to a point at which a layer of ice thick enough to survive the summer can no longer develop.
"I am both fascinated and horrified to be able to observe such a epochal change within my professional life," says Rothwell.

The dispute of the Northwest Passage is already in full swing.
Canada claims unlimited territorial control by its own navy, while the Americans see the Passage as an international sea lane open to all.
David Wilkins, the US ambassador in the Canadian capital Ottawa, puts it this way: "Sea lanes like this one should be for the passage of ships. International trade demands this."
But the real reason could also be military, because if Wilkins is right it would mean that submarines would be permitted to side through the international sea lane while submerged.

"I'd rather stay out of it," says Captain Rothwell, before putting in his own two cents.
"Even if the ice recedes, it will never disappear completely," he says.
This, he says, can only mean that Canada's strict environmental regulations for ships traveling in the Arctic must also apply if the Northwest Passage becomes a high-volume shipping lane.
"Up here, the consequences of an oil spill are far worse than somewhere in the Caribbean or in the open Atlantic."

Rothwell imagines horror scenarios of container ships crushed by ice floes, oil spills trapped beneath the ice and wreckage remaining virtually invisible in the winter-long darkness of a polar night.
Until recently, fantasies like this were just that -- a nightmare with no basis in reality. But that could change.
In 2005, 3 million tons of freight crossed the Arctic on ship.
That number is expected to increase to 14 million by 2015.
Shipping analysts even expect the region to eventually handle one percent of global maritime trade, or about 77 million tons.

Rothwell hopes that the Canadian north will no longer be seen as his country's worthless "back door."
He also hopes that the new icebreakers the government has promised will be delivered quickly.
"Things have to settled quickly here," he says.

The ice of the Arctic forges many friendships, even unusual ones.
One of them is between Olivier Gilg, an ecologist, and Jan Almqvist, a businessman.
The two men are sitting in the midnight sun, in front of a green barracks building at Station Nord, Denmark's northernmost military station in Greenland.

Almqvist is, in a sense, the manager of the northward movement.
He is the general manager of an icebreaking company called POLOG ("Breaking the Ice For Your Operation!").
Business has always been good, says Almqvist, "but this year we have almost more work than we can handle."

In the past, Almqvist's work was limited to researchers like Gilg, whom he helped with the logistics for his animal studies.
But today more and more of POLOG's customers are geologists and pioneers working for the oil and gas companies.
Almqvist organizes everything: aircraft and helicopters, quarters, tents and polar sleeping bags. He also has the necessary food brought in.

Almqvist founded his company with a group of former fellow soldiers
 Together, they served for four years in the Danish military.
Their mission -- a unit of 12 men -- was to secure a border almost 5,000 kilometers (3,105 miles) long. Almqvist was a member of the Sirius Patrol, the legendary unit that monitors the northern and eastern coast of the enormous island with huskies and dogsleds.
Built as a joint effort by Danes and Americans in 1953, for many years Station Nord served as an emergency landing strip for the Americans' nuclear bombers.

The camp belonging to the Australian exploration company Ironbark Gold, Almqvist's best customer, is an hour's plane ride away, on Lemon Fjord.
It is the last speck of land before the North Pole.
A dozen geologists and drilling experts are currently living there in tents.
"I'll have investors flown up there next week," says Almqvist.
They're interested in building a zinc mine.

Projects like this are visions of horror for ecologist Gilg -- bulldozers plowing through Arctic poppies, crushing delicate mosses and lichen.
"The lichens take decades to grow a few millimeters in this cold, dry world," says Gilg, a Frenchman.

The responsibility for administering the region has shifted from the Environment Ministry in Copenhagen to the Greenlandic administration in Nuuk.
The government there, says Gilg, wants independence from the Danish motherland.
"Millions in mining revenues are exactly what they want," Gilg complains.

Gilg is staying at Station Nord with his wife and their five-year-old son, Vladimir.
The couple, together with Swiss ornithologist Adrian Aebischer, are studying the complex relationships among the few species of Arctic land animals.

