Voyage Of The Damned Fools

The BBC reports today that a US ice-breaker, the Polar Star, has now been called in to rescue not only the trapped Akademik Shokalskiy, but also the Chinese rescue ship, the  Xue Long, which transferred those passengers from one to the other, and is now itself trapped. In other words, the ship which rescued the passengers from the trapped ship by flying them in a helicopter to another ship, which nearly got trapped, is trapped. There’s a Monty Python sketch in there somewhere.

The reality is that two ships, along with their crew (22 on the Russian ship, and 111 on the Chinese vessel), have gotten trapped in the ice due – allegedly – to the negligence of Prof. Chris Turney, who was out there to prove that the ice was, er, melting. I say “allegedly” because it’s pretty obvious that there will be legal repercussions from all this, and I’ll let all our lurking lawyers and journalists and non-lurking journalists go threaten Anthony Watts and others for prejudicing court proceedings instead of wasting our time. This post is about the BBC’s coverage (and cover-up in process) of the whole fiasco.

Yes, I know the ice melting was only one part of the official research reasons for the trip, which included studies of various wildlife and marine habitats. But the focus was on how Climate Change – which they all believe is caused by human activity – is affecting those things, just like the supposedly melting ice. Curiously, as some here have noticed, that purpose came and went throughout the BBC’s coverage of the story.

The Aurora Australis has finally been told it can head home with its new passengers, and will eventually be allowed to go back and finish what it was supposed to be doing: resupplying Australia’s research base, Casey Station. Hopefully nobody else in the area will need rescuing by an icebreaker, because the Xue Long won’t be able to help. The US Coast Guard icebreaker is similarly abandoning its own proper mission, as even the BBC reports, to resupply the US research station on Ross Island. 133 people are stuck, and who knows how many more actual scientists and their research have been severely inconvenienced by this tourist trip. Or was it a research trip? We’ll see.

The BBC is currently describing the Akademik Shokalskiy as a “Russian research vessel”. If and when it gets freed eventually (there’s still the possibility that the ice will crush the hull), its next scheduled task is to take a group of tourists around the Antarctic Peninsula. See, it originally was an actual research vessel, so the BBC is being “accurate” as usual. Only it’s retired from that and has been refitted as a tourist ship. The Expeditions Online website lists it as an “Expedition Ship”, and the amenities look appealing.

The Akademik Shokalskiy is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research. This class of vessel is world renowned for polar exploration, because of its strength, maneuverability and small passenger numbers. The Shokalskiy provides comfortable accommodation in double and twin cabins with private facilities. All cabins have outside windows and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room, where the science team and expedition staff will present a programme of talks.

Check out the website and you’ll see its “NOTICE TO REPORTERS” that they’re not the operators of the ship and are merely a booking agent. They know there will be legal ramifications and want to make sure nobody includes them as a defendant in any lawsuit.

Before we get to the inevitable legal repercussions, let’s examine just how cavalier with the truth the BBC has been during this whole saga. Aside from who is at fault here, there’s the question of the overall purpose of this little adventure. The official reason we’ve been fed by the BBC is that it was to retrace the footsteps of Douglas Mawson’s original tremendous scientific expedition to the region. We’re meant to ignore Turney’s own “Science Case” for the trip is all about the melting ice, and how Climate Change (and we all know there’s only one kind and one cause for these people) affects the wildlife and ocean habitats. All the other stuff is a sideshow, an aegis under which to do this.

Turney has written a book about Mawson (a free signed copy goes to anyone who sends him $400. A measly $200 will only get you the t-shirt. Hopefully all “expedition members” who paid $8000 minimum will at least get one of those for their trouble.). Mawson, of course, deserves all the respect in the world for his achievements. His truly scientific exploration essentially opened the world’s mind up to Antarctica. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to retrace his steps and sort of duplicate his tests in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his pretty amazing expedition. When one considers that he barely survived the ordeal but through his own strength and initiative lived to tell about it, and compares his experience to the whining from certain members of today’s expedition, there’s much to discuss about what’s become of us as a species.

Unfortunately, Turney, who has done some proper science and is an experienced expedition leader, he set off expecting to find less ice. In addition to the terrific and often amusing coverage from Anthony Watts, Paul Homewood has been following this silly saga, and he too notices some BBC dishonesty. In this case, he’s calling out both Turney and the BBC:

BBC In Warmist Fantasyland

There have been various attempts to blame the debacle on global warming, but this one really is nonsensical.

