Nome is Freezing, at least we still have ONE icebreaker left!
The small town of Nome Alaska is at the mercy of severe winter. Apparently it was avoidable. They are out of gas and the nearest station is more than 700-miles away. With no roads connecting it to the interior, air resupply impractical, and the ocean frozen solid since October, its time to call in the icebreakers
I mean icebreaker…..We only have one and its been deployed around the world for the past eight months. In fact, it should be in the yard right now getting repaired to go to Antarctica in March….but we cant spare it.
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Russian tanker Renda in the frozen Bering Sea.
Benjamin Nocerini/U.S. Coast Guard, via Associated Press
The Russian tanker Renda is slogging through ice behind the Healy, a Coast Guard icebreaker.
Parents still read books to their children about what happened next: Balto, Togo, Fritz and dozens more sled dogs sprinted through subzero temperatures across 674 miles of sea ice and tundra in what became known as the Great Race of Mercy. The medicine made it, Nome was saved and the Siberian huskies became American heroes.
Eighty-seven years later, Nome is again locked in a dark and frigid winter — a record cold spell has pushed temperatures to minus 40 degrees, cracked hotel pipes and even reduced turnout at the Mighty Musk Oxen’s pickup hockey games. And now another historic rescue effort is under way across the frozen sea.
Yet while the dogs needed only five and a half days, Renda the Russian tanker has been en route for nearly a month — and it is unclear whether she will ever arrive. The tanker is slogging through sea ice behind a Coast Guard icebreaker, trying to bring not medicine but another commodity increasingly precious in remote parts of Alaska: fuel, 1.3 million gallons of emergency gasoline and diesel to heat snow-cloaked homes and power the growing number of trucks, sport utility vehicles and snow machines that have long since replaced dogsleds.
For the moment, this latest tale appears less likely to produce a warm children’s book than an embarrassing memo, and maybe a few lawsuits, about how it all could have been avoided.
“People need to get fired over this,” said David Tunley, one of the few Musk Oxen at the outdoor rink on an evening when the temperature was minus 23. “The litigation of whose fault it is will probably go on forever.”
How Nome ended up short on fuel this winter is a complicated issue unto itself, but trying to get the Renda here to help has become a sub-Arctic odyssey — and perhaps a clunky practice run for a future in which climate change and commercial interests make shipping through Arctic routes more common.
“There is a lot of good knowledge that is coming out of this,” said Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo, the officer in charge of the Coast Guard in Alaska.
Coast Guard mission to Nome exposes U.S. limits in ice-breaking capability
In what may be the furthest thing from a pleasure cruise, the U.S. Coast Guard’s only operating Arctic icebreaker is escorting a Russian-flagged tanker this week on an emergency fuel run to the ice-blocked town of Nome, Alaska.
The mission: Deliver 1.1 million gallons of diesel fuel and 300,000 gallons of gasoline to Nome (population 3,598), where storms prevented a fuel shipment in the fall.
Midweek, the two ships left Dutch Harbor, in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Friday, the ships are expected to encounter the ice, and USCG Cutter Healy will take the lead, plowing a 300-mile-long path for the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.