Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why The Weather Had The Final Say.

Since arriving back home to Larne in Northern Ireland, Norman has been kept busy doing the rounds of Newspaper, TV and radio interviews. The mass of support for Norman’s adventure has been wonderful and he has been able to recount his journey so far and answer most questions during these interviews for the public to read or hear. But there is one question that is regularly asked and is apparently easily answered…’Why did you decide to put the journey on hold?’

The easy answer is because of the worsening weather in North East Russia and the Bering Sea.
But obviously this doesn’t really convey how seriously Norman considered this aspect of his flight and why it was paramount in his final decision.

Norman has flown in bad weather already; skirting large storms and dog-legging around the worst of what nature can throw up. But this was a walk in the park compared to what he would have had to face the further North he flew. For most of us who live in temperate climates it’s hard to imagine what extreme weather can be like and a quick glimpse of an atlas will show that North East Russia is quite green with only a small bit of blue water to cross into Alaska. But the reality is quite different.

Therefore, Norman has decided that the best way to show why he decided to not risk continuing into this area until next spring would be to use quotes and links from various sites that are experts on this region.

The Chukotka Region

The Chukotka region is the peninsular in the far north-east of Russia and is the most easterly point of Asia before crossing the Bering Sea to North America. It is renowned for its extreme weather and here are some quotes from the Chukotka website…

‘Climate of Chukotka is very inclement. Local old-timers say that one month in a year they have bad weather, two months – very bad and the rest nice – nasty weather.
In the winter air temperature in western continental parts of Chukotka often goes down as much as 44-60 degrees Celsius below zero. Strong winds blow in the eastern parts and snow storms can sometimes last for many days. Summer is very short, rainy and cold, in certain places the snow stays on the ground unmelted. Permafrost lies in the upper layers of soil and can be found anywhere in the country.’

It can be seen from this that even a summer flight across this region won’t be a joyride.
A valley in North Eastern Chukotka in summertime.
‘Average year air temperature in Chukotka is below zero in all parts of the region: from 4.1 C (Navarin Cape) to -14 C over the East-Siberian Sea Coast (a/k/a Raucha). However, the climate becomes more continental to the West of the most distant Eastern point, the so-called "Chukotka wedge", and although the area of the region is not significant its average temperatures vary greatly: in July from +4 С to +14 С and in January from -18 С to -42 С.’

And from the website ‘Angus Adventures’…

‘Winter in Chukotka is the most extreme in the planet. It is much, much colder than Alaska due to the fact that the prevailing weather comes from the west and chills as it moves across the largest landmass in the world. In central Chukotka temperatures hover around -50 for long periods through the winter.
It is the winds accompanying these extreme temperatures that really make the weather abysmal. The location of Chukotka between the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific creates unique metrological conditions, and frequently winds from 50-100 km/hr blast across the peninsula. Wind chill temperature is often below -100. The lack of vegetation trees and blowing snow means that whiteout conditions are very frequent.’

From this you can see that just the temperatures alone make Norman’s decision to delay the flight the safest decision.

The Bering Sea

From Russia to Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait, is only 85 km. Not that far you may think for Norman and ‘Roxy’ to traverse but as has been the case for most of the journey so far, things are not that easy when flying around the world. The rules say that you must leave Russia from a Departure/entry Airport and arrive at one in Alaska. This makes the crossing nearer to 200km and that is over one of the roughest and most dangerous stretches of water in the world, especially in the winter.

The Bering Sea coastline in Summer
 If you want to find out more about this challenging region and take a longer look at the sea crossing check out the following websites from which the passages posted here are gratefully reproduced.

It is hoped that these articles convey just how dangerous an autumn/winter crossing would have been for Norman and why he made the tough decision to put the flight on hold until the spring…

And Norman’s favourite quote about the region?

‘Snowfall can break out at any time during summer.’

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The Gyrox Team

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  1. Many thanks for sharing that information. It has certainly conveyed how dangerous the journey would have been if Norman had continued to fly now and how sensible the decision was to postpone this leg of the journey until spring next year.
    A wind chill temperature of -100 degrees Celsius is very hard to comprehend but I should imagine that flying in those kinds of temperature would be extremely hazardous.
    Enjoy your winter, Norman, in more temperate climes.

  2. Some great information on the blog about the region and it certainly shows that you made the right decision...otherwise we would have been calling you Frosty the Snowman before you got to Alaska! It gives you shivers just reading about it...Good decision Norman...enjoy that wonderful scenery next year when it is more accesible.

  3. When you were in the Philippines I watched a series on TV, the Deadliest Catch.
    The men fishing the waters off Alaska and the Bering Sea endured horrific weather.

    My thoughts were how could you possibly cross this most dangerous piece of water, with autumn and winter approaching and the unbelievable low temperatures which are the norm for this region.

    Your news that you had made a very wise decision to call "half time" on your epic journey, came as a great relief to me personally.