According to the expedition report, filed by the Guardian:

“Direct access from the sea has been impossible for the past four years, however, ever since a 75-mile-long iceberg called B09B grounded itself in the entrance to Commonwealth Bay. A thick band of sea ice has since built up around the iceberg, sticking fast to the land and blocking ships from getting to Boat Harbour, where Mawson moored the Aurora in January 1912.”

And Chris Turney, leader of the expedition states that:

“The thick chaotic surface we see around the Shokalskiy is consistent with the idea that this ice is several years old and is considerably more difficult to break through by icebreaker than single year ice.”

NSIDC are quite clear just what sea ice is:

Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface. Blanketing millions of square kilometers, sea ice forms and melts with the polar seasons, affecting both human activity and biological habitat. In the Arctic, some sea ice persists year after year, whereas almost all Southern Ocean or Antarctic sea ice is “seasonal ice,” meaning it melts away and reforms annually.

A scientist ignored other scientists, because of his own religious beliefs. And the BBC is enabling him to cover it up.

On Dec. 26, BBC journalist Andrew (Bad) Luck-Baker reported on how the science was continuing while they were stuck in the ice. In a moment of honesty, he admitted the Warmist intent of the expedition:

The goal of the modern day Australasian Antarctic Expedition is to repeat many of the original measurements and studies, to see how facets of the environment have changed over the past century. This passage of time coincides with warming and climate change in Antarctica.

Then we get to another level of spin. There’s also the question about who are all those other passengers who were not crew or scientists or PhD students or Guardinistas or Beeboids (or Google marketing mavens or Turney’s own family). Further down there’s this:

In addition to the Russian crew of 22, the expedition team consists of 18 professional scientists from Australia and New Zealand, and 22 volunteer science assistants. They are members of the public, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. They paid to join the scientific adventure.

So not eco-tourists, but “volunteer science assistants”.

A report on Jan. 2 stated that one of the goals of the expedition was “to track how quickly the Antarctic’s sea ice was disappearing”. So let’s not have any more denial that this wasn’t a Warmist expedition with a goal of “proving” their theory, rather than a simple historical retracing of Mawson’s journey.

On Dec. 28, it was a “scientific mission ship”. No mention of tourists, although they quoted one of them as a “science volunteer”. Actually, it was the same guy and the same quote (Bad) Luck-Baker included in the previous report. Didn’t he have time to speak to anyone else? Or were they all too busy with the yoga and knot-tying and songwriting?

Two days later, either he or the other BBC contributor (pulling double duty for the Guardian as well, naturally), Alok Jha, filmed “Expedition Member” Terry Gostlow telling the folks back home that they it was all “good fun” and they were hoping to get back home soon. Gostlow is not listed as either a Science Leader or a PhD student on the Spirit of Mawson website, so one assumes he’s another one of those paying volunteers.

On the same day, either (Bad) Luck-Baker, Jha, or a desk-bound editor filed a report when they learned that the Xue Long was on its way with the helicopter.

The Russian-flagged research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy has been stuck in ice for nearly a week. It is carrying 74 scientists, tourists and crew.

Oops. On the same page, there’s an inset extra commentary from (Bad) Luck-Baker, where he refers to “research volunteers”. A different BBC report from the same day also refers to tourists.

On rescue day Jan. 2, though, the BBC reported that “the scientists and tourists were now all aboard the ship Aurora Australis.”

Oops again. So we’ve gone from “science volunteers” to “expedition member” to “research volunteers” to “tourists”, all in the space of a week.

I’m sounding sarcastic about this because the BBC’s inconsistency is rather telling. If they were true paying field assistants, actually involved somehow in helping the scientific work, nobody would dream of calling them tourists. I’m saying the BBC seems uninterested in letting you know much these paying customers were contributing in between attending lectures and praying to Gaia, not because there’s no such thing as science volunteers, paying or otherwise. In fact, I’m well aware that this is a very common thing in a number of scientific disciplines. Many archaeology and palaeontology projects simply wouldn’t be possible without lots of people paying their own way to help sort artifacts, spend hours in the heat painstakingly brushing away dirt, and even make the tea. These things are advertised regularly things in science and history magazines.

The fact that the BBC – an organization known to have the promotion of Warmism as a directive from the top – sometimes refers to the paying customers as tourists tells us that it’s not quite the same thing as people paying their way to help excavate some dinosaur bones or catalog a mind-numbing amount of 5000 year-old ostracons.

