The precise chronology of the Ship of Fools on December 23 has been a topic of interest on skeptic blogs, including my recent post demonstrating the falsity of Turney’s excuses. However, up to today, this chronology had received zero media coverage, despite several reporters from major media on the Ship of Fools.
Today, there are two stories (BBC and Sydney Morning Herald , both of which contain damning information (especially the latter.) Note embedded link in latter article h/t Bob Koss, with important details not reported in the main article.
Here are new details on the day’s chronology.
13:00 Ship Time (midnight GMT) – The first group left the ship (Luck-Baker). Luck-Baker reported that their instructions were as follows:
I was in the first group to leave the ship at about 13:00 ship time (midnight GMT on 23 December), and take a short zodiac journey across the water to the ice edge.
The excursion was already a couple of hours behind schedule. This was because one of the three all-terrain amphibious vehicles called argos that were to take us to the islands had earlier flooded with water while it was transported from the ship to the ice edge.
Once our group was on the ice, the 12 of us were divided among two quad bikes and two argos. Then we were driven to the Hodgeman Islands in a strong southerly wind which blew drift up into the air, creating a hazy visibility.
We were told that we would have a maximum of one hour at the islands, after the 20 minute drive to the site. Then we would have to be ready to return on the vehicles bringing the next party. This sounded like an efficient system of relaying teams back and forth between ship and the islands.
At 14:30 Ship Time (Luck-Baker) – only 90 minutes later – the captain of the vessel said that the ice was starting to close in and, according to Greg Mortimer, they “hit the evacuation button”.
However, it took over 4 hours to evacuate, a time that Mortimer agrees was an “excessively long time”.
According to the BBC report, the “initial message to evacuate the area was not heard by some key people”. They surmise that the radios might have been out of range and that “for whatever reason, people on the ice appear not to have responded to satellite phone calls made from the bridge.”
Luck-Baker also reports that the logistics was unequal to the evacuation:
However there was a lack of organisation to supervise and enforce it. A number of us were at the islands for about two hours, having wandered off in small groups with the scientist whose work we were particularly interested in.
In the thrilling environment in which we now found ourselves, it was easy to lose track of time. We were surrounded by Adelie penguins and Weddell seals, and the white cliffs of the great East Antarctic Ice Sheet towered high with both beauty and menace, in the middle distance.
So for example, when the vehicles arrived with the second party of visitors, there were only three people at the pick-up area ready to return to the ship.
One of those returnees was a female tourist who had fallen into freezing seawater through a snow-concealed tidal crack in the fast ice. She was wet up to waist height and needed to be transported back to the ship as quickly as possible.
The difficulty was there were too many people and not enough seats on the argos and quad bikes to take everyone back in one convoy – even when these vehicles were carrying one more passenger than they were designed to.
The SYdney Morning Herald SMH says that there were 22 people on the ice, of which 15 were at Hodgman Islands. They provide the following new detail map:
They have an interesting video showing the unloading of the Argos. They say that both Turney and Fogwill had satellite phones and that each of the six drivers/staff members had a VHF radio.
The SYdney Morning Herald account adds the remarkable claim that Turney took more passengers into the field even after the evacuation notice had been issued:
A passenger standing near Professor Turney overheard the voyage leader, Greg Mortimer, telling him over the radio to bring passengers back to the ship so it can leave. But minutes later, Professor Turney drove six more passengers into the field. The overloaded vehicle had no space to collect returning passengers.
The longer linked account expands as follows:
A passenger, who was standing near Turney when Mortimer called the leader from the ship’s VHF radio, recalled their conversation: “Chris, [captain] Igor has just said we need to expedite people back from the islands so we can get out of here,” said Mortimer.
Turney, standing on the ice edge, repeated the message to confirm he had heard right.
“Affirmative,” said Mortimer.
“If I take this lot out, how long can we stay?” Turney said.
Mortimer repeated that everybody needed to get back to the ship.
The passenger was stunned by the conversation, even more so when, a few minutes later, Turney loaded an Argo with six passengers and drove off towards the Islands.
Update Jan 22- In an interview with CNN today (h/t Alex C), Turney denied that there had been any warning at 2:30 pm, while admitting that he had taken “science team members” by Argo to the islands at 3:00 pm (after the captain and Mortimer claim to have issued a recall alarm):
We had – the team got out by about 5:30. We were still taking science team members out at 3 o’clock, or so. There wasn’t any concern, at the time, that this was a significant issue.
Turney also argued in the interview that this delay didn’t “matter”, on the grounds that they would have been toast anyway – not the most convincing excuse IMO.
The BBC report continued:
At 3.43pm a passenger onboard the Shokalskiy overheard Mortimer again speaking with someone on the VHF: “Everybody get into a small area and wait until they get a ride back. They [are] not to walk anywhere [and] are to [stay] together,” the passenger wrote in their diary at the time. Fifteen minutes later a quad bike and an Argo arrived with another load of people, who were transferred to the ship via Zodiac.
“The anger on Greg’s face when we arrived back was noticeable,” said one passenger.
An hour and a half later and the final four on the ice, which included Turney, pulled up in the second Argo. Footage on a passenger’s Go Pro digital camera read 5.35pm.
It was 6.15pm before the Shokalskiy finally departed the fast ice.
Several passengers took video footage of the view from their porthole as the ship departed in open water. By 7pm ice topped with about a metre of snow surrounded the ship. It crawled through dense pack ice most of the night.
The SMH stated the usually loquacious Turney (and other expedition leaders) refused to answer questions about December 23:
Professor Turney, Dr Fogwill and Mr Mortimer all declined to answer questions about the events of December 23.
Mobile Sea Ice
The new BBC article also contains statements that (implicitly) support Climate Audit’s rejection of Turney’s untrue attribution of his problems to a breakout of “fast ice” that could not have mitigated.
Murray Doyle, captain of the rescue vessel, Aurora Australis (and presumably far more experienced than Turney) stated that, rather than conditions being impossible to predict or mitigate, “conditions around the Mertz glacier were typical for the past few years.”
Luck-Baker also quoted another source, not named but “with considerable nautical knowledge of East Antarctica”, who said that “with the weather forecast” as it was that day, “this was not a good place to be”.
Tony Press, head of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Coordinated Research Centre in Tasmania, also endorsed the obvious point that they needed to have a planned exit strategy in potentially hazardous conditions:
They need to plan accordingly and have an exit strategy which can be executed in timely fashion if the conditions become threatening.”
Turney’s defenders have attempted to transfer blame from the expedition to the Russian captain. However, Mortimer (though not Turney) squarely acknowledged that the delays were the “responsibility of the expedition team, not Captain Kiselev.”
The entrapment of the Ship of Fools has been the topic of many articles over the past month. Luck-Baker (and the Guardian reporters, Alok Jha and Laurence Topham) were embedded and timely reports would have been more relevant than puffs. Neither of the Guardian reporters have yet reported on events. And while Luck-Baker’s present article is welcome, it’s taken him a full month to write on the events of December 23. Why the silence until now?