Anthony Watts, conspiracy theorist promoter at WUWT, is now heralding another conspiracy theory. That there was an international plot to create a blizzard off Antarctica right at the very spot and time when MV Akademik Shokalskiy was most likely to get caught in the pack ice. I gather he believes the plot was hatched by the scientists on the ship, and the captain and his crew were only too willing to participate along with, presumably the Australian and Russian governments, the media and all the passengers. Anthony reckons it's all a "publicity stunt"!
For more Anthony Watts' conspiracy theories at WUWT, see here and here and here.
Anthony Watts has a habit of capitalising on the misfortune of others
Anthony Watts has a reputation for mocking the misfortune of others to get blog hits and make believe he's "clever". He downplayed the tragic deaths of thousands of people (latest toll is at least 6,111 people dead and 1,779 still missing) in the deadliest disaster in the Philippines. He tried to downplay the severity of the record-breaking typhoon - in several articles, which in itself shows that the storm was regarded by the rest of the world as a major catastrophe.
The troubles of the ice-bound Australasian Antarctic Expedition are nothing compared to the disaster wrought by Haiyan, but the reaction of Anthony Watts and some of his followers can be put in the same category.
Anthony delights in the misfortune using terms like "circus", "hilarity" in his malicious taunting of the plight of MV Akademik Shokalskiy and the 74 people on board. Some of his followers have wished the scientists and passengers dead - literally.
Here is the latest from Australia's ABC news. Here is the live blog from the Guardian. And for background, here is an interview with Professor Chris Turney on Lateline - from last November; and a link to the expedition website.
This short clip shows, in fast-motion, research on board the Aurora Australis, to give some idea of what scientists do in the oceans around Antarctica:
The video was filmed by Antarctic researcher Dr Frederique Olivier onboard the recent voyage of the Australian Antarctic Division's icebreaker the Research Supply Vessel Aurora Australis. It encapsulates some of the incredible amount of work undertaken by researchers working in shifts continuously throughout the voyage to learn more about the Antarctic Ocean and its relationship to the rest of Earth's environment.
It's a Russian/Australian conspiracy, sez Anthony Watts
Back to the plight of MV Akademik Shokalskiy. Now Anthony has moved to "it's a conspiracy". Not satisfied with mocking the expedition, cracking jokes, telling fibs and trying to make mileage out of their situation, now he speculates that being trapped in ice was a "publicity stunt" (archived here, latest update here):
Now, with such a fantastic failure in full world view, questions are going to start being asked. For example, with advanced tools at their disposal (that Mawson never had) such as near real-time satellite imaging of Antarctic sea ice, GPS navigation, on-board Internet, radar, and satellite communications, one wonders how these folks managed to get themselves stuck at all. Was it simple incompetence of ignoring the signs and data at their disposal combined with “full steam ahead” fever? Even the captain of the Aurora Australis had the good sense to turn back knowing he’d reached the limits of the ship on his rescue attempt. Or, was it some sort of publicity stunt to draw attention? If it was the latter, it has backfired mightily.
I'm not quite sure why he thinks that all that equipment can accurately predict the future and even if it did give an indication they were about to be hemmed in by sea ice, how the captain and navigator could have avoided it. Nor how Anthony is so convinced that no sea-going vessels ever gets into strife, given all that equipment.
As you can see, Anthony also doubles down on his disinformation, calling the scientific expedition a "nothing more than a party":
And when the trip is nothing more than a party for your friends and media, disguised as a “scientific expedition”, one wonders if there shouldn’t be some moratorium on such trips.
That means that he regards the scientists here and here and here are mere party-goers. Not only that but Anthony Watts regards any reporting of science and nature as frivolous frippery. Anthony cannot abide science or nature.
How ships get stuck in thick ice
Sea ice moves. It is blown by the wind. I'm not an expert on the Antarctic or sea ice, but here is some information I've gathered from various places:
First, a short description of what happened to Shackleton's Endurance, in 1915, from Wikipedia:
On January 18 the gale began to moderate and Endurance set the topsail with the engine at slow. The pack had blown away. Progress was made slowly until hours later Endurance encountered the pack once more. It was decided to move forward and work through the pack, and at 5pm Endurance entered it. However it was noticed that this ice was different from what had been encountered before. The ship was soon amongst thick but soft brash ice. The ship became beset. The gale now increased its intensity and kept blowing for another six days from a northerly direction towards land. By January 24, the wind had completely compressed the ice in the whole Weddell Sea against the land. Endurance was icebound. All that could be done was to wait for a southerly gale that would start pushing, decompressing and opening the ice in the other direction. Instead the days passed and the pack remained unchanged.