The Plight of the Inuit

Last year, the Gilgs observed polar bears on the Henrik Krøyer Holme Islands in northeast Greenland. Every summer, the predators come to the islands in search of their favorite prey. "Seals cavort there on the beaches and on the sea ice," Gilg explains.

The Inuit of northwest Greenland call the polar bears "great wanderers," and science has proven them right. A female tagged on Spitsbergen turned up in the town of Nanortalik in southern Greenland -- 3,200 kilometers (1,987 miles) -- a year later.

 Polar bear and cub off Beaufort, Kelley Elliott 

Scientists are divided over how threatened polar bears really are.
This May, after a prolonged controversy, the United States added the polar bear to its list of endangered species.
But the situation is complicated.
Seven of the populations being studied are either growing or stable, while five are shrinking.
While a dramatic decline is predicted, it is not expected to happen until sometime in the future.
"The polar bear is more capable of surviving for two to three months with reduced sea ice than other animals," says Gilg.

An example of a species that is truly endangered, however, is the ivory gull.
After Gilg has put his son to bed, the animal researchers spend yet another sunny polar night on the lookout.
They have set out nets for ivory gulls baited with the foul-smelling flesh of a young seal that died a few days ago near the airstrip.
Now their job is to wait until their subject turns up.
The resilient birds, with their bright white feathers, are like an early warning system for change in the Arctic.
"Scientifically more interesting than the polar bear," says Gilg.

According to Gilg, changes are clearly visible in the ivory gull.
"It eats the carcasses of seals and fish on the sea ice," Gilg explains.
If the sea ice disappears, the gull will be forced to leave.
There were still 25,000 pairs living in the Arctic in the early 1980s.
Today they have all but disappeared on Spitsbergen and in southern Greenland.

Suddenly Gilg jumps up.
A gull has walked into the trap
 Everyone rushes outside.
Even Arctic manager Almqvist is there to watch the bird peck at Adrian Aebischer's hands with its sharp beak.
"It's a young animal," he says, after counting the wing feathers.
A satellite transmitter is attached to the screeching bird's back.
Then Gilg uses a cotton swab to remove a saliva sample from the beak.
"We analyze the genetic material," he explains.
"It allows us to estimate the size of the current population."

The ecologists are not optimistic.
The melting ice is forcing the ivory gull to retreat farther and farther to the north.
"And at the end of Greenland, they run out of places to go," says the Frenchman as he releases the white bird and watches it fly off into the deep blue sky.

 Cornwallis Island with the Marine GeoGarage

Saroomie Manik is the mayor of the small community of Resolute on Cornwallis Island.
The hamlet's name comes from a sailing ship with the same name that was stranded there 155 years ago.
But it could just as well describe the character of this petite, wiry woman.

Like Manik, most of the residents of Resolute are Inuit.
"The ice has become thinner," says the mayor. The Inuit go hunting earlier every year. "Otherwise our snowmobiles would break through the ice," says Manik.

Manik, who is almost 60, still hunts.
She shot her last polar bear two years ago.
"I cut him open on the spot and loaded him onto the sled," she says, emitting a staccato-like laugh.

Among the Inuit, it is primarily the women who are trying to preserve as much as possible of their original way of life.
The experiences they have had in one or two generations are the equivalent of a free fall from the Stone Age into the Modern Age.

"I still know how to use our traditional ovens," Manik says proudly.
The Inuit burned blubber in the ovens, which kept them warm in their igloos during bitter-cold polar nights.
All my kids know about is the microwave," she adds.

Climate and cultural change are distorting the coordinates of Inuit life, which once followed the rhythms of nature: the reproductive cycles of seals and whales, light and darkness, ice and the open sea.

Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (full movie)

The plight of the Inuit is tragic.
In 2005, the Canadian government granted them sovereign rights over the regions they had traditionally settled, and their officials in Greenland are pushing for autonomy.
The mineral wealth beneath their homeland could make them rich.
But so far this new world has been more of a curse for them than anything else.