The reason I’m looking at these paying passengers is because this appears to be the deciding factor in what happened. Now that people are becoming aware that hell and lots of money will be paid, and the lawyers are sharpening their pencils, blame is being placed on Turney not only for an apparent lack of preparation (it seems that he didn’t make sure they had adequate weather reports), but for indulging his paying eco-tourist customers instead of heeding the ship captain’s warnings and getting out of harm’s way while there was still time, the BBC has rushed in to help with his defense.

Meanwhile Prof Chris Turney, co-leader of the AAE 2013, has defended the scientific value of the expedition and rejected claims it was a “tourist trip” hampered by poor preparation.

Writing in the UK’s Observer newspaper, he said the trip had been struck by bad luck as opposed to human error. He said it was an important scientific expedition and its success would ultimately be measured by peer-reviewed studies.

I’m sure Turney is very eager to reject those claims. Whatever he publishes from this expedition will only be reviewed by peers who already agree with his conclusions, but that’s neither here nor there. The problem for him is that it’s not just people the BBC will claim have a vested interest in damaging the reputation of Warmists saying it was due to human error: one of his own passengers has said it. The Australian Green politician, Janet Rice, said this on her own blog (h/t WUWT):

The third drama of the day is the one which is still unfolding. Because of the Argo mishap we got off late, and had one less vehicle to ferry people to and fro. I’m told the Captain was becoming rather definite late in the afternoon that we needed to get everyone back on board ASAP because of the coming weather and the ice closing in. As I write we are continuing to make extremely slow progress through what looks like a winter alpine snow field – it’s yet another surreal part of this journey that we are in a ship trying to barge our way through here! I’m sure the Captain would have been much happier if we had got away a few hours earlier.

In other words, Turney ignored the advice of his captain – someone who is an experienced  professional and knows the area and its conditions very, very well – in favor of indulging his science volunteers/research volunteers/expedition members/tourists. Read the whole blog and you’ll see that, while at least one actual scientist was taking seal tissue samples, the paying customers were there to commune with the penguins and have nice day out. Turney also wrote at a few days before this that he was surprised to see some ice move in so quickly. A pretty cavalier approach from start to finish is in evidence in other blog posts collected by one of Watt’s readers here.

The Argo to which she refers is one of three amphibious all-terrain research vehicles, which they damaged by towing it back in haste. Who’s going to pay for that? And who do you think paid the way for a Green politician? She sure wasn’t there to help constituents. She’s a Warmist and was there to support the cause.

There were others there not for science but to support the cause. Google did one of their Google Doodle competitions, and awarded two free trips to teachers whose students sent in the winning entries. They were there to do lesson plans and video chats to promote Warmism to children. No lesson plans have been published yet. Google also sent along their Australia/New Zealand branding and marketing manager (listed as part of the Science Team!). For Warmism.

To sum up, we have evidence that the expedition leader had a pre-conceived notion to expect less ice, wasn’t completely prepared for everything, and had a lot of tourists on board to complicate matters and placed an apparently undue burden on the expedition itself. Allegedly, of course. Notice, though, that the BBC has reported precisely none of this. They have, however, reported Turney’s surprise and excuses for the ice trapping them.

The BBC has been misleading about the reasons for the trip, the nature of many of the passengers, and the underlying as well as overt cause of their predicament. All in the name of supporting their Warmist agenda. They assigned two journalists, including World Service senior science editor (Bad) Luck-Baker, to follow the scientists around to tell you how the wildlife and environment was responding to climate change. Period. They say so  right here.

Alok Jha and Andrew Luck-Baker continue to follow the scientists on the ongoing Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013. They go out on fieldwork trips with the researchers studying how the wildlife that lives in this inhospitable environment is responding to climate change.

All the history stuff and retracing of Mawson’s footstep was window dressing for the Warmist agenda. In case there are any lingering doubts, the top listing on the Supporters page of the expedition website is Turney’s own Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales. I imagine not a few Australian citizens are going to question their government’s handing out taxpayer money for this as well.

You know what the BBC isn’t reporting? That the ice is, in fact, not melting the way they claim, and Global Warming isn’t ruining it. It turns out that the models predicting the horror show were not based on proper data, and so overestimated everything. You know that iceberg that Turney blames for trapping them? The one which AGW was supposedly causing to calve? In reality, actual scientists have discovered that it’s been ground away on an underwater ridge. Even what he blames for what he wrongly blames is wrong. BBC Science editor Jonathan Amos wrote about that underwater ridge once, but I think he got away with it. I can’t even find it now.

