Ship of Fools

Like many others, I’ve been intrigued by the misadventures of the Ship of Fools. Dozens of tourist vessels visit the Antarctic without becoming trapped by ice. So it’s entirely valid to inquire into why the one tourist vessel led by a “climate scientist” became trapped by ice.

The leader of the expedition, Chris Turney (also a secondary Climategate correspondent and co-signer of Lewandowsky’s multisignatory letter in the Conversation), claimed that the incident could not have been predicted. He said that they were trapped by a sudden “breakout” of multi-year ice (“fast ice”) that had previously been part of the ice shelf and that there was no way that they could have anticipated this. Turney’s claim has been uncritically accepted by the climate community e.g. Turner of the British Antarctica Survey here.

However, like other recent claims by Turney, this claim is bogus. In fact, Turney was trapped by sea ice that had been mobile throughout December 2013. This can be easily seen by examining readily available MODIS imagery (see MODIS here) leading up to the incident, as I’ll do in today’s post.

December 3, 2013
In this first image, I’ve shown the (very clear) MODIS image for December 3, 2013 with annotations. The image has been oriented to be vertical north at 144E. The location of the Mawson Huts on Commonwealth Bay is in cyan; the Mertz Glacier (cyan label) is to its east.

The two tones of grey at the bottom show a land mask, with glaciers being shown in slightly less dense grey. The black shows open water. The “permanent” multi-year ice shelf is a relatively solid white. Although Mawson was able to navigate into Commonwealth Bay in 1911-12, it is now completely filled with permanent ice. This is relatively recent – dating from only 2010. The permanent ice shelf continues to the east of Mertz Glacier, a location that will subsequently be important to analysis of Turney’s assertions.

White in the polynya shows both mobile ice floes and clouds – the textures are somewhat different. It is evident that there is a lot of mobile sea ice in the polynya on December 3 – a point that becomes important as we move through the month.

I’ve also plotted the location of subsequent events on this map for orientation. The red dot to the northwest shows the location of the December 19 landing for the Argo expedition over the ice shelf to the Mawson Huts.

The red plus-signs show the location where the Akademik Shokalskiy subsequently landed on December 23 and where it got stuck (slightly to the north). The magenta plus sign shows where the Xue Long got stuck and the cyan plus signs the locations of the Aurora Australis from Dec 30 to Jan 2 (evacuation date).

The yellow arrow shows where Turney placed the origin of the “multi-year” ice that later pinned the vessel. It is obvious that there isn’t any as of the beginning of December. This image, by itself, refutes Turney’s explanation of events, as will be seen below.

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Figure 1. MODIS December 3, 2013. Latitude and longitude are approximate (but close). For the purposes of this graphic, I haven’t shown curvature.

December 7
After a few stormy days, there was another (fairly) clear day on December 7. You can see that there is still lots of mobile sea ice in the polynya and that there is no fast ice in the location to the northeast of the Mertz Glacier. Note that the mobile sea ice and ice floes have blown many kilometers in only a few days, with many more ice floes on the southwest coast of the polynya where the Akademik Shokalskiy will later land.

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Figure 2. December 7, 2013.

December 15
Bewtween December 7 and December 15, there was another stormy week with the clear image of December 15 showing massive rearrangement of the mobile sea ice, which is now mostly packed against southwest shores of the polyna in two main packs. One pack abuts the extended Commonwealth Bay fast ice, including the locations where Akademik Shokalskiy, Xue Long and even Aurora Australis would be later in the month. There was also a major accumulation perched to the northeast of the Mertz Glacier – see yellow arrow which is in the same location as the December 3 image. Visually this accumulation appears to be relatively unstable in that it could be readily blown to a new location by winds from a different direction.

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Figure 3. Polynya as at December 15, 2013.

Turney’s December 15 Map

On December 16, Turney wrote a blog post about the process of selecting a route to the Mawson Huts. In this blogpost, Turney showed an image that is clearly derived from the December 15 MODIS image (though Turney’s image contains some erroneous labels). Note that both longitudes and latitudes are incorrectly labelled in Turney’s map: 140E is right, but 146E should be 144E. Similarly 67S is right, but 65S and 63S should be 66S and 65S respectively.

In Turney’s later efforts to attribute the vessel entrapment to a sudden breakout of multi-year, he changed to a different (and in my opinion, far less informative) satellite imagery, but this example shows that he had consulted MODIS imagery (which is very conveniently available online.)

mawson 20131215 wide
Figure 4. Turney map from

In Turney’s December 15 blogpost, Turney, who, to my knowledge, had no previous maritime experience in the Antarctic, was fascinated by the experience of picking a route through the sea ice, observing:

It is a fascinating experience going through the same decision making process as the expedition of 100 years ago. What Mawson’s captain Davis achieved with so little is extraordinary. Using just observations from their vessel the Aurora, the original AAE explored thousands of kilometres of ocean, much of it by working their way through the pack, probing for gaps and hoping they did not close up behind them. It takes incredible courage to do this. One mistake and the ship could be trapped in the ice – with no one in the outside world really knowing where they were. It’s hard to imagine this scenario today. We have all the advantages of modern technology. Daily satellite reports provide images of what lies ahead, the Australian Antarctic Division are kindly sending us daily weather reports for the region from Casey station (thanks Jane!) our location is publicly available, and if we get into serious trouble we can pick up the phone for help (albeit a last resort). That’s not to say we can be complacent. Even today, it is all too clear this is an unforgiving environment and conditions can change very quickly.

The Mawson Hut Trips
On December 17, Turney moored the vessel in the polynya to the northwest of the Mawson Huts. On December 19 and 20, two excursions were made from the vessel to Mawson’s Huts.

On December 19, Turney and 5 others traveled to the Huts. Turney and Ben Fisk (a rural medicine specialist) worked on the AWS station; Ian [MacRae ?] and Jon [?] of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation worked on maintenance of the huts themselves; while Chris Fogwill and Eleanor Rainsley “looked for geological samples to reconstruct former shape and extent of the ice sheet”. Turney and Fisk both later described the trip with considerable exhilaration.

The next day (December 20), a second crew visited Mawson’s Huts. This crew included Alok Jha of the Guardian, three biologists (Kerry-Jayne Wilson of the Blue Penguin Trust, Ziggy [Marzinelli] and Graeme [Clark] and passenger Estelle Blair. Wilson inspected the penguin rookery. Like the earlier trip, this expedition returned after midnight.

Move to the Mertz Glacier Polynya

Following these two trips, Turney directed the vessel to go to the Mertz Glacier polynya about 80-100 km to the east. To do so, they had to travel around the B9B iceberg and attached ice. Two of the passengers reported on December 22:

The journey today is to move east around the large B9B iceberg. This will take all day and into tomorrow, hopefully placing us at the shore edge of the Mertz glacier and Stillwell Island area, and providing the opportunity to step onto the Antarctic continent.

On December 22 (21:37 NZT; 3:37 North American twitter time), Turney tweeted that they were passing some “fantastic ice bergs!”.

MODIS images for December 21 and 22 are not very clear, so I’ve shown December 20 below. The vessel presumably traveled north from the first landing and around the Commonwealth Bay fast ice into the Mertz Glacier polynya, eventually mooring at 144.30736E 66.92648S, about 5-8 km from land. Note that in the few days between December 15 and December 20, the pack ice in the area of the second landing was noticeably notched out, thereby permitting the vessel to penetrate somewhat deeper into the pack ice. The MODIS image has a considerable amount of cloud, but the pack ice (formed a week or so earlier) to the northeast of Mertz Glacier is clearly visible (yellow arrow).

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Figure 5. Mertz Glacier Polynya, December 20, 2013.

December 23
December 23 was the critical day. The Akademik Shokalskiy had moored in the Mertz Glacier polynya on the east face of the Commonwealth Bay “permanent” ice about 8 km from the Antarctic coast. Watt Bay is to the southwest.

Sources include several contemporary or near-contemporary blog posts: Turney here; Kerry-Jayne Wilson of the Blue Penguin Trust here; Green politician Janet Rice here and Robbie Turney here. The normally active twitter accounts from Turney, Guardian Antarctica and Alok Jha of the Guardian are surprisingly silent on events of December 23 ( Guardian posts from December 23-24 instead document the December 19-20 expedition to Mawson’s Huts.) Shub Niggurath also did a chronology of events on this day, which is consistent on overlapping points.

A blizzard on December 23 had been forecast (Janet Rice here). Conditions in the morning of December 23 were already very bad. Turney posted a tweet in the morning of December 23 (estimated 9:48 New Zealand time) [North America twitter time December 22 15:48]. Turney reported that they were in a “Blizzard. -4degC, -15degC wind chill”, a description that is inconsistent Turney’s subsequent claim that they had set out under “good conditions”. Kerry-Jayne Wilson also reported that they had set out in “blowing snow and near gale winds” and that it subsequently got worse.

Our week of calm sunny weather came to an end 36 hours ago. Yesterday we visited a small island only 8 km from the fast ice edge to assess penguin condition there, the birds were much more healthy but we had to beat a fast retreat back to the ship as the weather deteriorated further. We set out in blowing snow and near gale winds; it got worse.

Despite these very poor conditions, Turney authorized passengers to leave the vessel for an excursion to the mainland, where three science “projects” were carried out.

The offloading of the Argo vehicles was problematic: one of the vehicles got into the water and could not be used. Both the botched offloading and lack of a third vehicle further delayed the day’s activities (see Janet Rice’s facebook entry, cited in several discussions)

A couple of days later, Turney described the day’s events in a self-serving report that made no mention of the morning’s impending blizzard. Instead, Turney claimed that there had been “good conditions” on December 23 and that these “good conditions” permitted Kerry-Jayne Wilson to inspect a penguin rookery, Tracey Rogers to sample seal blubber and Eleanor Rainsley to collect geological samples. Turney said that conditions closed in during the day and that they “quickly” loaded the vehicles onto the vessel, but were unfortunately trapped:

Good conditions allowed the team to reach the Hodgeman Islets to continue our science programme and make comparisons to our findings around Mawson’s Hut. We managed to collect a range of samples for three of the science teams on these rarely visited islands; a fantastic result. The distance from the land to the sea ice edge is only 5 kilometres, providing an excellent test of the impact of the large sea ice extent around Cape Denison. Supported by volunteers on board, our teams investigated marine mammals, ornithology, glaciology while oceanographic work continued on board. Kerry-Jayne Wilson of the Blue Penguin Trust found the penguin colony on the Hodgeman Islets is thriving, demonstrating the distance the Mawson Hut Adelie penguins have to travel is a major factor in the fall of numbers. Tracey Rogers of UNSW also obtained the largest number of seal blubber samples on the expedition while Eleanor Rainsley collected geological samples that will provide an invaluable insight into the history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Returning to the Shokalskiy, conditions started to close in and we quickly loaded the vehicles on to the vessel.

Unfortunately proceeding north we found our path blocked by ice pushed in by an increasingly strong southeasterly wind. On Christmas Eve we realised we could not get through, in spite of being just 2 nautical miles from open water.

Obviously; Turney’s retrospective claim of “good conditions” in the morning of December 23 is inconsistent with Wilson’s report and Turney’s own contemporary tweet.

At least six passengers accompanied the three scientists on this outing, including Green politician Janet Rice, Turney’s 12-year old son Robbie, Mary [Regan], two “skiers” Peter [Stevenson?] and Steve [Lambert?] and Ben [Hines, Fisk or Maddison].

The impending gale did not deter 12-year old Robbie Turney, who described the day’s events as the “most fun that I’ve ever had outdoors before”:

Today was absolutely stunning. This was the day we got a full on drive in the Argos, along the fast ice and straight to the continent. It was very enjoyable, possibly the most fun I’ve ever had outdoors before. The ride was really bumpy and we were going up and down getting some jumps when at full speed. … Once we got to the continent we saw a massive towering rock that was home to a colony of Adelie Penguins which were all laying on their eggs. This made great photos but they were pretty aggressive because of it. But that pretty much wraps it up for the day.

Meanwhile, according to Janet Rice, the Captain became very concerned about the closing weather, but was unable to immediately recall the passengers. The vessel appears to have left at least several hours after the captain’s already risky target.

The third drama of the day is the one which is still unfolding. Because of the Argo mishap we got off late, and had one less vehicle to ferry people to and fro. I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in… I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier. Maybe we would have made it through the worst before it consolidated as much as it has with the very cold south- easterly winds blowing the ice away from the coast, around and behind us as well as ahead.

The precise time of departure is not presently reported. The vessel managed to move several kilometers north, but by 1 a.m. December 24 (~NZT), the vessel had become stuck in the ice. At first, the vessel was pinned by a kilometer or so of pack ice, but within a few days, it had increased to over 20 kilometers.

The reaction of the passengers was quite varied.

Guardian photojournalist Laurence Topham became despondent, mourning the narrowness of his bed and, in particular, the unavailability of peanut butter and banana milkshakes, a circumstance which, in an uncanny, almost eerie, coincidence, replicated the circumstances of the original Mawson expedition, which also lacked peanut butter and banana milkshakes.

Others partied raucously:

Blizzard conditions continued and within a week, there was another major remobilization of sea ice, with virtually all the sea ice in the polynya being blown against the western shores of the polynya. Over 20 km of pack ice accumulated in the area where the Akademik Shokalskiy had been pinned. The Xue Long icebreaker (magenta +) managed to get within approximately 20 km of the Akademik Shokalskiy, before it too got pinned.

