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the Degree Confluence Project
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Svalbard

28.6 km (17.8 miles) NNW of Ivorytoppen (Peak), Svalbard
Approx. altitude: 1 m (3 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 80°S 164°W

Accuracy: 1.4 km (1476 yd)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: The GPS in our closest point to the confluence #3: View to the East of the confluence #4: View to the South of the confluence and toward the confluence itself #5: View to the West from the confluence #6: View to the North from the confluence #7: With the spinnaker up, sailing along the 80N #8: Walruses chilling out in Moffen, a few miles away from the confluence

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  80°N 16°E (incomplete) 

#1: General view of the confluence

(visited by Salvatore Mele, Peter Gallinelli and Imram)

14-Aug-2004 -- The Imram is a 12.50m aluminum sailboat and the prototype of a new series: the Integral . She has been designed to sail fast and safely in the unforgiving arctic waters, and her maiden voyage brought her from France to the uncharted waters of Greenland in 2003 and to remote Svalbard islands in 2004. These islands, located as much North as you can get without an icebreaker (although you do need a special sturdy vessel to make it there and around) are a unique arctic environment for mountaineering in the wilderness, wildlife sighting, arctic sailing and of course confluence visiting: indeed, so northerly a place hosts many of those magic round-number intersections.

A boat is a fantastic tools to visit confluences, in an environment-friendly manner, giving access to confluences at sea, in places ofter unreachable with any other transport. Among others, our target for this trip was to be the first visitors of confluences on the 80th parallel, and 80N16E was perfectly located along our planned route around the islands.

August 14th 2004 was a remarkably sunny day over the 80N, the climate was almost Mediterranean, the light magic and the mood on board the boat was great, with the crew recovering from the sudden cold, the harsh wind, the strong current and tricky ice conditions which we had met over the traverse of little-visited Hinlopen strait. We had just experienced a strong 6 Bf wind, during our route to the West during the nightless night, and by 0700 UTC this had calmed to a gentle 2 Bf while in view of our confluence.

Strengthened by previous experiences at 43N10E, 69N16E, 70E20N, we knew that the only way to stop a 10-ton boat loaded with scores of survival and climbing paraphernalia right on a confluence was not to try to! We would have to approach the confluence point while moving South on the 16E and eventually crossed the 80N at a sufficient speed to move the boat through the point.

Things started to look tricky when the Norwegian nautical chart proved to be accurate (what had not been always the case over our travel in the little-surveyed regions of remote North East Svalbard) in representing 80N16E pretty close to the coast. We lowered our foresail, blocked the mainsail in the middle of the boat, and eventually lowered it as well, and started motoring. It became clear that the confluence was in an uncharted region close, very close, too close, way too close to the coast, where we could hit a rock at any moment (Picture #1). A look at the GPS (Picture #2) confirmed we were on the 16E, but at 80.7N... still some way to go to the confluence... but there was no way to proceed any further without putting the boat and the crew in big risk. We evaluated the possibility of launching our zodiac or our kayak to reach the place, but the risk of a sudden surge in wind coupled to the impossibility of mooring the boat made us abandon this plan as well: this is unforgiving arctic territory, and things can turn very unwelcoming very fast, notwithstanding the nice sunny day and the mild climate of the last few hours.

Sadly, we proceeded nevertheless to the ritual pictures. To the East (Picture #3) we could see the coast we had been following in our descent over 16E down South toward the 80N. Stunning mountain and glacier scenery was in front of us, to the South. (Picture #4). The infinity of the sea filled our view to the West (Picture #5) and to the north (Picture #6).

During our confluence-hunt, the wind had meanwhile stabilized, and that was high time to hoist our 100 square meters of spinnaker (Picture #7). Our next stop? Atoll-shaped Moffen island, where a colony of walruses meets up during the summer months, apparently chilling out together (Picture #8).


 All pictures
#1: General view of the confluence
#2: The GPS in our closest point to the confluence
#3: View to the East of the confluence
#4: View to the South of the confluence and toward the confluence itself
#5: View to the West from the confluence
#6: View to the North from the confluence
#7: With the spinnaker up, sailing along the 80N
#8: Walruses chilling out in Moffen, a few miles away from the confluence
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)