Passage

Sunrise aboard the Sheila Yeates as it heads to Greenland. ©2015 Nathaniel Wilson.

 Nat Wilson

Greenland Command recommended sailing that course to 41° West Longitude to avoid ice and then to set their course east towards Iceland.

Crew Photo of the Sheila Yeates, 1989. Left to Right back row: Rob Schliz, Geoff Pope, Rick Palm, Klaus Trieselmann, Nat Wilson.  Front row:  David Steer, Mike Metzmaker.  Crew photo by Óli Lindenskov.

Entry in Sheila Yeates ship's log as they leave Duluth, Minnesota.
Sunrise on the Labrador Sea as the Sheila Yeates heads east towards Greenland. Photo ©2015 Nathaniel Wilson.
On the Bowsprit of the Sheila Yeates. Photo ©2015 Nat WIlson.
Ice berg on the Labrador Sea. Photo ©2015 Nat WIlson

Photos by Nat Wilson

Log of Sheila Yeates July 12, 1989 as it veers from the Greenland ice pack. Photo ©2015 Richard Olsenius
  • Nat Wilson experiences an iceberg rolling over    

The crossing began in the golden glow of the low arctic summer sun, which in high latitudes barely dips below the horizon.  Sea conditions were ideal and winds were slight. Daylight brought fair skies and westerly winds that drove the Sheila Yeates east towards Greenland. It was an exhilarating sail as her graceful bowsprit rose to meet the crest of each wave and then momentarily dipped in its trough as she rode the swells rhythmically, like she was designed to do. The ocean and occasional icebergs glistened in the sun and spirits ran high.  At one point the Sheila Yeates was a mile from an iceberg that began to calve. The crew watched in fascination for nearly an hour, amazed at the power of these massive, mountains of ice. With light lasting well into the evening hours, the days seemed to last longer. Some nights it was 2100 hours before the crew realized they hadn’t eaten dinner.

 

Geoff communicated regularly with Greenland Command as the Sheila Yeates crossed the Labrador Sea to Frederiksdal.  Technically named, Island Command Greenland, it is the agency that oversees maritime sovereignty and search and rescue operations.

 

The Labrador Sea is an arm of the North Atlantic situated between the east coast of Labrador and the west coast of Greenland. It connects to the waters of Baffin Bay through the Davis Straight, a major highway for icebergs that have calved off the tidewater glaciers of West Greenland and are carried by the Labrador Current southward to Newfoundland. The icebergs, some as large as city blocks, make for treacherous waters.

 

Although summer was the best time for a crossing, strong currents from both the East and West Greenland ice fields move densely packed floes of sea ice across northern ocean waters. Along the eastern side of Greenland, the East Greenland Current flows in a southerly direction moving large quantities of polar ice along with it. The current eventually moves ice north along the western coast of Greenland, providing additional danger to shipping.

 

Sailing near the sea ice along the coast of Greenland allows little room for error.  One wrong move or miscalculation can lead to a spiral effect, where there is little chance for recovery.

As the Sheila Yeates neared Frederiksdal on the southwest corner of Greenland the crew could see an ice sheet extending nearly 50 miles from shore. Geoff radioed Greenland Command. He was told the Prinz Christian Sund Passage was impassable. There would be no transiting the Passage on the way to Iceland.  Greenland Command asked Geoff’s course and he told them they were sailing 100° true. Greenland Command recommended sailing that course to 41° West Longitude to avoid ice and then to set their course east towards Iceland.  In the meantime, they suggested that the Sheila Yeates check in with them on an hourly basis.

Log of Sheila Yeates July 12, 1989.

The Sheila Yeates has it's first encounter with the Greenland Ice collecting off the southern tip of Greenland. Photo ©2015 Rick Palm

Under sunny skies and calm seas, the Sheila Yeates encounters a line of sea ice near the southern coast of Greenland.

Photo by Rick Palm

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