By January 2, the Aurora Australis icebreaker (cyan +) had broken through enough pack ice to get close to the Xue Long. On January 2, the helicopter from the Xue Long evacuated passengers from the Ship of Fools to an ice floe near the Aurora Australis, from which they boarded the Aurora Australis. The Aurora Australis then proceeded to open waters, leaving the Xue Long and Akademik Shokalskiy still pinned. The polyna’s ice floes were now packed against the west shore of the polyna.

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Figure 6. January 3, 2014. The Akademik Shokalskiy is now well within the pack ice.

The Vessels Escape
Five days after the passengers were evacuated, the sea ice underwent another re-arrangement. On January 7, a large north-south crack in the sea ice developed (see January 8 image below) and the Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long both picked their way out of the pack ice into the polynya (stuck positions shown below). Ironically, the passengers would have arrived back in New Zealand sooner, had they stayed on the vessel rather than evacuating, though there was, of course, no way that this could have been predicted at the time of evacuation.

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Figure 7. Polyna as of January 8, 2014.

Turney’s Excuses
By this time, many questions were being asked about the Turney expedition. While gradual increase of Antarctic sea ice (in contrast to the Arctic) had been widely discussed by skeptic blogs over the past few years, Turney’s plight drew attention to the remarkable fact (not previously known to skeptic blogs) that Mawson had sailed directly into Commonwealth Bay, which was now blocked for 60 km by permanent ice, with Mawson’s entry to Commonwealth Bay even being recorded in an early movie. While the expansion of Antarctic sea ice in this area was well known, the irony of a vessel of warmists being trapped by Antarctic sea ice attracted attention far beyond skeptic blogs.

This unwelcome attention did not and has not amused the academic climate community, which, for the most part, tried to dismiss the expedition as a tourist, rather than science venture, a framing that Turney has stoutly resisted.

Even usual supporters began to ask questions. For example, Andy Revkin wondered about the wisdom of landing the Akademik Shokalskiy in the polynya when “any satellite image could show you was surrounded by sea ice that could move.”

Turney defended himself against such questions, by arguing that the pinning sea ice did not come from mobile sea ice, but from a sudden “breakout” of multiyear ice, an untrue excuse that has been too readily accepted by specialists (e.g. John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey in a BBC interview here ^).

Turney’s defence was first set out in a December 30 blogpost as a commentary on the following graphic purporting to show events that could not possibly have been anticipated or mitigated. Turney’s satellite imagery is said to have been provided by the Australian Antarctic Division (“AAD/ACE CRC Sea Ice Group in Hobart, Tasmania”). It is obviously related to the MODIS imagery that Turney had used on December 16, but also has important differences, which I will discuss below. I have been unable to locate any online provenance of Turney’s images: they appear related to Bremen satellite imagery style, but differs in detail from the online Bremen images.

It seems evident to me that this particular imagery conflates data that is distinguished in the MODIS image, a conflation that Turney used to derive incorrect and unwarranted conclusions. The image on the left is from December 20 (before getting pinned) and on the right is from December 27 (after). The left graphic is oriented approximately 36 degrees counterclockwise from the right graphic, confusing the comparison – a comparison further confused by different scales. The grey area shows the land mask, which bizarrely is incorrect in the red box area of greatest interest. (I’ll show this shortly.)

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Figure 8. Illustration from Turney, Dec 30, 2013 ( see )

The next figure compares Turney’s map for December 20 with the MODIS image of the same date (previously discussed above) cropped to closely match the Turney map. Turney’s land mask obviously has major differences with the accurate MODIS land mask: in particular, Turney’s land mask continues to show the 2009 dimension of the Mertz Glacier tongue, even though this was knocked out to sea in March 2010 (an event widely reported at the time.) The false tongue conceals open polynya that is clearly visible in the MODIS image. In this image, solid purple can denote both multi-year “permanent” shelf ice and thick pack ice. For example, within the red box, the more southerly purple unit shows multi-year “permanent” shelf ice, but the more northerly purple unit shows pack ice that was blown onto the southeast shores of the polynya the previous week (see discussion of December 20 above.) The MODIS tones of pack ice tend to be slightly different than “permanent” ice, a distinction lost in the satellite imagery shown by Turney.

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Figure 9. December 20, 2013 images. Left – Turney; right – MODIS.

As discussed above, between December 20 and 27, the pack ice perched to the northeast of the Mertz Glacier (blown there the previous week) – the northerly area colored purple in the red box – was blown onto the west shore of the polynya pinning the Akademik Shokalskiy, while the “permanent” shelf ice (the southerly area colored purple in the red box) remained where it was.

However, Turney reached a different interpretation, which, by strange coincidence, was far more self-serving. Turney wrote as follows:

The wind is not unusual but what is unexpected is the major reconfiguration of thick multi-year sea ice to the east of the Mertz Glacier. In 2010, a large iceberg known as B09B, calved from the continent and collided spectacularly with the extended tongue of the Mertz Glacier. The knock-on effect has been that Commonwealth Bay has filled with sea ice (termed ‘fast ice’), preventing direct access from the sea to Mawson’s main hut at Cape Denison. Unfortunately for the AAE, it appears the region has just undergone a massive reconfiguration of sea ice, years after the loss of the Mertz Glacier tongue. This has been revealed by new satellite imagery which arrived today from the AAD/ACE CRC Sea Ice Group in Hobart, Tasmania. The satellite maps show the comparison before and after the event, with deep purple signifying 100% sea ice cover and dark blue, open water. (Note: the outline of the Mertz Glacier tongue is shown on the maps but disappeared following the collision with B09B). Crucially, these images show the extensive, thick multi-year sea ice along the eastern and southern edge of what was the Mertz Glacier Tongue (outlined by a red box) has been blown out in the last week and driven against our position by the persistent southeasterly winds. It is too early to identify the cause of this remobilisation of ice but we may be looking at the future long-term expansion of fast ice to the east of Commonwealth Bay.

Crucially, these images show the extensive, thick multi-year sea ice along the eastern and southern edge of what was the Mertz Glacier Tongue (outlined by a red box) has been blown out in the last week and driven against our position by the persistent southeasterly winds. It is too early to identify the cause of this remobilisation of ice but we may be looking at the future long-term expansion of fast ice to the east of Commonwealth Bay.

Turney’s invocation of the B09B iceberg is totally irrelevant to the movements of the sea ice between December 20 and 27 and must be disregarded. (As too often with climate scientists, one has to watch the pea.) Most importantly, as discussed above, the Akademik Shokalskiy was pinned by non-permanent pack ice that had been blown by the blizzard against the southwest shore of the polynya and not by a rupture of “permanent” shelf ice. The distinction is important for Turney’s efforts to exonerate himself: one can hardly consider the remobilization of pack ice perched to the northeast of the Mertz Glacier by an easterly gale as unpredictable.

Turney in the Guardian and Nature

Shortly after being evacuated to the Aurora Australis, Turney published highly self-serving accounts events in the Guardian and Nature.

In an article in the Guardian on January 4, 2014 (covered by Australian ABC here), Turney said that “no amount of preparation could have mitigated” the events and that there was “nothing” to suggest that re-arrangement of sea ice in the Mertz Glacier polynya was imminent:

Unfortunately, events unfolded which no amount of preparation can mitigate. To provide a comparison with the samples we collected in the Mawson Hut area, we relocated the vessel to the Mertz Glacier area in the east, a major driver of ocean circulation and importantly an area where the continent is closer to the sea ice edge. Late on 23 December, we returned to the Shokalskiy. We had completed our work programme on the continent and were heading north into open water to continue the oceanographic work on the return home.

Unluckily for us, there appears to have been a mass breakout of thick, multiyear sea ice on the other side of the Mertz Glacier; years after the loss of the Mertz Glacier tongue. There was nothing to suggest this event was imminent. We have had regular updates on the state of the sea ice in the area and had been monitoring the region for the last year.

The forecasts were correct, but it was soon clear that the armadas of ice that started to appear were thick and old. Captain Igor tried to beat a path to open water but the size of the sea ice overwhelmed the Shokalskiy. In places the ice was three metres thick with little open water to push aside. With the southeasterly winds, the ice would not budge and we were caught just two to four miles from the sea-ice edge….

Let’s be clear. Us becoming locked in ice was not caused by climate change. Instead it seems to have been an aftershock of the arrival of iceberg B09B which triggered a massive reconfiguration of sea ice in the area.

Again, one has to watch the pea. Iceberg B09B landed in Commonwealth Bay in 2010. It did not change location during Turney’s expedition and its invocation is simply irrelevant. Nor was there any “mass breakout” of ‘permanent’ ice shelf “years after the loss of the Mertz Glacier tongue”. More misdirection.

Nor is it right to say there was “nothing to suggest this event was imminent” with the development of an easterly gale. Any serious examination of the MODIS imagery of the area shows that the polynya sea ice is highly mobile. The “peninsula” of pack ice to the northeast of Mertz Glacier was highly exposed to change of wind and blowing of this pack ice onto the westerly shore ought to have not only been considered a possibility, but a virtual certainty.

Turney’s Fanciful Nature Article
With escalating derision towards Turney’s expedition, Nature rushed another self-serving account of the events into print on January 6, apparently without the slightest peer review, quality control or due diligence.

In this article, Turney’s claims became even more fanciful and untrue.

Turney falsely stated that the Akademik Shokalskiy was an “ice breaker”, even though it was merely a passenger ship that had been ice strengthened.

Turney falsely claimed that the “science case” for the tour had been “approved by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Antarctic Division”, an assertion that was quickly denied by the head of the Australian Antarctic Division, who accused Turney of misrepresentation and said that he had written to Turney asking him to cease such misrepresentations.

In respect to the entrapment incident, Turney re-iterated the false assertion that they had been trapped by a “mass breakout” of “multiyear ice”, whereas, as discussed above, they had been trapped by mobile pack ice within the polynya:

Could this have been avoided? The satellite data leading up to our arrival in Antarctica’s Commonwealth Bay indicated open clear water, and the area seemed to have been that way for some time. As the Shokalskiy attempted to leave, however, we found ourselves surrounded by a mass breakout of multi­year ice. This was a major event, with the vessel surrounded by blocks of sea ice more than three metres thick, apparently arriving from the other side of the Mertz Glacier. Despite the best efforts of our captain, we could not find a route out. It was deeply frustrating. We had been caught just 2–4 nautical miles (3.7–7.4 kilometres) from the edge of the sea ice. And with pervasive southeasterly winds battering our location, this distance increased to 20 nautical miles within 48 hours.

John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey accepted Turney’s diagnosis:

I think the problem with this expedition was there was a breakout of fast ice. Fast ice is multi-year ice that is quite thick – two, three, four metres, perhaps, held fast against the edge of the Antarctic continent. And a strong storm moved that out. And that’s almost impossible to predict. We can predict the weather several days ahead with some accuracy these days, in the Antarctic. These breakouts are very difficult, and so it was quite an extreme event.

Update – Jan 22. Turney has now returned to Tasmania, where he purported to link the incident to climate soft-porn talk of extremes, proclaiming that the blizzard was an “extreme event”

Professor Turney said the expedition had not taken unnecessary risks.
“It was an extreme event and it caught us,” he said.

Back to the original questions.

First, while Turney has repeatedly described his expedition as a “scientific” expedition, its technology was that of adventure tourism and was not what, for example, would have been used by the Australian Antarctic Division. The Akademik Shokalskiy is an ice strengthened vessel used in adventure tourism, whereas the AAD uses ice breakers. In addition, the AAD does not try to carry out scientific missions by a couple of hit-and-run day trips with an eye on the clock. They maintain permanent Antarctic bases equipped with helicopters. Alternatively, scientists (such as Turney’s own prior work) will travel by air from Puntas Arenas to an airfield in Antarctica, with onward transportation to their site by helicopter, with logistics being handled by professional logistics companies.

Some scientists have blamed the events on tourism, but while Turney used the technology of adventure tourism, he did a number of things that seem unlikely to have been done in a responsible adventure tour. (On this point, I note that co-leader Greg Mortimer, a distinguished mountaineer, was a highly experienced operator of adventure tourism in the Antarctic. None of us knows the precise allocation of decisions between Turney and Mortimer.) Most Antarctic adventure tours go to the Antarctic peninsula and do not venture into more problematic polynya, especially ones in a region known for gale winds (Commonwealth Bay has among the world’s highest winds and was named by Mawson as the “Home of the Blizzard”). The Scott Polar Research Institute’s Robert Headland said that such areas require ice breakers, rather than ice strengthened passenger vesselss, and even then, are risky. Further, Turney clearly had no maritime experience with such polynya. His prior Antarctica experience appears to have been via airlift and helicopter, experience which may not be much more relevant than having stayed in a Holiday Inn (note – this is an allusion to a North American advertisement). Nor is it certain that co-leader Mortimer, a distinguished mountaineer and experienced adventure tourism leader, had maritime experience with polyna either.

Even if an adventure tour ventured into a polyna, it is doubtful that a tour leader would decide to moor the vessel on the exposed shore of the polyna with an impending easterly gale. Or if such a decision were made, to allow passengers to disembark. But the most startling aspect of the affair is surely Turney’s decision to authorize passengers to go well out of immediate contact with the vessel so that they were not immediately recallable in a matter of minutes. As discussed above, it seems beyond dispute that Turney was pinned by pack ice that was unstably perched to the northeast of Mertz Glacier and not by a sudden break of more or less ‘permanent’ shelf ice; that this “peninsula” of pack ice was highly exposed to the easterly gale that had already developed; and that heavy blowing of this (and other mobile ice) onto the southwest shore of the Mertz Glacier polynya was not only a possibility, but a probability, if not, near certainty.

