The Renda is on its way to Nome. The tanker departed Dutch Harbor Wednesday morning at 9:50 with the icebreaker Healy close behind. They are now steaming north through 380 miles of open water before hitting the ice edge. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow says the vessels will be near each other for the open water transit, cruising at up to 10 to 12 knots.
Wadlow says the vessels will have 340 miles of ice to plow though. The fuel could arrive in Nome sometime around Sunday, depending on the progress through the ice. Vitus Marine CEO Mark Smith says his team is putting their efforts towards the final delivery in Nome.
What happens at port however, is still not finalized. The ice conditions for the final stretch and a ruling by the Department of Environmental Conservation will determine the details of offloading fuel.
Five days before the anticipated delivery, researchers from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks were drilling ice cores to get a better understanding of ice conditions. Assistant Research Professor Andy Mahoney said his priority was assessing a pressure ridge that formed at the very end of the breakers, at the entrance to the harbor. Above the surface it’s 5 feet high, but below the surface it extends further down.
Ice stability is crucial as delivery plans could include offloading fuel with the tanker moored outside the harbor with hosing running across the ice.
Ice cores taken by the team will be melted and tested for salinity. By knowing the composition of the ice, officials will be able to determine the best course of action and equipment for unloading the fuel from the Renda into Nome’s tanks.
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