Iceberg problems for Konyukhov - Antarctica Cup

7.03.08: Google Earth picture of iceberg A53a breaking in two, 75 miles east of South Georgia Island PHOTO CREDIT: GOOGLE Earth/C-CORE/PPL
The giant iceberg A53a sitting in the middle of the Antarctica Cup Racetrack has split in two, compounding the problems for Fedor Konyukhov, the solo yachtsman trail blazing a circumnavigation record around Antarctica.

Latest satellite pictures courtesy of NASA and processed by C-CORE, the Canadian ice tracking service, now show two icebergs, each around 30 kilometres long and drifting apart, some 75 n.miles east of South Georgia Island. Worse, C-CORE's analysis has uncovered an 'iceberg alley' running right across the South Atlantic from Cape Horn almost to Cape Agulhas.

Pradeep Bobby concludes: 'We are very confident that the 'red' detections to the east of South Georgia Island correspond to iceberg detections. It is very possible that the A-53A iceberg has been deteriorating over time, which has led to the high numbers of surrounding icebergs. Our reports in the earlier portions of the race mainly contained 'Low' detections that were hard to identify as icebergs. That situation is not the case for the targets we are now spotting east of South Georgia Island. The iceberg (A53a) we spotted in the March 1 NASA image has since split into two large pieces that are moving in opposite directions. It is likely that this calving process introduced hundreds, if not thousands of additional icebergs into the ocean.'
7.03.08: Antarctica Cup: Red sections show intense iceberg numbers currently in South Atlantic right in the path of Fedor Konyukhov's course route around Antarctica. PHOTO: C-CORE/PPL

Bob Williams, CEO of the Antarctica Cup Race Management says: 'We are monitoring the situation very closely, and may decide to 'yellow flag' further sections of the Racetrack. We are also considering relaxing any penalty should Fedor need to sail north of 45°S and outside the OUTER LANE. He will be keen to sail the shortest distance, but we are just as keen to keep him clear of ice.'

The large amount of ice in the South Atlantic, highlighted by Konykhov's bid to be first around the Antarctica Cup Racetrack, is attracting considerable interest among scientists. Jennifer Berry, an ecological consultant from San Francisco, writes: 'Icebergs are breaking from Antarctica at an ever increasing rate, and every day there are new images and startling revelations about the loss of habitat for our South Pole flora and fauna. But what happens to the ice when it breaks away and floats to the ocean?

Scientists from the Monterey Bay Research Center set out to find out what effect these frozen travellers have on the waters they occupy. Anecdotal reports suggested an increase in seabird activity around these icebergs, but no one knew just why. It turns out that these melting ice masses are carrying organic and mineral debris stored from millennia, and releasing them into the cold waters off South America. These ocean waters are normally low in essential nutrients, like iron. As the icebergs melt, they act as a timed release fertilizer, increasing ocean life around them, such as algae. Organisms that take particular delight in the new food source are krill, the tiny shrimp like creatures that occupy the bottom of the food chain for marine mammals, even providing a direct source for many whales. When an iceberg breaks off and drifts, it creates a new habitat for opportunists, and increases biodiversity for a distance of up to 2 1/2 miles from the edge of the drift.?Not only is the afterlife of an iceberg spectacular, but this new life in turn is able to absorb enormous amounts of the CO2 that created the melting in the first place, in a sort of feedback loop. Is this the silver lining here? We'll have to find out.'

Meanwhile, Fedor Konyukhov, has more mundane matters to worry about today. 'The major challenge right now is to repair my 220 sq m. mainsail which has two vertical cracks below the first reef. To affect this repair I need to put on many layers of clothes (wet) and climb into my storm gear, goggles, and gloves to avoid frostbite. I will then lower the sail enough to reach the damaged area. The boom on my yacht Trading Network Alye Parusa is two metres above the deck. I need to climb up, lash myself to whatever I can find so that I'm not thrown into the freezing ocean by the constant pitching and rolling of the boat, then try to dry the damaged area enough so that I can stick a patch on the sail. This I have to do on both sides of the sail. This is no small job. I don't know how long it will take. I only know it has to be done before Cape Horn. I'm not looking forward to it at all. Wish me luck!' Fedor.

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