One can see why Turney wants to characterize the movement of sea ice as something that could not have been predicted or mitigated, but there is no reason why anyone else should accept Turney’s characterization and many reasons to reject it.


  1. Martin Hall
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    Repeated typo – it’s ‘polynya’.

    • TerryS
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Permalink

      Under “The Vessels Escape”

      “had they stayed on the vessel rather than evavuating,”

  2. KNR
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    ‘but there is no reason why anyone else should accept Turney’s characterization and many reasons to reject it.’

    There is a very good reason and may be why Turner of the British Antarctica Survey came aboard. Because the whole thing has been a real problem for ‘the cause ‘ so finding some way , any way in fact that they can blame ‘melting ice due to AGW’ would save some face and keep the funding stream on track .

    Now I like the British Antarctica Survey they done many fine things , but sadly like other organisation they have brought themselves low and undermined much of reputation in the name of ‘the cause’ and its funding cash cow , such that now everything they claim requires now more than a pinch of salt. For which they only have themselves to blame.

  3. pesadia
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM | Permalink

    Once again, it’s the cover up that does the real damage.
    A clinical expose of an incredibly stupid amateur expedition
    into one of the most dangerous enviroments on earth.
    This gentleman should be precluded from any further such expeditions.

    Welcome back Steve. Happy new year.

  4. b4llzofsteel
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

    I would like to know what exactly the line of command was. You write that Turney did this, turned to that, but at the end the captain of the ship is the one where the buck stops. What is Captain Igor’s role in this? Should he have refused to let the tourist-scientists to go out to fool around with the Argos the day they got stuck? Was he willing to accomodate the tourist-scientists because they paid for the whole thing?

    The working relation Turney and Captain Igor needs a thourough evaluation.

    • Jimbo
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

      It’s this blog post from one of the passengers that sheds a little light on the Turkey / Captain relationship. We still need to know more though.

      The third drama of the day is the one which is still unfolding. Because of the Argo mishap we got off late, and had one less vehicle to ferry people to and fro. I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in… I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier. Maybe we would have made it through the worst before it consolidated as much as it has with the very cold south- easterly winds blowing the ice away from the coast, around and behind us as well as ahead.

      Now, the captain could have just left them there. 😉

  5. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 2:43 PM | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Climate Ponderings.

  6. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    I’m actually surprised that the story he gave is that inconsistent with conditions in the area. Nobody but Steve would be likely to dig in to this detail level.

    What a riot!

  7. pax
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    Maybe it was really, really fast ice.

    • Follow the Money
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Permalink

      Or really “rotten ice.”

      Remember that epithet?

      Also to remember, the 2009 Arctic version of this Antarctic misadventure, the “Catlin Arctic Ice Survey.” I think the treks should be compared side by side by someone adept. The opposite polar trips seem to be teleconnected. There is also the possibility of a “Guardian Effect,” akin to the “Gore Effect,” that should be examined for the sake of real science.

  8. Curious George
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    To be precise, Mr. Turney is not a mere “climate scientist”; he is a Prophessor of Climate Change.

    • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

      That ought to be ‘Prophet of Climate Change’.

  9. Don Villeneuve
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM | Permalink

    This “Spirit of Mawson” adventure tour and subsequent coverup is worthy of a book. Perhaps titled (apologies to Mr. Krakauer) “Onto Thin Ice.”

  10. Speed
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    “His prior Antarctica experience appears to have been via airlift and helicopter, experience which may not be much more relevant than having stayed in a Holiday Inn (note – this is an allusion to a North American advertisement).”

  11. Randle Dewees
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

    I don’t post here because, well, I’m not worthy. But, Steve, you made me laugh, thanks. Randy

  12. Don Keiller
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

    I spent 3 months on secondment down in the Antarctic in the mid 1990’s
    As my experimental site was on an island, one of the first things we were taught at Rothera Base was about the unpredictability of pack (or drift) ice.
    What could be free water could very rapidly become impenetrable ice in a few minutes by a change of tide, or wind direction.
    Moreover this ice was mobile and you could be carried, helplessly, many miles- and possibly beyond rescue, if trapped.
    Clearly Turney was reckless.
    The other thing is organising scientific research. Everything takes longer than you think in the Antarctic.
    You simply cannot cruise in, spend a few hours and cruise out again.

    Turney is clearly not telling the truth.
    This was a (self) publicity trip that went badly wrong. He is now spinning, madly, to extricate himself.
    Regrettably he is receiving assistance from those who should (and most likely do) know better (Professor Turner, BAS).

  13. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    “Jeff Id
    I’m actually surprised that the story he gave is that inconsistent with conditions in the area. Nobody but Steve would be likely to dig in to this detail level.”

    So true! Yet the Guardian had the personal and detailed knowledge to present a more objective, investigative analysis and completely failed, so far. With these folks credibility and cognitive dissonance are so consistently major issues.

    Thankfully, the passengers and crew are all safe!

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Permalink

      I did wonder if the sub-editors back in the UK were having a sly dig when they used the headline “Eternal sunshine and confused minds in Antarctica” on one of the pieces from their reporters down there.

  14. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    After watching this video
    (h/t bishophill) it’s difficult to see how the expedition could have ended up in anything other than a shambles, and it’s a wonder it didn’t end in tragedy. Turney laughs off serious questions about what went wrong with earlier expeditions, he’s shown making a spur-of-the-moment team selection decision because he thinks an applicant’s crazy outburst in a Youtube video is a riot, he yuks it up about the espresso machine being the most important piece of equipment and he brings his family along as if it’s a holiday cruise. When the reporter comments near the start “It’s not entirely a joke” she sums up the whole strange atmosphere permeating the video. Why is this man laughing like a crackpot while describing the perils and crises that others making this trip have faced?

    • Eddy
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Permalink

      “… he’s shown making a spur-of-the-moment team selection decision because he thinks an applicant’s crazy outburst in a Youtube video is a riot.”

      Along the same lines, for some reason I found this particularly annoying:

      A PhD student’s successful video application to join the expedition. Not to criticize her, but it really seems that selection focused on communications and marketing things, not science. She gets selected not because she has a hypothesis or a research program she is passionate about and which might be scientifically valuable (which might well be the case) – but because she does a cute video.

      A marketing ethos seems to have infected the enterprise, and it’s not a surprise to see Turney indulging in “puffery”.

      • papiertigre
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:24 AM | Permalink

        I might as well criticize her then. Her sci project is to contaminate the last pristene ocean environment on Earth with particles nutrient transport she called it.
        She’s going to dump effuience in the Antarctic, in the footsteps of Mawson, in otherwords.

      • Colorado Wellington
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

        Why is this man laughing like a crackpot …?

        … it walks like a duck?

    • John Archer
      Posted Jan 25, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Permalink

      That video: he’s full of himself, isn’t he — a man who can’t even pronounce his th digraphs correctly. Someving very wrong here. The product of overindulgent parents perhaps?

      Hundred to one says that if you were dining in a restaurant and he walked in you’d know within the space of a minute that he was an ‘important scientist‘. You’d have to ask the waiter to put some muzak on and turn the volume up to drown him out.

      He seems to have about the same level of self-awareness as Tim NiceButDim, but without the charm.

  15. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

    This is the post that needed to written in the whole saga. There are two important details to the entire story: [1] What did the ice and the weather do on the 23rd and 24th of December? [2] What the ship’s crew and the expeditioners do on the 23rd and 24th of December.

    If you look carefully, you’ll realise that though there are numerous sources that were constantly emitting information through the entire trip, these sources go silent during the 22-23-24 three day period. Luckily enough, there are enough primary sources apart from the otherwise voluble Chris Turney and Alok Jha, namely Janet Rice, Robbie Turney, and Kerry-Jayne Wilson, during this period. I summarized expeditioner events here: Akademik Shokalskiy: the fateful moment

    Steve – there are some relevant secondary links that I haven’t linked to yet, including your earlier chronology. I’ll fix that. But I think that I referred to all the relevant primary sources.

  16. Admad
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    I just love this story. I wonder if Prof Turney has any idea what he’s coming home to…

  17. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    I note that co-leader Greg Mortimer, a distinguished mountaineer, was a highly experienced operator of adventure tourism in the Antarctic. None of us knows the precise allocation of decisions between Turney and Mortimer

    On Turney’s expedition site, Mortimer and Chris Cogwill are both listed as “co-leaders”:

    I also recall (although I can’t put my mouse on it at the moment) a post-rescue video interview with Mortimer in which he appeared to be far more measured in his responses than anything I’ve heard/seen from Turney. Mortimer’s demeanour struck me as being visibly shaken by the experience – and greatly relieved that all had been safely rescued.

    Yet, as I recall, Turney’s post-rescue “revisionisms” in the Guardian and Nature mention only Cogwill. <pure speculation alert> Perhaps Mortimer was, well, mortified, by Turney’s antics and had requested that his name not be associated with Turney’s tactless tacking and trumpeting after the fact.

    Also, as I was reading Steve’s analysis – particularly the remarkable discrepancies in Turney’s chosen images … I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this another climate science Trick™ I see before me?!”

    • Curious George
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

      Maybe here:

      • Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

        Thanks, George … that is “precisely” the one my mouse and I could not immediately retrieve:-)

      • Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Permalink

        Yes, I picked this up on 2nd January from Keith Minto on WUWT, who commented:

        Fairfax press must be embarrassed about this, that is why it is back in the travel section.
        They are part of this fiasco (“follow Faifax’s Antarctic Expedition”), and, this being holiday summer here you would think that this would just the story to boost circulation in the slowest circulation period of the year. There is a video link here, to our great Antarctic and Everest mountaineer Greg Mortimer who was one of the team leaders, and he looks truly shocked about the event. He is an experienced, no nonsense guy and it is obvious that he is less than impressed with all of this.

        Based on Mortimer’s demeanour that seems fair comment. But not the first time the honest, responsible guy goes strangely silent as the climate spin-meisters get to work.

      • nutso fasst
        Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

        Mortimer: “A catastrophic event has taken place in the last week, and we were party to that.”

        But Aurora captain Murray Doyle Aurora said the ice conditions around the Mertz Glacier were typical of the past few years.

        The catastrophic event was the party.

        BTW, how did the SMH reporters get onto the Aurora Australis to make that video?

        • James Evans
          Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 6:41 AM | Permalink


          The reporters seem to have been at Casey station when the call came for Aurora Australis to help. (The Aurora Australis was unloading supplies at Casey.)

          A quick google (“Nicky Phillips”) brings up a flurry of articles published in various sections of the SMH, eg:

        • nutso fasst
          Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

          Thanks James.

          Fortuitous for the reporters (including Nicky Phillips) to embark on the Australis’s Casey resupply mission while Turney was getting the Shokalskiy stuck.

          Or maybe not so much. There are other possibilities.

        • James Evans
          Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Permalink


          I don’t think the reporters were on the resupply mission. They were at Casey station reporting on other things when the Aurora Australis arrived. They then jumped on the ship when it was called off on its rescue mission.

    • Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

      I cried like when I heard they were stuck in the ice. I talked my folks into driving their SUV’s around the block a few extra times before they came home from work. It looks like their efforts worked!

  18. pax
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    It was ice-nine – it could not have been predicted.

  19. rogerknights
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

    Steve wrote: “Ironically, the passengers would have arrived back in New Zealand sooner, had they stayed on the vessel rather than evacuating, though there was, of course, no way that this could have been predicted at the time of evacuation.”

    But anthony Watts DID predict that, as he noted later in this thread:

    Steve: in fairness, Anthony’s forecast was anything but categorical – merely a possibility. Nor did Anthony purport to translate a change in winds into a pack ice prediction. If they had relied on this possibility and it didn’t materialize, they would have been rightly criticized. I don’t fault them in the slightest for moving the passengers. Given the situation, I would have made the same decision in their shoes. It is ironic that doing nothing would have worked out better – doesn’t mean that they made an incorrect decision.

    • Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

      It should also be noted that the correct forecast made By Anthony Watts and Joseph D’Aleo of WeatherBELL was based on computer models, and the “window” of a possible wind shift and break-up of the the ice lay around a week in the future. Now, think to yourself how often even a five-day-forecast can be wrong, on the fifth day.

      I am fairly sure Watts and D’Aleo would have clearly stated their forecast was not a certainty. The people deciding the fate of hapless passengers would have had to base their decisions on that.

      One thing that always impresses me is how mobile sea-ice is. I find the ordinary, hard-working Joe has the erroneous belief sea-ice is stable and motionless. This story may educate the public that the concept of “solid” sea-ice, (which the media in some way buys into, perhaps only due to its own ignorance,) is erroneous, and in fact sea-ice can move swiftly and trap ships.

      This is slightly off topic, (and you might say “poles apart.”) However for the fun of it I track the “North Pole Camera.” Though the camera itself was rescued in September, other instruments including a GPS were left behind and continued to transmit data from the solid chunk of sea-ice the camera was upon. One GPS traveled over 1600 miles and recently ran aground on the most northeasterly peninsula of Iceland.

      Sea-ice isn’t stable stuff.

    • rogerknights
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

      Steve M. said:
      “Nor did Anthony purport to translate a change in winds into a pack ice prediction.”

      Well, he predicted a Polyna, and later on, when the pack ice opened up, he claimed that his prediction was validated. So I think that he did too purport–or come very close to it. First, here’s what Anthony posted at . (This thread was linked to in the earlier thread I posted.)