More recently, just as the whole expedition coverage was kicking off, Amos managed to report that satellite data showed ice loss in West Antarctica, nowhere near Mawson’s Hut, in order to reinforce the dogma that we were all going to be doomed by rising sea levels. He wisely refrained from openly blaming AGW there. He’s done more reports on the new satellite data showing a microscopic rise in sea levels due to a little melting Antarctic ice, but doesn’t remind everyone that it’s not due to AGW, which he ought to be doing at every opportunity so that people don’t get the wrong idea. Of course, that wrong idea is the correct one the BBC wants their audience to have.

The entire thing was expected to give a boost to the whole Warmist agenda, so the BBC eagerly assigned two people to go along, and spent who knows how much of your license fee to do it. Once the whole thing went wrong and everyone started to find out it was half science, half eco-tourism, all with a dedicated agenda, they played around with the truth in order to keep the image of historical reenactment going. I fear that information will not be available via FOI requests, because journalism. In any case, it’s your license fee hard at work.

I suspect Prof. Turney might get thrown under the bus by people who see this foolish voyage as damaging to the cause. Let’s see how the BBC covers it.



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11 Responses to Voyage Of The Damned Fools

  1. GCooper says:

    That’s the second really excellent post on this blog today. What a start to 2014!

    The deeper in the BBC wades on this story, the more ridiculous and devious it looks.


    • Guest Who says:

      “…,the BBC’s inconsistency is rather telling.”
      But at least it is consistent in its inconsistency. Shouting from the hills when the narrative is properly enhanced; radio silence or a reinterpretation (or several, here) of events when the wheels fall off.
      Misinformation and re-education daily. A snip at £145.50pa.


  2. Deborah says:

    Thanks David, excellent post. But my main gripe is that had I not been a reader of this site and WUWT I would probably missed anything about the Voyage of Fools on the BBC. I would have learnt that a tourist ship had got trapped in ice but I would have missed if I had not been watching out for it. I would not have known that the BBC had sponsored anybody on the ship, I would not have known how it was planned for the ‘the research’ to link to Climate Change. But a couple of years ago Catlin Insurance sponsored a trip to the Arctic with similar plans. So much publicity beforehand and very little once the trip had to be abandoned due to exceptional cold weather.


  3. George R says:

    Christopher Booker, ‘Telegraph’ (£):-
    “Not just the ice that’s sadly thick.”

    “What a wonderful parable of group-think has been the story of those 52 green zealots, ‘adventure tourists’ and journalists from the BBC and The Guardian who were trapped in ice up to 10ft thick last week, until they were removed – to the safety of Chinese and Australian ice-breakers – from a Russian ship still stuck off the coast of Antarctica.
    Led by a ‘climate scientist’, who brought along his wife and children for the ride, this purported to be a ‘scientific expedition’ to find out why the sea-ice around Antarctica was being melted by climate change.
    The more we learn about this adventure, the more bizarre it becomes. These “scientists” seemed blissfully unaware that there has recently been more sea-ice round Antarctica than at any time since satellite records began in 1979, currently 1.5 million square kilometres more than its 30-year average (see the Cryosphere Today and Watts Up With That websites).
    Having hired a ship with only minimal ice protection, they were oblivious to forecasts last October that this year’s ice, even in mid-summer, would be dangerously thick.
    Like irresponsible children, they frolicked around in the snow for two days longer than was thought wise by their Russian captain, who warned before Christmas that they should leave before the ice closed in. Even when they were helicoptered off to the two ice-breakers, which could get no nearer than 10 miles, the BBC was still reporting that they were taking measurements ‘to track how quickly the Antarctic’s sea-ice was disappearing’.
    All this is uncannily like a more dangerous rerun of the famous Catlin expedition in 2008, backed by the BBC and Prince Charles, when Pen Hadow and two other global-warming zealots set out to walk to the North Pole, again to measure how quickly the ice was melting. They were shocked to find the Arctic so cold that they soon had to be rescued by a helicopter containing David Shukman, now the BBC’s science editor, who at least made no mention of “global warming” when he came to fly them back to safety. The trouble with all these people, of course, is that instead of doing any research, they believe what they are told by the BBC and The Guardian.”


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Booker’s being a bit unfair. There were other academic researchers there besides Turney and a couple of his Warmist Science colleagues. As I mentioned in my post, he brought along a few other scientists to study and take samples of the penguins and seals to see how Man-Made Climate Change was destroying their habitats and how the wildlife was coping. There was more to it than trying to show how evil humans were melting the ice. Turney was going for the full package.