Manik, a mother of five sons and two daughters, knows the seductive powers of this invasive culture all too well: the sweet candy bars, the spongy white bread and, most of all, the alcohol.
Obesity is widespread among the original inhabitants of the Arctic, and the suicide rate is extremely high.
And now they are faced with climate change.

Manik wants to save as much as possible of her traditional roots.
Keeping her head held high, she leads a group of young Inuit girls as they spin around the room, dancing a traditional dance in their blue-and-white embroidered costumes.
They sing the peculiar guttural songs with which Inuit women once beguiled their men -- before they began watching TV.

After the performance, Manik says: "When you white people think about nature, the first thing you want to do is change it!"
She says she doesn't understand how it all works with the emissions, the ones that are supposedly heating up the planet's atmosphere.

But she does know one thing: The people from the south, who have come here with their destructive ways, have a sinister power.
"Maybe you can't imagine it," she says, "but we consider the polar bear part of the family."

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Monday, August 11, 2014

A Rough Passage: The Summer Cruise of Frank Dye and Bill Brockbank

This old film documents the Norwegian Sea crossing from Scotland to Aalesund, Norway,
by Frank Dye and his crew, Bill Brockbank aboard a Wayfarer sailing dinghy.
They encountered a Force 9 storm during the passage, survived four capsizes and a broken mast. It is a remarkable feat of dinghy sailing.

From The Guardian by Charlie English

Sailing into hell: two men, a dinghy and one of the luckiest escapes ever
In July 1964, two men set off in a dinghy to sail from Scotland to Norway.
Fifty years on, Bill Brockbank tells Charlie English how he and Frank Dye, 'the madman of the Atlantic', capsized four times, braved gale force winds and survived to tell the incredible tale of their 'holiday' on the high seas
By mid-afternoon it was clear even to Frank Dye that the summer cruise was not going to plan.
The storm had been building in the northeast Atlantic since noon and by 5.30pm had reached what the Met Office described as a "severe gale", force nine on the Beaufort scale.
Banshees were screaming round Dye's boat at close to 50 knots, and the sea had been whipped into a deafening grey-green mountainscape whose waves stood four storeys high.
It was the sort of day on which fishermen drowned, but Dye and his crewman Bill Brockbank were out in it, in the middle of the Norwegian Sea, in a little sailing boat called Wanderer.

Wanderer would later become famous around the world, along with Dye and Brockbank, for its exploits that Tuesday 28 July 1964.
As coastguards liked to point out, the boat was entirely unsuited for deep-water cruising: at 15ft 10in it was little longer than two coffins placed end to end, and even in a flat calm its gunwales reached just a foot above the water's surface.
Its open deck meant the only protection the men had from the 37ft breaking seas was a canvas cover that they pulled across the cockpit. It was nowhere near enough.

By 8.30pm Wanderer had capsized twice, dumping the two men in water they knew their bodies could endure for just eight minutes before staggering upright, waterlogged and punch-drunk.
Shortly before sunset, Dye saw a wave he knew Wanderer would not get through.
The boat's bow climbed to meet it, but as Wanderer approached the vertical Dye could see 15ft of frothing water curling above them.
There was nowhere to go but down, and Wanderer and its occupants were rolled over and went under.
For the third time that day, Dye felt he was drowning.

An illustration from the book, Ocean-Crossing Wayfarer, by Frank and Margaret Dye,
that recounted some of Frank's amazing exploits.

The story of Wanderer's 1964 ocean voyage is one of the most remarkable stories in a canon filled with heroism and catastrophe.
Dye's planned route took 650 nautical miles from Scotland to the Faroes and Norway. It would be a challenge in a modern vessel twice the size, with a cabin, an autopilot, two-way radio and a life raft, but for Dye, Brockbank and Wanderer it was epic – some said suicidal.
The often-cited greatest small boat journey, Ernest Shackleton's 1916 voyage to South Georgia on the James Caird, was only 150 miles longer than Dye and Brockbank planned to sail, and Shackleton had a crew of six in a larger and heavier whaleboat with a deck to keep out the sea.
Wanderer, a Wayfarer dinghy, had been designed to be trailed to lakes and estuaries: it was small and light enough to be pulled out of the water by two adults. In massive contrast to Shackleton and his professional seamen, Dye and Brockbank were on holiday.