      “In a couple of minutes John Coleman was back on the phone to me, he wanted my assessment of the maps. I had looked at what was happening and saw what I thought might be an opening in 7-8 days based on the forecast graphics from WeatherBell, where the winds would shift to offshore in the area where Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck. Like we discussed in the WUWT post yesterday Polynyas are very important for marine life and cooling the oceans I had hoped that a coastal polyna might open up near the ship.

      And here’s what he posted after the ship escaped:

      It seems my forecast worked out well. From RT news:

      A Russian-built ship stranded in the Antarctic ice has started moving away from the ice fields after a change of wind cleared its path.

      Steve M. also said:

      “I don’t fault them in the slightest for moving the passengers. Given the situation, I would have made the same decision in their shoes.”

      I agree that evacuation was the right call. Get ’em out of harm’s way, even if there’s a good chance there’ll be no harm.

      Steve: as I said before. “might be an opening” is a hope, rather than a prediction of pack ice movement. Note that there already was a polynya – that’s how the vessel arrived at its spot – and that there continued to be a polynya. The problem was the changing pack ice within the polynya. You’ve made your point, we agree on some, not others. let’s leave it.

  20. Peter Miller
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    An excellent analysis.

    Turney and his ‘Ship of Fools’ may well receive a carefully pre-planned ‘heroes’ welcome’ by alarmists on their return to Australia, but the whole world will know the real truth.

    Most important, it has opened up today’ s climate science to the ridicule it deserves.

  21. Green Sand
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

    Missing link?

    e.g. Turner of the British Antarctica Survey here.

    • HaroldW
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

      Missing link for Prof. John Turner (of the BAS): Audio of interview here, transcript here.

  22. Andy
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    UNSW has a Prize for Science writing:

    “To recognise the best of the best, UNSW Press has established an annual prize for the best short non-fiction piece on science written for a general audience…….The Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing is named in honour of Australia’s first Nobel Laureates William Henry Bragg and his son William Lawrence Bragg and is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.”

    2013 RUNNERS-UP

    Gina Perry, Beyond the shock machine (from Behind the Shock Machine: The untold story of the notorious Milgram psychology experiments, Scribe)

    Chris Turney, Martyrs to Gondwanaland: The cost of scientific exploration (from 1912: The year the world discovered Antarctica, Text Publishing)

    I only wonder what the title to Turney’s 2014 entry will be.

    • Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:42 PM | Permalink

      The Bragg Prize already seems to sum it up very well.

    • Jud
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

      I think this excellent piece by Steve would make an excellent entrant for 2014.

  23. Firey
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

    The reaction of the passengers was quite varied.
    Guardian photojournalist Laurence Topham became despondent, mourning the narrowness of his bed and, in particular, the unavailability of peanut butter and banana milkshakes, a circumstance which, in an uncanny, almost eerie, coincidence, replicated the circumstances of the original Mawson expedition, which also lacked peanut butter and banana milkshakes.

    How eerie, what are the odds of that?

    Steve: it’s like entering the Twilight Zone.

    • jeffc3497
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:56 AM | Permalink

      Coincidences abound. Mark Steyn noted that Mawson’s writings of the ordeal discuss the frostbite he encountered and possible permanent damage to his toes. As Steyn wittily put it, Mawson was also very serious about reducing his footprint.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

      “How eerie, what are the odds of that?

      Steve: it’s like entering the Twilight Zone.”

      Do you have an online ref for that? I would love to have it to hand when required.

    • seanbrady
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Permalink

      I was reading this at my office, pretending that I was working, when I came across the peanut butter and milkshakes line and gave myself away by literally laughing out loud.

    • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

      I wonder whether it isn’t more likely that he was aware of the statements made by the original expedition and was simply alluding to them?

  24. Rud Istvan
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    Steve, a forensic analysis worthy of your best paleo climate stuff.
    In this day and age, the truth will out as you so ably demonstrate. I am sure the AAD, which has said it will recoup its considerable costs in this fiasco, would appreciate a formal version of your post sent directly to them for their further good use against UNSW and ‘Prophessor Turkey”, whose other sins include claiming the support of NZ Dept. Conservation, which has been vehemently and publicly denied. Even the pre-trip website apparently contained knowing misrepresentations. As with so much else in CAGW from Mann and Marcott hockey sticks to IPCC increasing confidence levels.

  25. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:51 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I won’t claim a new monitor as I should not have sipped some coffee before reading:

    Guardian photojournalist Laurence Topham became despondent, mourning the narrowness of his bed and, in particular, the unavailability of peanut butter and banana milkshakes, a circumstance which, in an uncanny, almost eerie, coincidence, replicated the circumstances of the original Mawson expedition, which also lacked peanut butter and banana milkshakes.

  26. rogerknights
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

    Steve wrote: “The normally active twitter accounts from Turney, Guardian Antarctica and Alok Jha of the Guardian are surprisingly silent on events of December 23 . . . .”

    Perhaps they sent e-mails privately to friends about their worries. Those could be subpoenaed, if it ever came to that.

  27. Peter Dunford
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

    I loved the eerie coincidence. Brilliant.

  28. Bob Koss
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:17 PM | Permalink

    Here are a couple Amundsen quotes which seem to indicate he anticipated the Turney trip.

    Adventure is just bad planning.

    I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.
    — from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen

  29. bk51
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

    “ship of fools”.

    I also like, “global warming party boat”.

  30. michael hart
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:53 PM | Permalink


    It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.

  31. scf
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    Loved this post. Well done. I knew Turney had misrepresented the facts, but did not know, until now, that Nature and the Guardium has aided and abetted the spread of these falsehoods. The pictures speak for themselves, thanks for posting and explaining them.

  32. StefanL
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Permalink

    “both longitudes and latitudes are incorrectly labelled in Turney’s map”
    If this appeared in a novel about an Antarctic expedition no-one would take it seriously !
    Lucky that the Captain of the ship was a better navigator than Prof. Turney.
    This sloppy map-marking is symptomatic of the entire “expedition”.

  33. Jimbrock
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

    Where was the captain of the Akademic Scholkowskiy (sp?) in all of this decision-making? He was ultimately responsible for the welfare of his ship, his crew and his passengers.

  34. hunter
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    So what does this to Dr. Turney’s claims of going to the Mertz glacier? It seems the expedition were not particularly close.

    Steve;: the mooring in the polynya was pretty close to the glacier.

    • hunter
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 8:38 AM | Permalink

      Thanks. The maps make it look like they were more than a few miles away. And I believe Turney talked about being on the glacier itself. I find it difficult to believe the questors got more than a mile or two from their ship, given mobility and safety challenges.

      • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 4:58 AM | Permalink

        They went about 5-8 km toward land from the edge of the ice.

  35. Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

    The BBC World Service has been broadcasting interviews with the scientists as part of its Discovery series – there are four parts, of which I think the final one (dated 6th January) will be the most interesting, as it concerns the trapping of the Akademik Shokalskiy in the ice, and the subsequent rescue.

    So far, I’ve transcribed Part Two (dated 23rd December), which might also be of interest, hopefully:

    Steve: the interview seems to have taken place on December 21, on the way from the landing to Mawsons Huts to the mertz Glacier polynya – rather than December 22.

    • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

      Re: alexjc38 (Jan 15 19:18), I’m delighted that you are transcribing these programmes Alex!

      In case anyone is looking for them, podcasts of the BBC Discovery programmes can be found here.

      • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

        Thanks, Ruth! Here’s the transcript of Part Four, broadcast on 6th January:

        Andrew Luck-Baker seems aware that some awkwardness might be pending:

        “There will certainly be further questions about the nature of the event which locked and froze our ship in, as we tried to head north from the moving mass of floes. Enquiries might also cover the logistics around the visits between the Shokalskiy and the Hodgeman Islands.”

        Steve: Mortimer’s comments in this interview seem just as unjustified as Turney’s:

        Andrew Luck-Baker: Within a week, a vast new expanse of sea ice had formed around our ship, hundreds of square kilometres across. This was not newly-frozen ice, but stuff that had been hanging around elsewhere for years. Greg Mortimer says he has never seen anything on such a scale unfold so rapidly.

        Greg Mortimer: It was an extraordinary event. It was unbelievable to watch. And I’ve spent a lot of time watching ice. And this was simply extraordinary. And when we got stuck, we were within a mile or two of open water. A few days later, it was three or four miles of ice between us and open water – and difficult ice, um, but not like it later became. And then, within a week, there was 22 nautical miles of ice between us and open water, it’s closer to 40 kilometres. Now, all of that ice, in that time, also set like a gummy mix of concrete and superglue and – all put together, and, and nothing’s going to move it for a long time, I don’t think. There’s a risk that that ice, that the ship is now trapped in, will become locked fast to the land, and could stay there for a very long time, which could ultimately lead to the ship being squashed and sunk, or for a very long time being beset.

        Andrew Luck-Baker: There’s an outstanding scientific question about the frozen predicament in which we found ourselves. What event, on the 23rd December, caused so much old multi-year sea ice to start moving fast? The captain had piloted the Shokalskiy into an area of open water, anchoring not far from the edge of the so-called “fast ice” – that’s ice which lies like a sheet from the sea to the land. By Zodiac craft we got on to the fast ice, and then with snow buggies made a 20-minute drive, in small teams, to a group of ice-locked rock hillocks called the Hodgeman Islands. As we returned from this visit, in staggered groups, it did become apparent that something about the conditions had changed. There were ice floes moving fast around the Russian vessel. My party had to park up for a few minutes, to let one flotilla of floes clear the water between us and the ship. So what happened? Greg Mortimer.

        Greg Mortimer: We don’t know for sure yet, but it’s starting to become clearer, that an enormous area of very old ice, frozen sea ice of 10 or 15 years’ age, which was to the east of where we were, to the east of the famous Mertz Glacier, um, all of a sudden, spat out to the west, like a cough-ball, if you like, and a massive area of ice, of hundreds of square kilometres, and we just happened to be there at that time.

        Andrew Luck-Baker: What kind of natural phenomenon would liberate, spit out all this enormous expanse and great thickness of ice?

        Greg Mortimer: Er… Look, I don’t… think we know yet. Um, and it will take some time for the glaciologists, the experts in the field, to find that. But it’s kind of like an earthquake zone, like the San Andreas fault, if you like. It rumbles and groans, and over a period of decades it builds up pressure, and then all of a sudden it can’t take it any more and goes snap. This is, in a sense, the ice equivalent of that. You know, ice has built up between the Ross Sea and the Mertz Glacier for a very long time. And this is the end product of that, just the ice built up enough until it couldn’t take it any more, couldn’t stand it any more.

        Andrew Luck-Baker: And so was this ice on the land or was it in the sea?

        Greg Mortimer: This is frozen sea ice, um, so all this took place in the sea. So, I think we’ve just seen a cataclysmic event.

        Andrew Luck-Baker: Before we – the captain took the ship down to the fast-ice edge on that day before, on that day on the 23rd, there was no information from anyone, no hints that an event like this might be on the cards?

        Greg Mortimer: No. No, it was open water. All of the area between the fast ice – the ice held fast to the land – and the Mertz Glacier, was open water. All of the area to the east of the Mertz Glacier was sea ice.

  36. Brian H
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:56 PM | Permalink

    The Turney snd Rice links appear to be missing in this text: Turney here; Kerry-Jayne Wilson of the Blue Penguin Trust here; Green politician Janet Rice here (my bolding).

  37. Brian H
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

    typo: snd and Rice

  38. Rud Istvan
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

    Jimbrock, a good question. We now know he allowed passenger ‘scientists’ to disembark in the face of an oncoming blizzard. we also know he ordered them back hours before the arrived back. See SM’s third drama of the day quote. Captain Igor probably did not want them to disembark, but got ‘overruled’ by his paying passengers who needed to keep up their pretexts. Then when he did issue a command, they ignored it.
    I really feel for the captain, and would sail on any vessel with him in command. He did not leave stupid Turney et al behind to fend for themselves on the ice when they did not return yet he needed to sail.

  39. Lyndon McPaul
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

    Exclusive Footage of Prof Turney negotiating with his sea captain for hire of his ship!

  40. Manfred
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

    Ok, this has to be sent to the Australian and New Zealand authorities financing this trip.

    We want our money back or at least part of it.

  41. Gary Hladik
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 9:03 PM | Permalink

    “Unfortunately, events unfolded which no amount of preparation can mitigate.” — Chris Turney, January 2014

    “The causes of the disaster are not due to faulty organisation, but to misfortune in all risks which had to be undertaken.” — Robert Falcon Scott, March 1912

  42. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    Thank you Steve. Turney is very lucky we can sit back and laugh.

    Personally, I would have never sent my 12 y.o. away from any ship we were on in any location without a parent along to be parentally responsible. Were the people he was off with aware they were baby sitting?

    • Jeff Norman
      Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Permalink

      So, they had one functioning Argo and they treat it like a toy.

      “The ride was really bumpy and we were going up and down getting some jumps when at full speed.”

      These people are derranged.

      • Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 9:30 PM | Permalink

        They had three Argos and one on them dipped underwater and subsequently went out-of-commission. Then they were left with two.