Endurance drifted for months beset in the ice in the Weddell Sea. The changing conditions of the Antarctic spring brought such pressure that Endurance was crushed over the period from October 27, 1915. On the morning of November 21, 1915, the Endurance's bow began to sink under the ice and it was abandoned. 
Here is a video taken from a ship going through pack ice in the Arctic. The sea ice moves on the ocean and different bits crash into each other, piling up. This video is just normal ice motion, it's not pack ice being blown in one direction, packed tightly by the strong winds off East Antarctica and thickening around a ship:
The Arctic is mostly ocean surrounded by land. In the Antarctic it's the opposite. It's a large continent surrounded by ocean. This raises the matter of fast ice.
As Alok Jha, science correspondent at the Guardian who is on the ship, wrote a couple of days ago:
We arrived at Commonwealth Bay more than a week ago, dropping anchor at the edge of a glistening sheet of fast ice – so called because it is stuck fast to the edge of the land mass of Antarctica. In front of us was an alien landscape of pure, flat white. The expedition's scientists began their work.
After Commonwealth Bay, the ship continued to follow the path of the Mawson expedition and set off for the Mertz Glacier. It got as far as Cape de la Motte. As Alok Jha wrote in the same article:
We are at Cape de la Motte in East Antarctica, on our way to the Mertz glacier, in a sea covered in ice floes up to four metres thick and several years old, making them dense and tough. Winds have pushed these floes towards the Antarctic mainland and pinned us in. The Xue Long arrived on Friday evening and spent 12 hours pushing its way through the dense ice before its captain decided enough was enough. We were only two nautical miles from the ocean before Christmas, but that distance has now swelled to around 20 nautical miles as the blizzards and winds have continued. If the joint efforts of the Aurora Australis and Xue Long don't work, the only other option will be to evacuate the ship by air, though this would be the absolute worst case scenario.
This is a map showing where the ship is now:
Fast ice is stuck to the land, the ice pack isn't. Winds have pushed the pack ice towards the coast, trapping the ship. And it's got worse. Not only has the ice covered more of the ocean, blocking any route in or out, it's being compressed and is getting thicker as the wind keeps pushing the pack ice against itself. It has nowhere to go so it banks up. The latest is that the ice around the ship is three to four metres thick. Too thick for any ice-breaker and the pressure could be too thick for the ship to survive intact, though I don't know about the latter. The ship is designed for the Arctic and Antarctic.
Anthony Watts' conspiracy theory
Anthony Watts prefers a conspiracy theory. He speculated: Or, was it some sort of publicity stunt to draw attention?
That would have required some or all of the following:
- An international conspiracy involving Russia and Australia with or without the connivance of governments of nations whose citizens are part of the expedition
- Foreknowledge of the change in wind and how it would blow the pack ice forcing it to bank up around the ship and the coast
- The ship's captain being central to the conspiracy - willingly, by coercion or by enticement such as bribery
- The ships crew being complicit and following the Captain's orders
- The scientists being willing to put their own lives and that of their colleagues, passengers, and the ship's crew at risk
- The scientists having at their disposal the means by which to coerce (by brute force, bribery or other means) the ship's captain to deliberately put himself, his crew, all his passengers and his ship in harm's way
- The scientists being so all-powerful that they could control the winds of the Antarctic and the sea ice.
WUWT-ers are willing to believe that Adelaide scientist Tom Wigley rules the world, with or without Kevin Trenberth, who they believe is arguably the most politically powerful climate scientist on earth. So it should come as no surprise that Anthony Watts' followers would swallow his yarn that one or two scientists can force the captain of a Russian ship and command the winds of the Antarctic to trap their ship behind 20 nautical miles of ice.
As others have pointed out, Anthony knows almost nothing about science and less about Antarctica. Do you recall when he wrote about UHI disease in remote Antarctica, claiming that rising temperatures in Antarctica were caused by a couple of researchers freezing their butt off in a remote temporary camp, thousands of kilometres from the weather station?