I first heard Dye's name while sailing in a substantially bigger boat to St Kilda.
That voyage, across 50 miles of rough grey sea from the Outer Hebrides, felt daunting enough, but in a thick mist that arose between Harris and the islands I was told how Frank and his wife-to-be Margaret had sailed there in an open dinghy.
It kicked off an obsession that led to me buying a Wanderer of my own – not Frank's boat, but a class of Wayfarer later designed especially for Margaret – and repeatedly viewing the 30-minute film Frank shot on the Norway voyage, Summer Cruise, on YouTube.

The film shows Dye as a stocky 36-year-old, with thick glasses and the sort of hair that stands upright in any wind.
He didn't start sailing until he was 30, but by 35 he had become a celebrity in the dinghy world.
By the early 1960s his exploits were being regularly discussed in the sailing press with equal parts admiration and alarm.
According to Margaret, he was known as "the madman of the Atlantic", and she was warned: "Do not sail with that man; he'll kill you." What, people asked, did Frank Dye think he was playing at?

Bill Brockbank was 21 then, a gifted racing sailor, and when I meet him in the lush surroundings of his sailing club near Waltham Abbey 50 years after the voyage he is still tall and lean, with closely cropped grey-white hair and a neatly trimmed beard.
In his account, Dye was anything but reckless: he was a meticulous planner with a highly developed desire to push himself – George Mallory in a dinghy. "I think Frank climbed mountains," says Brockbank.
"They were just horizontal mountains. He was certainly doing what mountain climbers do, asking: 'What's the challenge; how can I go about it?' He was just doing it in a different medium."

Brockbank met Dye at a 1963 talk Frank had given during the Earl's Court Boat Show about a dinghy voyage from Scotland to Iceland.
Hearing Dye speak about the passage – the force eight gales, the excruciating cold, the exhaustion – Bill was overwhelmed.
"At the end I think 99% of the people were green with seasickness," he says now, "but it was the most inspiring story I'd ever heard."
He turned to his girlfriend and told her he had to go on Frank's next voyage.
"It was just something I had to do," he says. So he introduced himself to Dye, telling him: "I'm your new crew."
Dye was sceptical: "No," he said, "you're not."

Brockbank could not shake the idea off, and Dye couldn't shake Brockbank.
The young student travelled regularly from his home in Liverpool to Norfolk, where Dye ran a family Ford dealership.
Eventually Frank offered the Liverpudlian a trial cruise across the stormy Wash at night.
During the exercise, Frank explained the principles of extreme sailing he had built up.
No detail, Brockbank learned, was too small, no contingency too unlikely for Dye's problem-solving mind to examine, plan for and test.

A lifelong principle was that he should never call for help: no one should have to risk their life to save him from trouble he had got into voluntarily.
So his radio could only receive and was not able to transmit a distress signal.
He refused to take anyone who was married in case they were lost, and both crew had to be able to do everything because their partner might be unconscious or dead.
His medical kit included enough morphine to knock out a horse, as there was always a chance he'd need to amputate a limb at sea.
Before setting out he trawled over all the relevant information he could find: he read 35 years' of weather reports and calculated the likelihood of gales, researched seasonal sea temperatures and worked out survival times.
He worked his way round the boat, thinking how each part could break and the best way to fix it.

Brockbank was sick all the way across the Wash and back, but he showed skill and toughness and passed Dye's test.
A few weeks later they were on the road to Kinlochbervie, the northernmost fishing port in western Scotland, towing Wanderer behind Frank's Cortina.
There Dye rang the coastguard to tell them of his planned departure (the coastguard was predictably unhappy), and on the evening of Thursday 16 July Wanderer nosed its way out into the Minch, on course for the uninhabited island of Rona, the Faroes and Norway.