        • Jeff Norman
          Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 11:21 PM | Permalink

          Thanks Shub,

          That means this is poorly worded:

          “The offloading of the Argo vehicles was problematic: one of the vehicles got into the water and could not be used. Both the botched offloading and lack of a third vehicle further delayed the day’s activities (see Janet Rice’s facebook entry, cited in several discussions)”

  43. john robertson
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Steve, nice reconstruction.
    I was amused and amazed during this fiasco, by the lack of reporting from the embedded journalists.
    5 media personel on board, exhibition/expedition head Turney face booking like crazy,but professional media updates are very rare once the ship is trapped.
    The term presstitute seems to apply to media people who are so caught up in their cause, that they are unable to report on a drama unfolding in their laps, as it were.
    I mean what a story for a true journalist, accidental irony, pathos,an alien ices cape, even the marooned aspect..way too rich, instead the press offered up that strangely delicious selfie of bunks and band milkshakes.
    In many ways the media coverage is a bigger story here than the frightening incompetence of the organizers..

  44. steven
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 10:42 PM | Permalink

    The DEC. 15th image clearly shows lots of pack ice all around. He could have just as easily been trapped at the huts if the storm had happened then. Makes no sense whatsoever to “pinch” yourself between 2 large masses of pack-ice when your cruising around thru the pack-ice in a boat that is not an icebreaker. Inexcusable that he didn’t try to remove himself from the area knowing a storm was coming and he was actively watching satellite imaging. Surely his ego wanted to “finish” what he came for, the glory of the expedition overrode his sense of responsibility for his charges. It is pathetic to watch him selectively use misleading satellite data to try an cover up his failures.

  45. John F. Hultquist
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 11:14 PM | Permalink

    One of the first things I read about “climate science” [quotes important] – after getting a fast connection to the internet in September of 2008 – was Steve’s paper presented at Ohio State in May of that year. I was astonished, partly because with dial-up, I had not been following all the CAGW controversy, but mostly because of the clarity of the presentation and the seemingly (repeat that, seemingly) easy and humerus manner Steve went about knocking the wheels off the carefully built GW-bandwagon. Many such presentations have followed. This “Ship of Fools” post is equal to the Ohio State paper. Many others have helped in this chronicle. To Steve and all of you – Very Impressive! Thanks.

    I’ll go on record as never having had and do not want to have a peanut butter and banana milkshake.

    • Sera
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

      Are we talking about ‘peanut butter’ and ‘banana milkshakes’, or are we talking about ‘peanut butter and banana’ milkshakes?

      • John F. Hultquist
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:50 AM | Permalink

        A link to the video is posted above: at 1:05 AM by vince winstanley
        reference is just after the 1 minute mark

    • Truthseeker
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:37 AM | Permalink

      John and Sera,

      I can verify from experience that milkshakes containing both peanut butter and bananas are excellent. I first heard about them from Jamie Oliver back in his “Naked Chef” days (it was the food that was naked, not the chef). The banana does have to be very ripe or it does not work as well.

      • Jud
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

        I did actually try to make one of these as a result of this dolt’s video, and they are indeed delicious.
        Try freezing the banana – yum.

        Another personal bonus from this fiasco, beyond the holiday fascination it provided, and now Steve’s top notch piece.

    • Speed
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

      Elvis’ Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich …

      Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread and the mashed banana on the other. Press the slices gently together. Melt the butter (or to be truly Elvis-like, melt bacon fat!), over low heat in a small frying pan. Place the sandwich in the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Eat it with a glass of buttermilk.

      • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

        Presumably buttermilk to keep the fat and calorie content low! 🙂

  46. pat
    Posted Jan 15, 2014 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    LINK for New Zealand Dept. of Conservation’s denial of support for the Expedition.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:32 AM | Permalink

      Another question that would be worth research by Australian readers: Turney asserted on multiple occasions that the expedition was “privately funded”, but they don’t seem to have raised much private sector money (“supporters” are nearly all public agencies) or sold nearly enough tickets to private passengers. So in what sense is it “privately funded”?

      I also wonder whether PhD students paid the same rate as private passengers (or whether they were subsidized somehow?) Would PhD students be able to siphon their grants to pay for their passage? If so, that’s hardly “private funding”.

      • DGH
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 8:43 PM | Permalink

        Using the advertised prices in the brochure I did the math on the sale of those berths and there’s no way it adds up.

        The three Indiegogo appeals by Chris Fogwill all call this a “public funded expedition.”

        Clearly he’s referring to private donations from the general public and income from the passenger berths. On first read I thought otherwise.

        As for the success of the indiegogo appeals it seems there’s still some fundraising to do. I think they’ve secured a couple of thousand dollars from donors on the site.

      • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (Jan 16 01:32),

        One of the expedition’s appeal pages suggests that at least some of the graduate students were recruited as ‘communicators’ rather than researchers:

        Help us to take more students down to Antarctica

        We’ve been overwhelmed by applications to communicate science on our Antarctic expedition! Help us fund more students to strike up a conversation from the south


        Inspired by the efforts of Mawson and his men to communicate their scientific findings to a public hungry to learn more, we recently advertised for 4 PhD positions to join the expedition. Applicants had to send in a two-minute YouTube movie clip to tell us why they wanted to join the expedition and how they would help convey our discoveries to the rest of the world. The response has been overwhelming. The deadline has now passed and 67 applications have been received. We have been blown away by the quality of the films while the range of expertise and nationality is simply fantastic; we have applications from around the world including Australasia, the USA, Chile and Europe, promising a fabulous international mix on board our vessel, the MS Shokalskiy.


        To extend the number of students we can take south with us, we need to cover the costs of two berths on the second leg of the expedition at $16,900 AUD each, totaling some $27,800 AUD.

        Something odd about the arithmetic! Perhaps the expedition already had $6,000 AUD for this purpose, or maybe the students were asked to make a contribution.

  47. chili palmer
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:51 AM | Permalink

    Prof. Turney and two from UK Guardian were broadcast to the world llive on New Years Eve from Times Square while stuck in Antarctic ice. Following is :38 clip.

    At right are CNN hosts in Times Square, on left are Chris Turney and two employees of the UK Guardian, Alok Jha, a science correspondent (right), and Laurence Topham, interactive producer. Longer video (2:41) of their Times Square appearance is here, 1/2/14, “Stranded crew live-tweets Antarctic rescue,”, half way down page. In a tweet Turney says he plans to be in Times Square next New Years Eve.

  48. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:08 AM | Permalink

    When I saw the ABC TV documentaries before the ice moved in, I was struck by some seemingly misdirected assumptions by the expedition personnel. In particular, there was mention of study of effects of climate change in the pre-tour publicity. These days climate change is accepted as a replacement euphemism for global warming. There was also banter about safety, as if it did not need much consideration, but that might not be a correct assumption – it simply seemed that way.
    There was mention of dendrology study on Islands on the way in. One such Island is Macquarie Island, about 54.5 deg S, 158.5 deg E. There are weather records available from Macquarie Island, via Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
    Here is a graph showing how temperature there has been since 1970, including 2013.

    This does not seem to be a place of global warming in the last 40 years.
    Indeed, it is a poor choice for dendroclimatology, because a calibration step requires variation in temperatures and these have not varied significantly.
    What is more, there seems to be some peculiar attitude to places like Macquarie Island. In 2009, I asked the Head of Climate Analysis at the Bureau of Meteorology “Nobody seems to want to tell me why Macquarie Island has been spared the relentless march of Global Warming for 40 years. Or Casey, Davis, Mawson, barely noticeable, some slightly positive, some slightly negative. ” (The latter are bases on the edge of the Antarctic continent administered by Australia).
    This BoM official replied by email that “Macquarie Islands data shows strong warming – about 0.5C in the last 50 years”.
    Note that the Bureau operates the only permanent weather service on the Island.
    One might conclude that the expedition the subject of this thread could be poorly advised that the Antarctic and surrounding islands were viable places to go looking for effects of climate change in the global warming sense. No warming is significant in the temperature records noted.

    As an Australian scientist who has worked for decades in (sometimes) very dangerous conditions, I am appalled by both the lack of scientific rigour and the logistic execution of this joy trip. You can be sure that Parliamentary connections are kept informed, a task just made easier by you, Steve – thank you.

  49. ES
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 2:30 AM | Permalink

    The ice was much thicker when Mawson went back in both 1929-1930 and 1930-1931. He couldn’t get to shore in most places, but was able to get back to his hut.

  50. Peter J Scott
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 2:32 AM | Permalink

    Guess who one of the authors is … the timing is interesting.

    Chris Turney ‏@ProfChrisTurney 1月11日
    New study on sensitivity of East Antarctic ice to ocean warming. Large implications for sea level.


    • tty
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:51 AM | Permalink

      You are right, the timing is remarkable, and so is the paper. A quick scan shows that it is entirely model-based, studiously ignoring all field data on conditions in the Antarctic during the last interglacial. The sea-level estimate is based on two highly questionable papers, one based on creative selection of data and an equally creative use of a Bayesian prior, and the other really on just two (2) data-points, both in the same small area (the Seychelles).
      There are some nice scary graphics showing melting of the Antarctic icecap. See e. g. Fig 5:
      Ice-sheet thickness change (m) predicted from ensemble ice-sheet modelling experiments using PISM. (A) Surface thinning at 1000 model years after isochronous imposition of a 25-m rise in sea level and a glacial to interglacial increase in oceanic heat flux increases; (B) as A, but after 3000 model years; (C) as B but with a 50-m increase in sea level. This figure is available in colour online at” (note the last sentence)
      The only thing wrong with it is that it is physically impossible. A total melt of all glacier ice outside the Antarctic will only cause about a 7 m sea-level rise and a complete melting of the West Antarctic Ice another 7 meters. The rest (about 50-65 meters) is locked up in the East Antarctic. So what these “model experiments” show is what would happen to the East Antarctic Ice if the water equivalent of 20-50% of the East Antarctic ice cap were to materialize out of thin air during an interglacial.
      The paper is here:
      It is open access which is quite unusual for JQS. Somebody paid quite a bit to make those graphics freely available. I think You may have uncovered some of the reason for the “Australian Antarctic Expedition”, note this text at the “Spirit of Mawson” netsite: “Until recently it was thought this ice sheet was stable, sitting on the continental crust above today’s sea level. However there is an increasing body of evidence, including by the AAE members, that have identified parts of the East Antarctic which are highly susceptible to melting and collapse from ocean warming.” (my emphasis)

  51. Stacey
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 3:37 AM | Permalink

    Captain Turkey of the farce Antarcticaantics (sic)

    Belated Happy New Year Mr McIntyre

  52. tty
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 3:57 AM | Permalink

    A few comments on the ship and its crew. While I haven’t sailed on the Shokalskiy I’ve spent several very happy weeks on two sister ships Moltanovskiy and Khromov in arctic and (sub)antarctic waters.
    They aren’t really “passenger ship that have been ice strengthened”. They were built in the early ‘80s as oceanographic research vessels by Värtsilä in Finland for the Soviet Academy of Science. After the Soviet Union collapsed the (now Russian, rather than Soviet, and very cash-strapped) Academy of Science leased them out on long terms to western adventure tourism agencies. They are really quite excellent ships for such ventures, though being quite small they pitch and roll rather badly, and of course they are by no stretch of the imagination icebreakers. They are ice-strengthened (like most Russian ships) but they don’t have icebreaker bows and they have rather weak engines (top speed c. 12 knots I think).
    By the way they haven’t quite given up on science, the crews routinely collect water temperature and salinity data etc, which is sensible since they often operate in waters where very few vessels venture.
    The crews and captains are Russian, and quite experienced, while tour leaders, guides/zodiac operators, cooks and physician are normally provided by the tour operators.
    Normally nobody with any arctic experience would take one of these ships into dense ice. Heritage Expeditions in New Zealand usually does make a run to East Antarctica each year with the Khromov (though they have apparently leased Shokalskiy this year (!)), but they always go late in the season and “in the footsteps of Shackleton and Scott”, i. e. into the Ross Sea, which at this time of the year means almost ice-free waters.
    Incidentally two years ago Heritage Expeditions had to give up on a late summer tour to Wrangels land with the Khromov because of ice, despite 2012 being a year with record ice-melting in the Arctic.

    • AntonyIndia
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

      One would expect a Russian captain and crew to more experienced with sea ice than Australian landlubbers, but a supporter(?) of Turner doesn’t think so: “The problem was the actions (or lack-there-of) of the captain in response to a rapid change in conditions”

      • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

        At least Nature has had the journalistic fortitude to publish this more critical article after the Turney puff piece.

  53. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 3:58 AM | Permalink

    Regarding the Janet Rice blog links, one is missing and the one about the blizzard forecast links to the wrong page of her diary: see this one from Dec 22 which says “There’s a blizzard on the way apparently!”

  54. Geckko
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:35 AM | Permalink

    “which, in an uncanny, almost eerie, coincidence, replicated the circumstances of the original Mawson expedition, which also lacked peanut butter and banana milkshakes.”

    Thanks for the belly laugh!

    • tty
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

      MDS (Milkshake Deficiency Syndrome), the new postmodern form of scurvy.

  55. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:37 AM | Permalink

    There is now a more critical article at Nature, “Polar rescue: science was not well served”.

    Apparently it is paywalled but here are some snippets:
    “Turney said that the “science case” for the voyage was approved by, among others, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). But the AAD had no role in assessing, endorsing or approving the scientific merit of the expedition’s research plans.”
    “The rescue disrupted the science and operations programmes of Australia, China and France, who all diverted their ships at the request of the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre”
    “Critics have questioned Turney’s claims regarding the scientific importance of the voyage.”

    Steve: it’s odd that Turney’s puff wasn’t paywalled, while the response is.

