Adrian Flanagan praises team for saving expedition with minutes to spare 26/9/07

Once Adrian Flanagan and his team realised that the sea-ice East of the Taymyr peninsular had no intention of yielding, they were faced with the unwelcoming prospect of seeking a fast alternative, or risk abandoningBarrabasand the entire expedition altogether.

The favoured option was to have Adrian’s boat transported through the ice onboard one of the ice-breaker ships bound for Murmansk. Once there he could continue under sail to the UK – successfully completing his vertical circumnavigation. Unfortunately for the Alpha Globex Team, this was to prove no easy task:

“As this option [to be transported] was being considered, the important aspect of price was quickly addressed and a figure duly quoted from an experienced officer of the Murmansk Shipping Company, operators of the ice-breaker fleet in the western Arctic. It was one such vessel – theKapitan Danilkin(above) – then eastbound towards Tiksi and the last ship scheduled to make the passage westbound back to Murmansk, that was suggested as the transport. Based on the quote – steep but under the circumstances one that merited serious consideration – [we] accepted.

“I sailed to Tiksi, made a radio rendez-vous with the ship and entered port. During the ten days that I have been in Tiksi the main concern has been in obtaining requisite clearances from the border control authorities, a branch of the military. Concern because there seemed real doubts as to whether clearances would be provided in time to meet the sailing schedule of the ship, slated for Wednesday 26 September. After days of increasingly frantic communications?permissions finally arrived at lunchtime Tuesday 25 September. The biggest hurdle seemed to be passed. The day gets worse.

“Earlier, during one of many radio contacts between myself and?theKapitan Danilkin[I was put] on stand-by from 1700 to proceed to the ship for loading?.I settled down to wait. At the appointed hour, the radio crackled. I was being stood down. It seemed inexplicable.

“The port authorities were refusing to provide two sea containers?to use as bulwarks to supportBarrabas. The reason was explained. Murmansk Shipping Company had not sent the requisite instruction to the Tiksi port authority because the company was not yet in receipt of the agreement, sent yesterday covering the transport of the yacht. I called Louise. Her signature was missing because the originally quoted price had mushroomed to an amount now more than five times the original.

“I was immediately faced with the prospect of having to abandonBarrabasin Tiksi, unable as I am to return next year and it being too late now to sail east back to Alaska?This, for the Alpha Global Expedition was a crisis. I radioed the ship, explained the situation and they agreed to stand-by until 2300 local time, six hours in other words?Why, if the price was so radically inflated from the original quote had it only been made known to us hours before the ship was due to sail?

“Louise and John Mann in Moscow, brilliant both, set to work. Calls were made, opinions exchanged, history revisited, decisions recalled, negotiations conducted and finally agreements reached, contracts written, exchanged, signed and returned?At five minutes to eleven, Louise called with the outcome. The price had been cut by 60% but was still double the original quote. This was a face-saving compromise, a big pill to swallow but not so big it would stick in my craw. At two minutes to eleven as the deadline beckoned only 120 seconds away I radioed the ship to tell the Chief Mate we had an agreement.

“I am back on stand-by for loading.”