The wind quickly rose to force six ("strong breeze"), the swell increased and Brockbank was seasick, but what he remembers most about the first night was the cold.
"The cold is indescribable," he says.
Their clothing was primitive – layers of wool that became drenched with condensation under their oilskins – and his skin tensed as if he had been exposed to a sudden chill, and stayed like that for days.
The watch system, meanwhile, at night meant each of them could, at best, get two hours of sleep on the boat's cramped floor.

As dawn broke over the grey ocean they were close to Rona, where they went ashore to explore and eat a meal on land before setting out in a sea fog for the Faroes.
For the next four days Brockbank was continually sick.
But there were consolations: the high, rugged Faroes made the most impressive landfall Dye had ever seen, and the welcome they were given, both by local fishermen and Dye's Faroese friends, revitalised them.
They spent the next three days eating, drying clothes and recuperating.

On the bright afternoon of Friday 24 July, holding the simple gifts they had been given by the Faroese, the two men set out again on their final epic stretch, the 450-mile passage to Norway.
On the Faroes, Brockbank had had what he describes as a premonition.
"It was bizarre. We'd had a relatively easy trip, been seasick, but I just thought for a second: what if we don't come back?" He gathered all his film together and posted it to be developed.
"It wasn't anything strong. I wasn't panicking. I just thought: what happens if…?"
Dye, who wrote that he had got "cold feet" in Scotland, now also felt nervous.
The men had felt the pull of the land, he wrote, and "I was not sure I had sufficient stamina or willpower to carry the cruise through… [but] I suppose Bill and I felt the need to prove ourselves to ourselves."

By 11 the following morning, the waves were as high as Wanderer was long, and Brockbank was again violently seasick, as he would be for the next week.
By 3pm the wind was approaching gale force, and they did what Frank always did: take down the sails and mast and put out a drogue or sea anchor – a canvas bucket on a long line attached to the bow.
The boat acted like a weathervane then, facing wind and waves and avoiding dangerous side impacts.

Gale or near-gale conditions continued through Sunday and Monday, and between occasional hair-raising attempts to sail they mostly lay to the drogue.
Brockbank was down to heaving up stomach acid ("I can even tell you the different colours: orange and green") and the boat was often swamped, but on Tuesday morning the wind died to a light southwesterly and at 1.40pm Dye remembered to rig the radio to listen to the shipping forecast.
There were more warnings of gales – no surprise, they had already ridden out two – and then came a real shock: "Faroes: wind northerly, severe gale, force nine, backing northwest," the BBC announcer intoned.

Ocean Crossing Wayfarer: To Iceland and Norway in a 16ft Open Dinghy
"Offshore cruising in an open boat can be hard, cold, wet, lonely and occasionally miserable, but it is exhilarating too. To take an open dinghy across a hundred miles of sea, taking weather as it comes; to know that you have only yourself and your mate to rely on in an emergency; to see the beauty of dawn creep across the ever restless and dangerous ocean; to make a safe landfall - is wonderful and all of these things develop a self-reliance that is missing from the modern, mechanical, safety-conscious civilised world."
- Frank Dye

Force nine! Dye was shaken.
His extensive study of weather showed gales were rare in the Norwegian Sea in July. Such a storm would, he decided, be "very bad indeed".
He tried to break the news gently to Brockbank, but made a mess of it: "He obviously thought the same as me: 'Shall we be alive to see the dawn?'"
He did not feel scared, he wrote in his account of the voyage, Ocean Crossing Wayfarer, even though death was "uppermost in my mind".
He wrote: "My only regret was that I had caused Bill to risk his neck as well."

Within an hour the wind was veering northwest and building, and by 4.30pm the storm was screaming and the sea piling up as Wanderer rode to the drogue in a full-blooded force eight.
An hour later it was difficult to look to windward; even, sometimes, to breathe.
The strain on the drogue line was immense.
Shortly before 6pm, the rope parted.
Days of extreme cold meant Brockbank's mind was sluggish, and as he lay on the boat's floor beneath the canvas cover his first sensation of the capsize was of falling upwards then down again before thinking: "I'm wet."
Dye meanwhile was "choking on a torrent of water; there seemed to be tons of it, all dark green and frothing, pushing me down."