    • tlitb1
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:04 AM | Permalink

      And there is this news article on Nature too which is free for all (I think)

      Researchers question rescued polar expedition

      • Donn Armstrrong
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 10:09 AM | Permalink

        The Nature articles have a certain defender for Turney, Nathan or Nate Drake. He has made more comments than all the others combined and has written what seems like more than twice the number of words as all others.

        I posted a few comments about his constant .use of the “D” word and also posted a link to this blog in which he refers to Steve as a “funded science denialist, and his claims have been debunked by peer-reviewed literature ad nauseam.” He also refers to Steve as “a economist and not a scientist”.

        I also questioned him about his name “Nathan Drake” which is a toy action figure and he claimed it was his own. Richard Tol replied, “Below you write “[Nathan Drake] is my real name”. Above you write you are “an oceanographer with over a decade of experience with shipborne research”. There are no oceanographers called Nathan Drake known to any search engine.” I believe him to be a paid PR hack perhaps hired by Turney or “The Team” to defend their antics.

        Perhaps others can visit the Nature piece to defend Steve’s good name.

      • DGH
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

        This Nathan (aka Nate) Drake fellow has been all over the web with condescension oozing, long winded comments on everything climate. He’s not a fan of Anthony Watts and I have a feeling that Richard Tol won’t be on his Academic of the Year short list.

        I’ll note that among the many things he’s gotten wrong in the Nature threads he claims that Steve is an economist. The error isn’t particularly noteeworthy except for

        a) it’s indicative of his habit of confusing the plot and
        b) he’s rather ignorant of his earlier statements and by this tomorrow I expect he’ll be claiming that he meant economist as a combination of mathematician and geologist.

        Per Bishop Hill, queue popcorn.

        (BTW I have to work and this guy is killing me.)

        • seanbrady
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

          Don and DGH: Re Nathan Drake please see my post down below. I had intended to post it as a reply to your comments but hit the wrong reply button.

    • Coldish
      Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 4:18 AM | Permalink

      Here’s another snippet from Gates’ 278 word letter to Nature:

      “The trip was relatively brief and seemed to involve the collection of routine samples. By contrast, research projects supported by national polar programmes are multi-year, multinational efforts that rely on sophisticated bespoke equipment.
      As a result, Turney’s expedition has sparked yet another poorly informed debate on climate science and has seen issues associated with independent Antarctic tourism get conflated with the conduct of Antarctic science. Science is invariably the loser in such cases.”

  56. fjpickett
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:45 AM | Permalink


    “the captain could have just left them there”

    An if he had, they could have replicated Mawson’s experience exactly! (Mawson got back just too late for his ship and had to stay another year – not surprisingly, he had a tough time.)

    • tty
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:55 AM | Permalink

      He didn’t really have that option. Remember that one of the “scientists” in this particular case was a 12 year old child.

      • RichardLH
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

        And in any case it is rather difficult to eat an Argo!

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

      They were very tough-minded in those days.

      Mawson missed his ship by 5 hours. He had telegraphic communication and telegraphed that he had finally returned. The ship did not turn around but continued its journey. (I presume that it had a telegraph onboard, but do not know this.)

      The ship also had enough time in the season to refuel and rescue Mawson. In his memoir (online), Mawson mentions that he had hoped for this. However, there wasnt enough money for coal to refuel the vessel. They had to do a new round of moneyraising to purchase enough coal to provision the vessel, which therefore didnt leave until the following year.

  57. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:44 AM | Permalink

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, appear to think that ships, even icebreakers, ships carrying tourist, charters, and more, do not often get caught in the Antarctic pack ice. Sadly, the Aurora Australis was stuck earlier in 2013 for three weeks into December which was the major cause the slippage in its schedule. Another example is how in 2009 a tourist ship with 100 on board, a Russian icebreaker, the Kapitan Khlebnikov was caught, hmm, a ship carrying tourists. And, of course, there are examples of charters with mixed loads getting stuck and more.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

      “Aurora Australis was stuck earlier in 2013 for three weeks into December”

      Cite please.

      “Voyage 2/3 of the Aurora Australis departed Hobart at 1400hrs on 11 December 2013 bound for Macquarie Island and Casey stations.”

      I can’t work out how they got caught for ‘three weeks’ and still managed to get there in time to help the AAE.

      • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

        Follow the link. They broke free Dec. 3. Which by the way puts into question the premise of this post that the sea ice was mobile early in December. It may have been breaking up, after all the AA reached Casey in early November, but after that??

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

          You might like to look at the version below which comes from the Aurora Australis web site. I cannot find where you got the 3rd Dec reference from as the AA was only a couple of days from port at that time and the sea ice does not (yet) stretch to Australia!

          V1 Aurora Australis 15-Oct-2013 7-Dec-2013
          V2/3 Aurora Australis 11-Dec-2013 22-Jan-2014

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 2:06 PM | Permalink


          more important is the location where they were stuck and how they got freed.

          Eli throws spitballs.

          “Which by the way puts into question the premise of this post that the sea ice was mobile early in December.”

          Of course, where was the ship in question?

          ‘The ship had left the Davis Research Station on the Antarctic coast on 12th November, but became stuck soon after, about 180 miles off the coast. It finally broke free of the ice on 3rd December.”

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Permalink


          watch the web cam

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

          Steve: I gave a fuller listing from the AA sitrep page below. That shows they were in difficult ice conditions for some 12 days until 29th Nov.

          The 3rd Dec and 3 weeks reference appears to be from some inaccurate newspaper report, possibly on the bottom of the Rabbits hutch!

          I also love the desperation that equates a delayed docking and schedule reorganisation with a rescue.

        • Steven Mosher
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

          thanks Richard.

          I’m refering to Eli’s ‘They broke free Dec. 3. ‘

          clearly wrong. provabably wrong. the bunny gish gallops away

        • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 12:12 AM | Permalink

          Aurora Australis was stuck in ice and delayed for 3 weeks in November:

        • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 12:16 AM | Permalink

          The Aurora Australis was stuck for longer on it’s November trip, than Turney’s ‘Ship of Fools’:

        • Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

          The Aurora Australis was stuck in ice for 3 weeks in October, too:

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 4:00 AM | Permalink

          Newspaper reports are NOT always accurate.

          Please refer to

          to get the details, day but day reports of those on the ship.

          Or watch to see for yourself.

        • zootcadillac
          Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 4:41 AM | Permalink

          Hang on a moment there rodent. You are aware that it’s quite easy to plot where a ship has been right? There are a couple of free trackers out there. You can follow most merchant and pleasure vessels in real time if you want to pay a fee.
          The AA was delayed, for sure, but the last day that ice gave them any hint of trouble was the 28th of Nov. They passed through some drifting ice with ease on the 29th and were in open water for the week following before returning to port on the 7th Dec.

          Your comment that the ship broke free on the 3rd Dec is demonstrably incorrect.

          Do keep up old boy.

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

          Alternatively we can take the Rabbit at his word and worry about how pack ice is so solid at 51° 56.000′ S, 119° 53.000′ E which is where the AA was on that date!

          Only 1215 nautical miles from Hobart!

          That is SOME increase in the observed/deduced pack ice. We should all be very, very worried! Global cooling is happening much faster than expected. Overnight almost.

          Oh you mean the Rabbit was wrong instead? Ah well, nothing new there then.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:06 AM | Permalink

      Oh you meant the previous voyage.

      Wednesday 13-Nov-2013
      We have made good progress at the commencement of our return voyage to Hobart.

      Thursday 14-Nov-2013
      We have made slow progress over the last 24 hours due to pack ice conditions.

      Friday 15-Nov-2013
      We have had the ship in a holding position for the last 30 hours due to heavy ice conditions.

      Intermittent progress with some days of waiting for better conditions until

      Wednesday 27-Nov-2013
      There has been some easing of the ice and we have continued to make progress through leads interspersed with some heavy ice sections.

      Thursday 28-Nov-2013
      We have again made good progress in the last 24 hours although still encountering some heavy ice conditions.

      Friday 29-Nov-2013
      At 1800 local time yesterday we left the pack ice and into open water. We are now well on our way to Hobart.

      27-15 = 12 days of difficult ice conditions is a true statement. Most days some progress was made. Some periods of no progress at all. Hardly ‘stuck for three weeks’.

      • Greg
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

        Don’t forget that was a month and a half before the Christmas Eve fiasco. That kind of delay makes a lot of difference in Antarctica.

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:32 AM | Permalink

          True, but it may have delayed the later voyage slightly, depending on how much ‘port time’ had been allowed for to overcome any difficulties encountered in earlier trips.

          V1 Aurora Australis 15-Oct-2013 7-Dec-2013
          V2/3 Aurora Australis 11-Dec-2013 22-Jan-2014

          I think that Wednesday 25-Dec-2013 to Wednesday 15-Jan-2014 period has had a much greater impact on schedules but Rabbits are often short on logic.

        • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

          What it definitely shows is that a) ice conditions were such that even an icebreaker could get caught for a LONG time at not to much before the AkSh got caught and b) Prof. Dr. Fleming is using the Spirit of Mawson expedition as the primary reason for schedule slippage in the Australian Antarctic program is a beard.

        • Graeme W
          Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

          Eli Rabett, you’re making what could be an unjustified assumption. Do you have any evidence to suggest that the schedule did not have an allowance for heavy sea ice already built in? I would have thought that taking into account probably weather conditions (and in this context, sea ice can be considered to be a weather condition) would be normal practise when scheduling voyages. It would be nonsensical for them to have assumed that they would have smooth sailing all the way.

          So… did the heavy sea ice you mentioned disrupt the schedule, and if so, by how much? That is, given the schedule from before the voyage started, how late was the ship in completing the voyage? Was it late at all?

        • zootcadillac
          Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 6:22 AM | Permalink

          Once again Eli I don’t think that you have given this enough thought, or the efforts you have expended are clouded by your confirmation bias. Icebreakers get delayed all the time by ice. It’s kind of expected. The word ‘icebreaker’ may be confusing you here. They are not all the same and can’t all perform alike.

          Despite Lloyds classing her as a ‘super icebreaker’ the AA is nothing of the sort. Unlike later vessels with hulls designed to ride the ice and crush it with weight whilst azimuth thrusters turn the broken chunks into a nice slushy, the AA is just a brute-force, plough ahead kind. This presents a problem that anything above 3ft will reduce the ship to a dead slow and 4ft is about the maximum. The bow thrusters create turbulence which sends a wake of bubbles and water along the flat of the hull to reduce friction. There is a nozzle at rear to increase thrust but she has no other capabilities than that and her hull strength. This means that polar ice that would be no problem to the Russian icebreaking fleet will slow the AA to 2.5 knots which as a sailor I can tell you is painfully slow. The times I have missed a tide due to lack of wind and made me 12 hours late at berth I can’t tell you.

          The point is you are reading too much into this. The ship may be an icebreaker. It’s not intended to plough through multi-year ice shelves.
          Perhaps also there was no rush to return. It might have suited them to save the fuel rather than battle the ice. They may have been conducting oceanographic research that they were happy to continue. I have no idea not being party to those decisions. The fact is that at no point were they ‘stuck’ in the manner you are trying to imply but merely underwent delays that they probably encounter during every voyage in the same conditions. Comes with the job.

      • RichardLH
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:33 PM | Permalink

        What if definitely shows is that your research capability is more Rabbit like than I had previously noticed.

    • mouruanh
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

      …do not often get caught in the Antarctic pack ice.

      Does that mean you agree with Steve that the ship was trapped by pack ice? Turney says it wasn’t. How many times get ships stuck in Turney’s ‘suddenly outbreaking fast ice’?

    • GaelanClark
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 8:07 AM | Permalink

      Eli, do be the dove and give us some examples of supposedly AAD approved tourist/scientific/family funsail/sciency do-igama-jops expeditions that were trapped in the ice.

      Also, are you standing by Turney’s account?

      • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

        Follow the link for a funny one. Birders:) But there are others, problem is that the recent mouth breathing has polluted the search engine caches so finding them involves digging. If you do, you find that ships getting caught is an endemic issue to Antarctic travel.

  58. John Ritson
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:54 AM | Permalink

    “… we may be looking at the future long-term expansion of fast ice to the east of Commonwealth Bay.” or maybe it will blow away on Wednesday

    Six months ago I couldn’t spell oceanographer and now I are one.

  59. Hector Pascal
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

    A Captain allowed his ship to be pushed towards a lee-shore in a gale while surrounded by pack ice. This isn’t going to look good on his CV when he’s looking for a new job.

    • Hector Pascal
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:11 AM | Permalink

      I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in… I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier.

      So no RT communication between the ship and the partygoers? Captain Igor’s been sold a pup. He’s expecting professionals and he’s got crimate psyentists.

      That won’t save his career.

      • RichardLH
        Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

        Actually I think he is due an award for putting himself and his ship in danger to ‘rescue’ a 12 year old boy from being forced to eat an Argos!

      • Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

        That’s my sense too. There are two things (a) the Argo accident, which put an absolute limit on how fast they could get things moving in the remaining time, which was shortened by the incident itself, and (b) whether the ground team were moving in unison and spirit with full knowledge of the captain’s orders and his sense of urgency.

        • Hector Pascal
          Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 7:08 AM | Permalink

          This one is worth following up. Captain Igor was contracted to put a “science” party ashore. He wouldn’t have detailed knowledge of “the plan” and may have assumed that the partygoers were competent. I can visualise him tearing his hair if it emerged there was no RT communication between the ship partygoers and the shore partygoers.