Why didn't Anthony do any research on the subject of sea ice in Antarctica? That should be obvious. If he had he wouldn't have been able to spin his malicious yarns.
And does he really think that the captain of the Russian-flagged ship would deliberately get stuck in ice that is now 3 to 4 meters thick and risk it being destroyed on purpose? Does he really think that scientists can command the winds around the Antarctic coastline? Perhaps he thinks that the scientists or passengers forced the Captain just so that he, Anthony Watts, could mock the fact that the ship got stuck in ice in a world that is warming. Probably not. He doesn't care about such matters. All he cares about is trashing science and scientists and thereby getting the lowest of the low readers to his blog.
Other ships that have been trapped or sunk by Antarctic ice
Many ships have been trapped by ice in the Antarctic. This vessel is by no means unique. Here are just a few examples:
In January 1986, the british Antarctic expedition ship, Southern Quest, "sank in the Ross Sea Saturday night, trapped and crushed by pack ice while on its way to pick up three men who spent a year walking and skiing to the South Pole". This was a private expedition and the aftermath is described here by John Elder.
In November 2009, a tourist ship, the Russian ice-breaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, was trapped by ice in the Antarctic for several days. It included a BBC team who were filming for the well-known documentary "Frozen Planet".
Several fishing vessels have been sunk in Antarctic waters. Did they, too, do it "as a publicity stunt"?
And of course there are the pioneering expeditions that battled the perils of the Antarctic waters.
How this ship got trapped
Early reports suggest the ship became trapped because the wind pushed the pack ice toward the fast ice and when it could move no further it piled up. There will be a report of the events prepared by AMSA and maybe others after the dust has settled. I'll leave it to the experts to apportion blame to the captain, crew, passengers, scientists, the media, global warming, WUWT's coming ice age, Tom Wigley, Kevin Trenberth, Al Gore, the IPCC, the UN, Agenda 21 or the fickleness of Antarctic weather - in whatever proportion they see fit.
All I can say is that I expect the scientific team, the captain and crew and the passengers to come out looking a whole lot better than the despicable reaction of Anthony Watts and his anti-science fans. It's not just good people who look like saints compared to Anthony Watts. A lot of villains in the world would appear to smell of roses if put next to the people who worship anti-science.
Worth a "Sticky"
Anthony has made his mocking article a "sticky" to make sure his readers can see just how clever and insightful he is. How you can't fool Anthony Watts. This is probably what he and his nasty followers think:
|Credit: Gabby's Playhouse|
Addendum: I'd say this little section had a prophetic component. Anthony has put up a detailed analysis of his blog stats for the year. Do they "prove" he is "right"? ha ha ha. (His article is archived here. I can't be bothered archiving his actual report. If readers are interested please make a request in the comment section and I'll make a copy and post a link.)
Meanwhile, in other news
Survivors of the flash floods in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in north India are still recovering from the calamity, six months on.
The floods, which has also been called the Himalayan Tsunami, left over 1,000 dead and more than 6,500 missing.
Around 18,000 people in western Indonesia have had to leave their homes after two rivers burst their banks and flooded thousands of houses, an official said.
In the Pilbara, Western Australia:
Authorities are assessing the damage after Tropical Cyclone Christine brought torrential rain and destructive winds to Western Australia's Pilbara, with residents of one town saying it was the worst in memory.
In the UK
A record number of women have appeared in the Queen's New Year's honours list...Some 1,195 people have received an award this year, and for the first time since the list was founded in 1917 there were more women (51 per cent) named than men.(Oops - that's not terribly relevant, is it.)
From the WUWT comments
Anthony Watts really does bring out the nastier of the nasties. The worst of the comments are on his previous articles (eg as archived here, but the site seems to be slow at the moment) and are not suitable for printing on HotWhopper. For readers who have a strong stomach comments on this latest WUWT diatribe are archived here at webcitation.org and updated here at archive.is, latest here.
Michael Ronayne says:
December 30, 2013 at 10:47 am
Question: What do you call a ship load of trapped Global Cooling Deniers who are in danger of freezing to death?
Answer: A good start!