The boat was full but had at least landed upright.
As the men started to bail they knew they needed a new drogue, fast. Running on adrenaline they emptied two rucksacks, cut holes in them and attached them to an anchor and a long line and threw it overboard.
It wasn't enough, so they took off the mainsail to use as a drogue, too.
Now they had two sea anchors at work, but the waves had become confused: as it had built to force nine, the gale had veered north and produced a cross-sea: mountains of water were travelling in different directions, crashing into each other and forming 35ft pyramids that were impossible to take square on.
"We could have ridden out a force nine," says Brockbank.
"What we couldn't ride out was a nine that changed direction. When you're trying to get the boat to go through tops of the waves square on, it's a bit unfair if it's a pyramid. It can't be done."

At 8.15pm they were rolled again, this time by a wave that struck them on the port side.
"I had a fleeting memory of being thrown clean out of the stern, seeing Bill going under me, then the boat coming down," Dye remembered.
"Needing to breathe, I choked and began to drown."
Wanderer righted itself and Brockbank climbed back in. Dye, too weak to do so, rolled in with a wave.
The violence of the capsize had shattered a 6ft section of the mast, which Dye began cutting away to save the boat before Brockbank, knowing it was their only means of propulsion, stopped him and they stowed it as best they could.
The wind was still gathering speed, the tops of the waves atomising into droplets that hit the men like hail and gave the impression the whole sea was smoking.
Dye now estimated the waves were 37ft high: 25ft of solid water with 12ft of foaming crest hanging above.
In 10-minute shifts, the men worked the lines that held the drogues, passing them out as Wanderer slid down the back of a wave, pulling in hard to bring its bow through the crest, while the second crewman bailed.
Around 9pm, Dye saw a wave he knew Wanderer couldn't survive.
He shouted to Brockbank, and they both hauled hard on the drogues to try to pull the boat through the foam, but it was impossible.
They capsized for the third time, and as they fought their way to the surface Wanderer was lying bottom up.
Exhausted, in many sodden layers of clothing, they desperately tried to climb on to the upturned boat but were washed off.
They knew it was a most dangerous moment.
"All the time your clock is ticking: your eight minutes' survival time is ticking away," Brockbank says now.
"But there is no part of the human condition that allows you to give up. It's not bravery, it's that we're not built that way. Some instinct says: this is the only thing that will work, and that's what you do."

The men swam to the same side of the boat and reached up to grip the slot in Wanderer's hull where the centreboard went, then waited for the sea to lift the far gunwale.
With a strong heave the boat came over.
The men clambered back in, frantically bailing.
The waves filled Wanderer again and again, but by 15 minutes to midnight Dye was able to shout to Brockbank that the boat was dry and he'd be "damned annoyed if you fill it again".
They immediately went over for a fourth time.
Dye told Brockbank he thought they could only cope with one or two more before they were finished.
But Dye also sensed the gale was moderating, and by 1.30am he started to believe they might live through it.
They were freezing, hungry (their supplies had mostly been swept overboard) and the smashed mast looked beyond repair.
As Dye began to realise the worst was over, his energy levels crashed.
He was close to collapse.
But Brockbank was still adrenalised, working strongly.
Later that morning, they saw a ship.

The 2,000-tonne Norwegian vessel was just a mile away when they noticed it.
Dye, in his weakened state, agreed they should signal for help, and scrambled for the flare box to begin shooting red distress signals every 30 seconds.
He thought he saw the ship respond, and it seemed for a few tantalising moments that their ordeal was almost over, that they might soon be in dry clothes and eating hot food.
But the ship's flare was an illusion: it steamed on, impassive, towards the horizon.

For Brockbank it was "a pisser. Not a crash moment, but an 'Oh, fuck' moment."
Dye suddenly felt "very lonely", and when he got back to work he noticed the rope had cut right through his gloves and was now working into his hands.