          Does anyone know if they had walkie talkies? FWIW, in the Oz mining industry it’s a sackable offense to go out of radio contact and/or miss scheduled radio call-ins.

  60. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

    Reblogged this on leclinton and commented:
    Welcome back Steve very nice take down of this farce of lost ice.

  61. Donn Armstrrong
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

    Steve, It’s nice to see you taking on Nathan aka Drake. It was on this Nature article that Drake called you a “funded science denialist” on 1-16 at 1:23 AM.

    I can’t believe he said, “Your “analysis” is quite long, and quite verbose…”. Not only has he continuously repeated himself but has said nealy 3 times as much as you have. This is clearly an example of psychological projection.

  62. ES
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

    The first voyage was three weeks late arriving.

    Aurora Australis back home after delay in icy seas.
    Arrived: 7th December 2013. Due back: It was due to arrive back on November 16 however, thick pack-ice conditions delayed its return.
    Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Tony Fleming said that the ship’s delayed arrival and the recent helicopter crash near Davis station have necessitated changes to subsequent voyages and some research projects.
    “To ensure the Antarctic season can progress with minimal disruption, we have combined the next two voyages into one extended voyage visiting Macquarie Island before continuing on to resupply Casey station.

    They had a helicopter go down on 2 December, so not a good year. For latest news :

    BTW they got stuck in the ice last year also.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

      Careful planning and risk management does NOT appear to be Turney’s strong point however.

      Yes the Antarctic is dangerous and involves inevitable delay to planned programs. 3 weeks of it is now because others such as Turney do NOT plan as well (or at all).

      The AAE planned the change to combine trips 2 and 3 so that the work could be completed on schedule. Turney’s failure to plan has meant even that was thwarted.

  63. don
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    Ship of fools? Possible. How about ship of stoners? I still say those medicinal packs of Bogart This Joint and Mendocino Mellow and assorted similar natural products need to come with Surgeon General warnings about causing drug induced psychotics. They do have a different sense of time and space.

  64. Don Villeneuve
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    The “Nature” article refers to Janet Wilmshurst’s work with peat cores. Can’t find the link I previously saw on the AAE brochure, but would not that work have been part of the earlier and shorter Leg #1? If so, do not believe it is germane to the “hit and run” activities being criticized during Leg #2. The two legs were separate and the tourists were billed accordingly.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 9:37 PM | Permalink

      I’ll post up a Nature article by Wilmshurst (and Turney) on Campbell Island peat cores.

      • Don Villeneuve
        Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:41 PM | Permalink

        Thanks, Steve. If it was Campbell Island, then that is a Leg 1 activity. Leg 1 “science” shouldn’t be used to spruce up the Leg 2 adventure tourism.

  65. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    Google, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Argo ATV sponsored portions of the trip. In fact, Google sent one of their marketing executives on the expedition to Antarctica. The Commonwealth Bank selected a Lisa Baddock to go after soliciting a short text passage on its contest Facebook page from entrants describing how excited they would be to go to Antartica. Interestingly enough, there was no entry from a Lisa Baddock on the page but she was declared a winner. Google conducted a Doodle4Goodle contest where ‘doodles’ were evaluated and the winning entry’s school teacher went on the trip. Chris Turney was a judge on the contest and they selected a teacher, Nicole de Losa to go to Antarctica. Argo ATV Australia, it appears, just gave away two Argo vehicles for use on the trip. The third one was on the only one probably purchased.

  66. Bob Koss
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

    Here is an animation of sea ice concentration Dec 15 to Dec 31 for Antarctica from the AMSR2 satellite. Full size is 1531×1753 file size about 3 meg.

    Some browsers may have to right-click image and open in new tab to view full size.

    • Bob Koss
      Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:18 PM | Permalink

      I inserted the dates for every odd numbered day just above the area where they were icebound.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

      Could you provide a url to get this data?

      Could you also reduce the coverage to just the sector involved and turn it through 180 degrees?

      This would go a long way to suitably inform the coverage that Steve has already provided in the visible bands.

      • Bob Koss
        Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

        Here is where I got the images from.

        Below I have rotated the animation. Cutting it down to just that area of Antarctica would take some time I don’t have right now. Once you have the full size animation on your screen you can use control+ to keep increasing the size in most browsers and then just scroll to the area.
        Here is the animation rotated 180 degrees.

  67. pat
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    Shub Niggurath –

    a NZ teacher too.

    15 Nov: GoogleNZBlog: Deyvi Wilton from Christchurch wins Doodle 4 Google 2013
    This year in a special prize sponsored by ***ASB, the winning schools teacher from Papanui Primary School, Kerrie Stedman will be going on an Antarctic expedition with Professor Chris Turney. You can see more about the expedition and meet some of the wildlife in the following Hangouts On Air series which will air live from the Antarctic islands. Special guests may include sea lions, penguins and the great albatross…
    Posted by Leticia Lentini, Event Marketing Manager, Google Australia, who is giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing a penguin belly flop on the ice.!/2013/11/deyvi-wilton-from-christchurch-wins.html

    ***from Wikipedia: ASB is a bank owned by Commonwealth Bank of Australia

  68. seanbrady
    Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    By the way, the guy named “Nathan Drake” writes exactly like a guy who I once debated on the Discover Magazine, who called himself Bilbo. “Bilbo” claimed that many of the “climate change skeptics” on the blog believed that tobacco had no link to cancer and when I asked him for proof he actually invented a quote (attacking him) by a fictitious skeptic. Google searches proved that the only occurrence of the quote was in in his response to me.

    Similarly, under Turney’s article,”Drake” wrote that “I don’t believe you missed the same groups denial that smoking is bad in exchange for Tobacco money, also now taking oil money to do the same for atmospheric science.”

    Also both of them refer to debating “trolls”:

    “Bilbo”: “Since they’ve descended on this blog to troll.”

    “Nathan”: “I have commented on many threads, with unfortunately many internet trolls”

    The similarity of writing style and the irrelevant hand waving about spectral analysis in his back and forth with Steve on the Nature website made me curious as to whether Bilbo and Nathan Drake are the same person, so I did some googling and found a gamer who entered the “OGame” hall of fame under the name Bilbo Baggins (Nathan.Drake):

    A gaming Blog by Bilbo has only three posts, one of which is a rather extensive biography of someone named MVG with a set of pet peeves that includes the following:

    “I have a seething, visceral dislike for bullies (class, intellectual, sanctimonious, or advocate)”

    “People who can’t accept facts, logical observations, legitimate complaints, or credible evidence because they are losing an argument or they feel the need to legitimize their support for something to relieve the cognitive dissonance they’re feeling after the flaws are pointed out in it”

    MVG also writes that he was in the Navy which may in his mind equate to being “an oceanographer with over a decade of experience with shipborne research”.

    The “connection” may just be a coincidence but maybe someone with better googling skills than me could prove or disprove the connection.

    • Donn Armstrong
      Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 7:54 PM | Permalink


      You show a definite connection. After reading most of his comments I smell PR. In Turney ‘s Jan 6 Nature article Nathan Drake was the first comment in support of Turney and the exhibition as well as the first to comment on the Jan 15 Nature article. Perhaps Turney, the journalists and other scientivists in the pleasure/science cruise are pooling their knowledge make supporting replies on the Nature blog. What else have to do with their time right now? According to Turney’s recent tweets they had just left Casey on Jan 15. I hypnotize that Nathan Drake is more than one person. This appears to be crisis management. It appears more than half the words written by Nathan/Nate Drake. That’s my 2 cents worth. Drake reminds me of a few malpractice defense lawyers I’ve run up against as testifying as an expert witness. They like to gang up on a witness to attack his credibility.

  69. Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 6:31 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Stephen, good ammunition to feed to media types who want to ignore the negligence.

    Not the first passeng ship to get into trouble sighseeing near Antactica nor in the Arctic, but this story is especially crazy. (Negligent Captain of the Clliper Adventurer comes to mind, as well as several cruise ships helped through the NW Passage by the converted icebreaker Kapitan Khlebiknov

    In aviation we had a saying to the effect of “like the sea, flying is unforgiving of errors”. (I supposed in your field the fools lose financially, including those – like the passengers on this ship – who did not “caveat emptor before they bought into the scheme.)

    • Manniac
      Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

      “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, wont drown.”

  70. Mike Seward
    Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 1:30 AM | Permalink

    Great to see you turn the blowtorch onto this clown Turney. While Lewandowsky has taken the debate to some truly weird places with his forms of noodle brained narcissism, the Turney twerp runs a very creditable second the La Lewny for his performance over this debacle. Have a good hard look at this bloke’s web page just to get a good idea of what sort of self obsessed kook they give professorships to these days.

  71. Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 4:53 AM | Permalink

    is it possible that, of the 2 remaining ARGOs, one was being driven by Turney’s 12 year-old son ?
    “We got a full-on drive…………… the most fun I’ve ever had outdoors……the ride was really bumpy and we were going up and down getting SOME JUMPS AT FULL SPEED”
    If not Robbie himself, then someone just as irresponsible.
    In June Turney had said that a minimum of 3 ARGOs were needed. They’d already carelessly ‘flooded’ one.

    • RichardLH
      Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 5:41 AM | Permalink

      I think that the Argo episode is the main crux of this whole ‘adventure’. They, by poor handing and skills on the water, nearly lose one of their on shore transports whilst towing it to shore by Gemini.

      Instead of properly standing back and evaluating the new situation they decide to just continue with the pre-planned trip, but now with only two Argos. This inevitably causes delays and quick, poorly managed, re-planning as described in the blogs.

      It is because of this that the on-shore party is not able to return in time when required to by the Captain. It is because of this that the attempt to reach open water is delayed. It is because of this that they get trapped. It is because of this that they eventually need rescuing.

      This sort of ‘locked in’ syndrome is well understood and taught about in most rescue and front line services. They teach that you need to stand back and keep a eye on the whole situation and not get caught in the ‘we’ll just make it work somehow’ style of leadership.

      Turney’s whole demeanour, his on-line work, his casual attitude to work in the basically dangerous environment that is the Antarctic seems to just scream that he is just the sort of person who creates ‘rescues’ out of ‘problems’. Just as it happened.

      • tty
        Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 5:01 AM | Permalink

        Since there was a blizzard blowing the mishap is not particularly surprising. This class of ship are quite small, and very lively in heavy weather. Even getting into or out of a Zodiac can be tricky.

        • RichardLH
          Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 6:14 AM | Permalink

          The whole concept of using a Zodiac to tow an Argos in Antarctic conditions is one fraught with danger. This probably merits a whole section in itself in any enquiry (if we get one) on the saga.

          The risk assessment undertaken of this method of shore support will be interesting to read.

          One only has to look at how the AA handles this sort of work with crane and proper floating barges to see how it is done professionally rather than ‘on the cheap’.

  72. Jim
    Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    Re: Ph.D. Students

    The expedition constitues a field trip by students. That means that there absolutely has to be a written risk assessment document for the journey. Before any funds from UNSW
    can be expended on the charter there must have been a risk assessment that was approved. The most interesting thing to findout is who signed off on the risk assessment.

    One of the items on the assessment must have covered emergency situations (this is practically mandatory on all Uni field trips). So it would be interesting to find out what the plan was in case of getting trapped by ice. Wonder whether there were any statements about who would pay for rescue for emergency situations? RIsk assessments have to be done for staff students to be covered by insurance.

    Now one issue is the presence of non-UNSW students on the expedition. If they expended one cent of their home uni project allowances on support, then their home uni would need to
    have a risk assessment, even if it is just “refer to UNSW” risk assessments. This would need to be approved by someone.

    The other issue is that for many of the students the trip was tangential to their PhD proposal. So the question arises, why would their home university support a student travelling to such a dangerous place for a junket (“enrichement exercise”). Someone from their home university must have signed off so that the student was covered by insurance in case of mishap. It is possible that the non-UNSW students were formerly on leave from their home insitutues, but is this is the case they absolutely cannot use any of their home institute project allowances.

    For all the FOIA people out there, there will be a mountain of university documentation. I work in a university and have first hand experience of the administrative requirements related to field trips. There will also be a ton of documentation regarding funds used for travel.

  73. ember
    Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM | Permalink

    If it was, mainly, a tourist ship then that would explain why Turney didn’t readily opt to postpone the trip. Yet another bad calculation from a climate scientist. The problem is, these errors are getting riskier and riskier.

  74. Anto
    Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Permalink


    I would love it if you were to apply your forensic skills to the “adjustments” which have been made in the past by NASA to the US temperature records over the years.

    Steven Goddard has documented many of these changes, however he approaches it in a caustic and bit-sized manner. Nevertheless, what he has shown is an astonishing record of cooling the past and warming the present, for what can only be described as spurious reasons.

    It would be fantastic to see a comprehensive assessment of not only the many adjustments which have been made (inevitably cooling the past, but also warming the present – despite UHI considerations), but also to see an analysis of the reasons which they provide for each subsequent adjustment to the record. From what Steven has provided, it appears that the record has been adjusted many, many times since the late 1990’s, and that all of those adjustments have had a net effect of increasing the warming trend.

    Steve: I looked at GISS adjustments some years ago. Goddard’s analysis would have been more insightful if he’d read those posts. Temperature data is very time-consuming; others are interested in the topic; not something that I plan to pick up again in even the medium future.

  75. Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    Great post, Steve!

    This fiasco raises anew the issue of whether adventure tourists (and perhaps even adventure scientists) who get stuck should be liable for the cost of their rescue.

    Question — If this was really an “outbreak of multi-year ice”, shouldn’t it at least last through the current austral summer? Has it already broken up, or is it still there?

