Ships, sailors trapped by ice in the Sea of Okhotsk

Multiple ships have become trapped in the thick winter ice in the Sea of Okhotsk, located off the east coast of Russia‘s Siberia, stranding more than 500 sailors in incredibly cold conditions. Reports indicate that some of the ships have been stuck there since last Friday with temperatures hovering around -10 degrees Fahrenheit, while they await rescue.

Yesterday, a Russian icebreaker was dispatched to clear a route for the iced-in vessels, but it was making very slow progress against the ice that is reportedly over a foot in thick in some areas. High winds, at times in excess of 65 mph, and heavy snow in the region also conspired to impeded the progress of the rescue ship.

There are conflicting reports as to the number of vessels that are actually stranded in the ice. Last week, the BBC reported that ten ships and 600 sailors were locked in the frozen waters, while yesterday the Washington Post claimed there were half that many vessels, carrying approximately 500 crew, awaiting rescue. The three ships stuck since last Friday include a fishing boat, a science vessel, and a refrigerated cargo freighter.

Russian authorities say that there is no immediate threat to the ships or their crews. They all have plenty of food, fuel, and water to get by while they wait for their exit to be created, and with any luck, they should be on their way sometime today. A second icebreaker is now in the Sea and will help to expedite that process.

I can’t imagine how quickly the conditions must have changed in order for these ships to become trapped like this. Thankfully they’ll all be freed soon, as the prospects of waiting until a spring thaw before they can get underway seems like a brutal proposition. You know that somewhere, deep below the decks of those ships, there are a few sailors wondering what ever became of that whole global warming thing.

[Photo credit: Wofratz via WikiMedia]