Exhausted, disappointed, the men picked themselves up.
As the wind dropped they worked to repair the broken mast. By 9pm, with the swell a mere seven feet, they could carry enough sail to begin moving again: they now reckoned Norway was 190 miles away.
They ate a hot meal, and Dye began to recover.
There was a bright moon that night, and for a two-hour watch he steered his little boat down the path of silver light it made on the sea's surface.
But the respite didn't last: at one the following morning, Dye was awoken by Brockbank shouting at him to get the mast down.
The jury rig had failed and the top section of mast was leaning drunkenly forward.
They quickly pulled it in and set out the rucksack drogue.

Dispirited, they drifted in rough seas all that morning and into the afternoon, when they heard a distant jet engine.
They discussed firing the flare pistol again, but the cloud was low and they realised the plane had no chance of seeing them.

As the hope of rescue again faded, Brockbank felt exhaustion wash over him, and he collapsed as Dye had done the day before.
"I had this blinding realisation that we were in deep, deep shit. It's not the same as despair, because your mind is still saying: 'No, there must be a solution.'
But we were 180 miles from the nearest land and the adrenaline goes and you just cease to think. You're literally washed out."

Dye was now able to pick up some of the slack – "I think at one stage he let me sleep for a couple of hours," says Brockbank – and later that day they set to repairing the mast again, this time working to the younger man's plan.
They cut out the smashed part and splinted what were now squared-off pieces of timber, rerigging the shrouds to the lowered masthead.
After the conditions they had only just survived, it was, I suggest to Brockbank, quite a feat.
"I don't agree," he says.
"It's a feat of necessity."

Did he get angry with Frank for taking him there?
"No, absolutely not. The nearest analogy I can give you for when chips were down is that it's what happens to troops in a war. You don't know who's going to help who, you don't know who will survive, you just keep doing the next thing. It's not a warm friendship, it's we're-both-in-the-shit-together, we've-got-to-do-what-we-do-to-survive. It's that simple."

By 8pm the new rig was up and Dye's mood had brightened enough that when an inquisitive trawler came past while Brockbank was asleep, he "pretended not to see" it and it steamed away.
His aversion to rescue had returned.
By mid-afternoon on Friday they were just 55 miles offshore.
That night Brockbank saw a flash off the starboard bow: it was a lighthouse.
Reaching the sheltered waters of Nerlandsøya island in daylight, they were hailed by a fishing boat, whose crew asked if they had crossed the Norwegian Sea.
"Ya," Dye replied.
"You are madmans!" came the response.
Dye for once didn't disagree.
That afternoon, Saturday, they tied Wanderer up to the quay in Ålesund and made their way to the Grand Hotel, where they washed, slept and ate. Brockbank, according to Dye, had lost 18lb during the last leg of the voyage.

The following day, Dye went to church, where one assumes he thanked the Lord for his deliverance.
Brockbank set out for home, to say goodbye to his sister, who was moving to America, and to prepare for the Olympic sailing trials.
He reached Liverpool five days after they had come ashore.
In Lime Street station, the first familiar surroundings he had seen since the gale, an odd thing happened: he had a sudden, overwhelming realisation that he was alive, and started to cry.
Dye returned on a freighter with Wanderer.
Typically, Dye persuaded the ship's captain to drop him two miles off the English coast, and he sailed into Grimsby in his own boat.

In later years Dye continued to "cruise", often with Margaret, sailing in the Arctic, the Atlantic, the North Sea and the length of the eastern seaboard of the US. Frank died in 2010 at the age of 82.
For their sailing achievements, Frank and Margaret have been placed alongside Shackleton and Ellen MacArthur in an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth, where Wanderer will have star billing for the 50th anniversary of its Norway voyage.
Brockbank, now 71, continues regularly to compete in sailing races.
Like most of Dye's crew, he didn't feel the need to sail on one of Frank's voyages again.
It was, says Brockbank, "a one-time adventure. That's why I didn't want to go again. Because we'd done that."