  76. Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    My comment of Jan 15 (after your comment about Anthony Watt’s forecast) seems to be still stuck awaiting moderation.

  77. RayG
    Posted Jan 17, 2014 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    I assume that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will conduct an investigation that will not resemble those of Muir-Russell et al. It will be interesting to see clarified whether it was the captain of the Akademik Shokalskiy who declared an emergency and called for help or the seemingly hapless Chris Turney. I have not seen any clear reporting on this. I will wager a pint or two of the Great Lakes Brewing Company’s finest that it was the latter. This was not the first time that the AS had become ice-bound. The same may be said for her sister-ships so this is should not have been reason for the captain to declare an emergency.

    • tty
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 5:04 AM | Permalink

      The way I have heard it he made a PANPAN not a MAYDAY declaration, which seems quite correct under the circumstances.

  78. Brian H
    Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 5:08 AM | Permalink

    @Don Armstrong:

    I hypnotize that Nathan Drake

    Is that a new synonym for “hypothesize”?? LOL

    • Donn Armstrong
      Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

      Brian, that happens a lot when I use my i-phone because of my poor eyesight.

  79. Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    The only real story here is why anyone would spend even 5 minutes attention on this, which is to say it illustrates only what a circus the blog-based climate change discussions are.

    Who gives a damn if a friggin’ ship got stuck in sea ice near Antarctica?

    • Speed
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

      It’s not about “a friggin’ ship [that] got stuck in sea ice near Antarctica.” It’s about “The leader of the expedition, Chris Turney [ who ] claimed that the incident could not have been predicted. [ Who ] said that they were trapped by a sudden “breakout” of multi-year ice (“fast ice”) that had previously been part of the ice shelf and that there was no way that they could have anticipated this.”

      It’s about the truthfulness of Chris Turney.

    • david eisenstadt
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

      and yet, you cared enough to read and comment… interesting.

      • Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Permalink

        Wrong, I didn’t read it, and for the reason I stated.

        • david eisenstadt
          Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Permalink

          yet you read the comments, and reply.

    • TAG
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM | Permalink

      But Jim Bouldin’s circus comment is quite correct in that there are a great many peripheral issues attached to AGW discussions from all sides

      • RichardLH
        Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

        Safety and the risk planning and management is never a peripheral issue. Provided you want to stay out of court cases anyway.

    • John Ritson
      Posted Jan 18, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Permalink


      Steve: please resist the temptation to snipe at other commenters.

    • RomanM
      Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

      Who indeed? It seems that it was important enough for Nature to immediately publish an article on the episode detailing Prof. Turney’s explanation of the cause of the incident:

      As the Shokalskiy attempted to leave, however, we found ourselves surrounded by a mass breakout of multi­year ice. This was a major event, with the vessel surrounded by blocks of sea ice more than three metres thick, apparently arriving from the other side of the Mertz Glacier.

      Had you bothered to read Steve’s post, you might have seen that this rationalization of the events was simply false. The real circus is the apparent necessity for what should be a genuine scientific journal rushing publication of such self-serving misinformation before the party had even left Antarctica.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

        Jim, Roman has picked up an importance nuance – which is related to, but different than most other commentary. Turney’s account in Nature was mendacious on several points that could be readily verified and false (though not necessarily mendacious) on his purported excuse/”explanation” of events. When Nature, as the premier science journal, publishes such disinformation, it warrants comment.

        In addition, Turney is a paleoclimatologist, an area of ongoing interest at Climate Audit. He has been leader/co-leader of the Australian PAGES2K program, one of the products of which was Gergis et al. Thus, I am not taking issue with mendacity by a scientist from an unrelated field, but by a scientist specialising in recent paleoclimate (not to mention also being a Climategate correspondent.)

        • Brian H
          Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

          Do you mean “correspondent” in the same sense used in divorce cases? ;p

        • mpainter
          Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

          Saying that Turney’s account in Nature was “mendacious” in some points is the test of Turney’s sincerity. Will he defend himself here or will he ignore these comments?

      • Ronnie
        Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

        “Never before has a science expedition reached out live to so many people from such a remote location.”

        This claim seems more than a little self important and delusionally wrong by 44+ years and 100x more remote. Did someone forget Neil Armstrong landing on the moon? Or is Mr. Turney another kind of “denier”?

        One other benefit from a rush to print such bs in Nature, is to create “reliable sources” for story construction in Wikipedia.

    • Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Permalink


      I think on a more open minded review you may find that Turney has created the circus on his own. Not only was it a huge waste of money and time, when it went wrong, he found himself in a situation where he felt it necessary to reinvent reality.

      Claiming this blog made it a circus is hardly a fair or even remotely circumspect review.

      • TerryMN
        Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

        It appears The Team has “moved on.”

        • Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 9:58 PM | Permalink

          That’s fine, it was a poorly worded complaint by me anyway. 😀

  80. Streetcred
    Posted Jan 19, 2014 at 3:10 AM | Permalink

    I now read at TomNelson that Ben Santer is fearful of the ‘Mighty McIntyre’. And so he should be.

  81. Michael Lewis
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 3:26 AM | Permalink

    The Australian Academy of Fools (sometimes Scientists) has awarded the

    Frederick White Prize

    Professor Chris Turney 2014 Frederick White Prize – Professor Chris Turney
    School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
    University of New South Wales

    Professor Turney is an internationally recognised earth scientist and research leader in both climate and environmental change, from the tropics to the poles. By pioneering new ways of combining climate models with records of past climate change (spanning from hundreds to thousands of years), he has discovered new links between variability mechanisms in the Australian region and global climate change.

    h/t JoNova

    The particular awarded act of genius appears to be the same one which was hurriedly withdrawn after this blog’s owner reduced it to nothing.

    “August” Bodies, “August” Journals – Fossilized Scientists who live on grants, stipends, fame, who have forgotten how to read, certainly how to question.

  82. Spence_UK
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    Andrew Luck-Baker has an article on the BBC. It seems to be relatively critical of the expedition, including quoting paying passengers who anonymously faulted the leadership, including one who describes the organsiation like a “boys own adventure”.

    However, it uncritically repeats Prof Turney’s claim about fast ice.

    • flyingtigercomics
      Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 11:36 PM | Permalink

      The BBC spin also retitles Turney as a professor of earth sciences (he is a geography graduate btw) as opposed to what he was pre-fiasco which was of course a professor of climate change.

  83. Donn Armstrong
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 4:33 PM | Permalink

    Mr. McIntyre,

    Nathan aka Nate Drake is at it again. Saying:

    “In 2003, McIntyre and McKitrick published a paper in E&E, in which they concluded of Mann et al.’s infamous “Hockey Stick” chart, that it was [quote from their paper] “primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.” Explicit in that claim is the assertion that 1) Mann et al. mishandled data or otherwise had engaged in scientific malpractice be it intentional or through incompetence.”….”Now, prior to the response, McIntyre was sponsored by noted Oil lobby funded organizations to present to Congress (organizations including the George C. Marshall Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute).”….“However M&M made strong claims about scientific malpractice and claimed to show Mann et al.s results to be non-reproducible.” and much more.

    I’ve challenged him to come here and defend his fallacious claims but it appears he lacks the gonads.

  84. Streetcred
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    Love this: Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 2014

    About 2.30pm the weather deteriorated. At the same time Captain Kiselev saw slabs of sea ice moving into the open water channel from which the ship had entered the area. He called for everyone to return.

    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.

    Professor Turney, Dr Fogwill and Mr Mortimer all declined to answer questions about the events of December 23.

    • Bob Koss
      Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Permalink

      The interactive link imbedded in the above smh article is more extensive and contains this quoted section.

      At 12.30pm the first rotation of passengers set off for the Hodgeman Islands. They reported a smooth journey and some passengers set off to explore the nearby Adelie penguin rookery.

      “Despite the wind and the extreme cold, the scenery on the journey was spectacular – it seemed unreal, as though we were on a movie set,” said a passenger.

      Each driver and staff member had a VHF radio. Both Turney and Fogwill carried satellite phones.

      At 2.30pm when Mortimer saw the fuzz on the horizon and the captain warned of sea ice moving in behind the ship, the voyage leader used the ship’s VHF radio to tell those with handheld VHF radios to move people back to the ship.

      People at the Islands would later report they did not hear the message on their handhelds, which have a range of about five nautical miles.

      Calls to both the satellite phones, which have a global range, went unanswered. There were 15 people at the islands including six staff, either drivers or field leaders.

      At 3pm an Argo carrying four people returned to the ice edge.

      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.

      At 3.30pm the second Argo, this time with only a driver, was sent to evacuate the remaining passengers.

      While Mortimer’s report said the plan was for passengers to remain nearby the Islands and be closely supervised, several passengers said they were not aware of this request.

      One passenger’s written account of the day said: “Unknown to the passengers, the captain sent out a message that he was concerned and wanted everyone back on the ship as the weather was turning and he was worried about the ice coming in.

      “Was it a communication problem or the optimism of those in charge?” Whatever the justification, one more load of passengers was taken out to the rookery, they said.

      It seems Turney has been caught disregarding orders to return to the ship immediately. That passenger overhearing Turney acknowledge receiving the message to return appears damning.

      Steve: thanks for this. added to new post

  85. Don Villeneuve
    Posted Jan 21, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    Earlier in this thread I made a tongue in cheek comment about the title of a possible book on this adventure. After reading the latest information, it is apparent the supposed leaders were risking lives needlessly. A tourist falling into the water; four members preparing to be abandoned? It was excellent luck, a small miracle, providence, skilled rescuers, or all the above, that allows a book to have a relatively happy ending. Take away one of those elements listed above, and Jon Krakauer has the basis for another adventure tragedy.

  86. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

    Turney has now returned to Tasmania, where he purported to link the incident to climate soft-porn talk of extremes, proclaiming that the blizzard was an “extreme event”

    Professor Turney said the expedition had not taken unnecessary risks.
    “It was an extreme event and it caught us,” he said.

    • HaroldW
      Posted Jan 22, 2014 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

      That quotation is not from your link. It may be found, among other places, here.

      In the article which you link to, Turney is quoted as saying, “It looks like it was fast ice attached to the continent on the other side of the Mertz glacier and, for whatever reason, it was broken up and with strong southeasterly winds, chunks of ice were driven across our path. It was one of those events which happens occasionally (and with little warning). We were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    • tty
      Posted Jan 23, 2014 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

      Note that Mawson’s book on the 1911-13 expedition is titled “The home of the Blizzard”.

    • Ian Blanchard
      Posted Jan 23, 2014 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

      Did I just read that correctly – a blizard in Antarctica is now considered an ‘extreme’ event?

      Glad I wasn’t on any expedition run by Prof Turney…

  87. Posted Mar 23, 2014 at 2:45 AM | Permalink

    The BBC seems somewhat delicate in the treatment of its friends this morning:

    John Young of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa), which is overseeing the search, said in a news conference that China “clearly has an intense interest in this operation”.

    He said as well as the two planes, China was also sending its polar research ship Xue Long, which was last involved in a major incident when it helped free a Russian ship from Antarctic ice in January.

    The current major incident is the search for wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 which had 154 unfortunate Chinese people on board. Getting oneself stuck in ice freeing not the Russian ship (which I for one heard nothing more about, nor the Xue Long, until now) but the feted passengers, their expedition leader and assorted climate experts, is clearly too awkward a matter to be noted here. Those passengers and their purposes have disappeared in terms of the vessel that rescued them. Gratitude only goes so far.

18 Trackbacks

  1. […] […]

  2. […] Ship of Fools « Climate Audit. […]

  3. […] […]

  4. […] […]

  5. […] worse than accusing a scientist that “science was not well served” by his efforts!! Climate Audit has a good account of the follies of the Ship of […]

  6. By The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 3539 on Jan 16, 2014 at 4:33 AM

    […] […]

  7. […] full article can be seen at Climate Audit. But Steve’s conclusions sum up the situation […]

  8. […] that the appearance of the ice was quite unexpected, while climate sceptical commentary, say at Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit site, argues otherwise, I would support Turney’s version of the ice appearance, that it appeared […]

  9. By El barco de los tontos [ENG] on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    […] El barco de los tontos [ENG] […]

  10. […] Influential climate sceptic Steve McIntyre is puzzled by the excuses given by warmist professor Chris Turney for having his Ship of Fools get stuck in Antarctic ice: […]

  11. […] The impending return of Prophet Professor of Climate Change, Chris Turney, the other astroscientists, media shills, and tourists of the ‘Ship of Fools’ merits a look at the comedy timeline, audited by a stickler for accuracy Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit. It makes fascinating reading: Ship of Fools […]

  12. […] including where the data contradicts the claims made by the lead researcher.  See Steve’s post Ship of Fools.  Recall also that climate models simulate that sea ice should be decreasing in the Southern […]

  13. […] including where the data contradicts the claims made by the lead researcher. See Steve’s post Ship of Fools. Recall also that climate models simulate that sea ice should be decreasing in the Southern Ocean, […]

  14. […] Another mediocre marketeer is the Ice Follies “star”, Chris Turney. His attempt to make a name for himself (and market his book and his business) has led him down a path that has been well-traversed by Mann: it’s called “make stuff up as you go along”, as Steve McIntyre recently documented. […]

  15. […] […]

  16. […] « Ship of Fools […]

  17. […] 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 […]

  18. […] renewable subsidies amidst rocketing energy costs, plummeting economies and massive job losses. Global warming Prof Turney disobeys his captain and gets his enviro-tourists and Media stuck in record high Antarctic ice […]

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