Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute arrived in Nome to help evaluate the sea ice in advance of the arrival of Nome Energy Support Mission.
An Aeryon Scout, a four-propeller unmanned aerial vehicle, used to survey the sea ice around Nome's harbor, is owned by BP.
Associated Press reports the drone did discover "a 25-foot ice pressure ridge at the entrance to the harbor. The top of the ridge sits just a few feet above the frozen surface but the rest extends well down into the ocean, said Andy Mahoney of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute.
"The ridge is too big for the tanker to get past but it shouldn't prevent the 370-foot tanker from delivering 1.3 million gallons of much-needed fuel to Nome. The tanker is equipped with a hose more than a mile long for offloading."
Stacey Smith, project manager for Vitus Marine, LLC, the company that chartered the T/V Renda on behalf of Sitnasuak Native Corporation, to deliver an emergency fuel supply to Nome, Alaska, reported in the Alaska Dispatch, the Icebreaker Healy and T/V Renda suffered a net loss of mileage Tuesday night, following a miserly advance of 50 feet during the day.
"The wind, current, and ice pressure remain a constant challenge and the vessels actually lost 4-5 miles of ground drifting south with the ice pack last night [Tuesday.] The vessels are just 100 miles south of Nome.
Today [Wednesday][was] a “Logistics Day” and Healy is not as focused on icebreaking, rather on safely deploying their on-board helicopter. The helicopter arrived into Nome about 12:30 p.m. and will be taking a consultant for Vitus Marine out to Healy and perhaps over to Renda.
Meanwhile in Nome, preparations are well underway reconnoitering offshore positioning of the tanker when she arrives. Using data gathered by the drone aircraft, and test bores of ice thickness, a proposed site to "park" the tanker has been established about 7/10th of a mile off shore.
The safety zone will be implemented during the transfer of fuel from the tanker Renda to industry storage tanks. The Renda will be positioned close to the beach, but in deep enough water that the Healy will be able to dig her out once the transfer of petroleum is complete.
Lt. Nicole Auth issued the following statement:
“We are extremely concerned that the icebreaking vessels offshore may cause fractures in shore fast ice near shore which could potentially pose a serious safety risk to anyone who may be on the ice. We strongly encourage residents to remain on shore and avoid transiting on the ice as the ships transit in and out of the shore fast ice until the ice has time to re-freeze.
"Throughout the duration of the transfer operations, persons and vehicles will be restricted from areas 50 yards around fuel delivery hoses and 100 yards from the tanker Renda per an established Coast Guard safety zone.
"These areas will be marked with wooden survey stakes and surveyors tape. In addition, the fuel transfer hose will be lit during hours of darkness.
"The best place to view the operations will be from the uplands near Middle Beach along the south side of the Small Boat Harbor. Coast Guard personnel monitoring the safety zone will be available in a vehicle at that location to answer any questions."
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy makes relief cuts in the ice around the Russian-flagged tanker Renda 97 miles south of Nome on January 20th. "Relief cuts" relieve pressure on T/V Renda, by creating space for ice to migrate.