Man Bearpig says:
December 30, 2013 at 11:14 am
This must have been the best entertainment that Penguins and Seals have seen in a long time.
December 30, 2013 at 11:28 am
Why is it such a surprise the people who routinely ignore real world observation are stuck in a real world observation. I’m sure their models said the ice wasn’t there
David Becker is "not sure" about Adelie penguins being near people in Antarctica says:
December 30, 2013 at 11:28 amI wonder how all these photos were taken if not by people.
The penguins in the first photo appear to be photoshopped in. I am not sure there would be a bunch of penguins right at the location at which the ship is stuck, unless they were just having a good laugh. (I will look at later pictures for a sad polar bear, just in case the biologists aboard are as competent as the “climate scientists.”)
Leo G gets into the spirit of Anthony's festivities and says:
December 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm
Have I got this right? A pair of Australian professors whose names sound like Christmas Turkey and Fogwilly use research funds to organise a tourist trip PR stunt in Antarctica by chartering a ship with a name that sounds like MV Academic Shocks-are-likely. A bipolar expedition?
En Passant notices the wealth of material at WUWT for psychologists and, contributing to it, says:
December 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm
At any moment Professor Lewandowsky (formerly of the University of WA and now of Bristol University) will issue a peer/pal reviewed paper entitled “Cognitive dissonance of Deniers mocking heroic CAGW pseudo-scientists trapped in global warming ice”
I cannot wait.
One interesting point of dissonance is that before they set off Professor Turkey blogged that Commonwealth Bay has been blocked for the past three years by a giant (75-mile long) iceberg that has lodged there. If he already knew that, how did this Band of Boonies intend to land? A Moses act of parting the ice and waters perhaps. Yet another mystery to be solved. I mean, Google maps would have told them it was a bad idea before they set off with my taxes in their pockets.
Let’s hope the UNSW picks up the costs as this will mean they have to close some unnecessary departments (probably medicine, engineering and physics) as this disaster shows just how important the Department of Climate Mythology really is.
Frank Kotler apparently thinks that Douglas Mawson is okay but people adding to his legacy of scientific observations are not okay, and says:
December 30, 2013 at 11:29 am
Rather arrogant for these folks to compare themselves to Douglas Mawson, IMO. Mawson was apparently a rugged guy, but he lost two crew members and nearly died himself. I guess if no one dies in this fiasco, it proves “global warming”. “Global Warming is real and dangerous.” Okay, scratch “dangerous”. “Global Warming is real and a lifesaver!” How’s thar?
Talk about deluded deniers. Gail Combs is vying for the dual awards of "biggest loonie" and "nastiest web denizen" and talks of "spin". At the same time she is blaming the scientists on the vessel for "food riots in over 60 countries", the "real deaths of thousands in the UK" and potentially causing early deaths of millions". She says of the scientists and passengers (excerpt - with my bold italics):
December 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm
I have every sympathy for the crews and I hope like heck the Russian skipper and his 17 volunteers makes it out alive. The others, given their attitude, I have no sympathy for what’s so ever.
These are not a bunch of innocent befuddled tourists but a bunch of campaigning activists who combined with their brethren have cause food riots in over 60 countries (2008 biofuel -food crisis) the real deaths of thousands in the UK (fuel poverty), not to mention undermining the economies of several nations and potentially causing the suffering and early deaths of not thousands but millions.
If Mother Nature wants to deliver a hard object lesson to activists so be it.
The unfortunate problem is they will just find a way to spin it.
DirkH and Mervyn are busy building up their reputations as a Conspiracy Theorists First Class:
December 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm
Mervyn says: December 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm
“The media are doing an atrocious job reporting the truth about this ‘expedition’ ”
You are doing them injustice. The media are doing a splendig job lying about this expedition.
You have to know the job description.
Not all of Anthony's science deniers are getting completely caught up in Anthony Watts' hysteria. Laurie says:
December 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm
I don’t see these people as enemies… just wrong thinking. The ice? Well, it was there and someone made a mistake. I don’t really care how they want to spin this when it’s over. I would just like to see them all safe. Ignorant and safe is …okay. Truth will win out in the end.
I wonder if this latest episode at WUWT will make anyone reassess their rejection of science and reconsider their opinion of Anthony Watts?