      Also, the research/expedition/cruise ship they chartered had a bit more than minimal ice protection, and even if it had more it wouldn’t have made a difference, viz the Xue Long. Although I’m still unsure how a ship that regularly cruises around in that environment didn’t have the proper capacity for up-to-date weather information.

      So far, the tab is running at a conservative estimate of over $1 million. He’ll have to sell a lot of books and t-shirts. I can’t wait to see the BBC documentary.

      If this does go to legal proceedings, it will be interesting to see whose word is more valued as to whether this was human error or random winds suddenly pushing ice at them: the Russian captain’s, who is a seasoned veteran of that environment and knew it was happening, or Prof. Turney, whose religious devotion told him to go for it in spite of the captain’s warning.

      I have a feeling “science” won’t be a good enough excuse, as we know there were other factors – indulging the religious pilgrims – keeping them there too long.


  4. tomo says:

    The science?

    Look closely and that will shrivel out of sight. Compared to a proper project on a proper research ship this stuff is beneath contempt – and an increasing number of offshore researchers are having a pop at AAE as a fraud – the French in particular are being spectacularly unkind 🙂

    Turney is a media tart who’s been known to collaborate with Baldrick on CAGW themed TV shows.

    Just when you think it’s old hat – done to death, over, done, kaput … even – somebody breathes more life into Downfall – aww…. deepoorliddlepengwins….

    Hitler gets Trapped in Sea Ice


  5. chrisH says:

    I myself reckon that it was an effort to light fireworks for the Antarctic Penguins, so they too could experience the Northern Lights in a way that stopped them from swimming the length of the globe,
    Bloody White City Pyrotechnics were employed by British Aromatherapy Oilwells to do this -and the private sector f***ed up again!
    Alvin Stone the man to ask until the “Freed Freeze 52” have defrosted like pastel pink popsicles that nobody wants to buy.
    May yet get more sense if you ask Alvin Hall…or Alvin Stardust!
    I want you yes…my co ca choo indeed!


  6. Stewart says:

    made me laugh -even on an early turn


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      The cartoonist missed a trick there. The penguin asks, “Where’s the media,” but as we know they’re on the ship, whining about the conditions and working on the ideological spin.


  7. johnnythefish says:

    Excellent post, David, showing that the BBC is not merely biased but is pushing a specific environmentalist agenda built on – well – lies, basically. The action agreed with their eco-socialist mates at their 28gate meeting i.e. to push the
    warming agenda at every opportunity is being shamelessly pursued. They even continue to promote the extreme weather/’climate change’ link that not even scientists under the UN jackboot at the IPCC are prepared to support.

    The BBC is rotten to the core and out of control. Somebody get a fucking grip.


  8. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Ship of Fools update. Prof. Turney has a defensive statement published in Nature.

    This was no Anatarctic pleasure cruise

    Not for everyone, anyway. Some were there to work, we know. His statement contains the following spin to cover his ass:

    The aim was to study various aspects of this vast, remote region to better understand its role in the Earth system, and communicate these results directly to the public.

    Keep digging, Professor. We all know why you were really there. The Climate Change Research Center didn’t randomly offer sponsorship. The only aspect of the region’s effect on the “Earth system” he cares about is proving that we’re melting the ice at a rate that will destroy us all. As predicted, the whole thing is an attempt to defend himself against charges of negligence. The conditions are so extreme, he tells us, that even the Chinese icebreaker is stuck. It’s not his fault his own vessel got stuck, you see. These things just happen.

    He also expresses his surprise at the criticisms coming from his fellow scientists. It’s just one surprise after another, isn’t it?

    His statement also contains this little gem:

    When the number of television and radio interviews increased, so did our mentions of the science. This encouraged people to follow our work, as seen by the number of hits received on the expedition website. In the past six weeks, received 60,000 visits, driving traffic to our social media sites.

    In other words, they mentioned the science less when less media outlets asked them for comment? Kind of a circular argument. More importantly, he’s bragging about the website hits, but just how many of those 60,000 hits came after they got stuck? I know: getting stuck was all a cunning plan to draw attention to the science!

    Forget the science: sign this man up as a BBC editor. He obviously has the necessary skills.

    The World Service Discovery section is still publishing the installments of Andrew (Bad) Luck-Baker’s documentary, with the clear intention of supporting Turney’s work. Weird how they aren’t reporting his statement in a leading science journal.