At a time of sabre rattling it is easy to believe that Anglo-Russian relations are in melt-down, so its good to get a different story.
British solo circumnavigator Adrian Flanagan is attempting the first vertical (polar) expedition. He set out in October 2005 from Britain and headed South down the Atlantic towards the Antarctic Ocean. Foreign and Commonwealth over-confidence leading him to believe that everything was in place to allow him to navigate along the northern coast of Russia in the final stages of his voyage.
Unfortunately FCO was wrong in its assumptions and the Russian Federation required information and assurances to enable the Northern Sea Route administration to make exceptions to allow the necessary permissions to be issued. The Expedition Manager ended up starting her own negotiations with the Russian authorities. The time lost through FCO over-confidence meant that the permissions arrived too late to beat the weather window and Adrian who had rounded the fearsome Cape Horn and headed up the Pacific towards the Bering Strait had to leave his 40 foot yacht in Nome Alaska for the Winter.
This month he returned to Nome and prepared Barrabas for the final stage of his historic voyage, leaving Nome for the Russian Port of Provideniya to present his permits and receive the final authority to complete his circumnavigation.
If he is able to navigate the NSR between the Russian coast and the Arctic ice fields, he will become the first person to complete a vertical circumnavigation in any kind of vessel, alone or with a crew, crossing all the lines of longitude in the process.
He preported today on the cordial assistance of the FSB and the other Russian authorities responsible for Russian regulations in along the Arctic Coast:
I departed Provideniya on Monday at 1100am local time after a brief but hugely reassuring visit to clear Russian customs and gain my final permit to travel Russia’s northern Polar route. The weather is clear and fine as a high pressure system continues to sit over the Bering Strait. This stretch of water can be dangerous with fast currents running in both directions between the Chukchi Sea in the north and the Bering Sea to the south. High pressure will give me light winds to navigate my way into the Arctic.
I was interviewed by a local journalist just before I left Provideniya. My FSB security detail and I had developed a mutual fondness with cameras being handed to one another to take pictures for the record, speaking as we did in the universal language of broken English, mime and gesticulation punctuated with groans of frustration as meanings were lost.
I have covered 100 miles towards the strait and should pass through within the next 24 hours. My appetite has gone AWOL. Nevertheless, the onset of a headache told me I needed to raise blood sugar so I forced down same spaghetti and sardines. Under full sail during the night, Barrabas touched 6.5 knots despite her 6,000lbs load of fuel and water. If ever a boat had real guts, it’s this one. While she battled on, I slept for four hours.