Russian Ship Carrying 700 Tons Of Gold Ore Goes Missing

A Russian cargo ship carrying more than 700 tons of gold ore has gone missing off the country’s Pacific Coast after sending a distress call a few days back. The ship, which is named “Amurskaya,” had a crew of nine aboard at the time and was headed for the island of Feklistov in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The cargo vessel was contracted by a mining company called Polymetal to ship its cargo to a processing plant where it could be refined into gold. It had departed the port of Kiran and was making a routine run to Feklistov Island when apparently it encountered stormy weather. Emergency response teams picked up the distress signal from an automated beacon, but lost contact with the crew when the ship lost power. Since then, search and rescue teams have been combing the area, but continued poor weather has complicated those efforts.

As for the value of all of that gold ore, gold actually only makes up a small fraction of the material in the ore, with rock and other minerals being much more abundant. In order to extract the precious metal, the ore must first go through a refining process. As a result, 700 tons of gold ore sounds like it would be worth a lot more than it actually is. Bloomberg Business estimates that this shipment was worth about $800,000 and that its loss won’t have a substantial impact on Polymetal’s bottom line.

Polymetal hasn’t released their own estimate of the value of the ore, although they have said the responsibility for the cargo lies with the shipping company. In short, that means the owners of the missing freighter will likely have to reimburse them for the loss.

I’m not sure if insurance will cover something like this, as the storm probably activates their “Act of God” clauses.

[Photo credit: Heb via WikiMedia]

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]

Photo: Strange Clouds Over Sea of Okhotsk

The nice folks over at Pink Tentacle rustled up this photo of a strange cumulus formation called “cloud street” found over the Sea of Okhotsk. The picture was snapped from a Japanese Coast Guard aircraft on June 18. According to Pink Tentacle, the “low-altitude stratocumulus clouds were rolled into long, distinctive ribbons after becoming trapped in air currents.” Very surreal.

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