Ironic twist as green explorers rescued at sea by oil tanker
A team of explorers attempting the world's first "carbon neutral" trek across Greenland had to be rescued at sea – by an oil tanker.
Bristol physiotherapist Richard Spink and Raoul Surcouf, of West London, were attempting to make their way across the ice caps of Greenland without using any fuel.
But they had to abandon the boat taking them to Greenland – and the expedition itself – when they were hit by a storm in the North Atlantic.
In an ironic twist their rescuer – a 113,000-ton tanker called Overseas Yellowstone, carrying 680,000 barrels of crude oil – had to make a detour of an estimated 50 nautical miles to pick them up, pumping out an estimated extra 54.2 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in the process.
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Their 40ft yacht, the Fleur, skippered by Bristolian Ben Stoddart, capsized three times on Friday when a force 11 storm struck and the crew had to call for help from the Falmouth Coastguard.
A coastguard spokesman said the tanker sailed an estimated 50 nautical miles – about 96km – off course on its voyage to Portland, Maine, to pick up the explorers.
UK industry body the Chamber of Shipping says that a super tanker emits an average of 5g of carbon per ton per km.
This means that for every kilometre the Overseas Yellowstone travels it emits about 565kg of CO2.
A typical family car such as a two-litre diesel Ford Mondeo emits 159g of the greenhouse gas per km – a total of 15.3kg over a similar distance.
As they had to abandon their island packet boat, the team will also have to fly back home by air, which will add a further 600kg of CO2 per person to the emissions for the trip.
When the team spoke to the Post last week the severe weather was already hampering their attempts to reach Greenland and Mr Spink, 31, of Cotham, compared the boat trip to being on a rollercoaster non-stop.
He thought the wind direction had improved and they were getting back on track but things changed in the early hours of Friday.
At 9.30am Mr Stoddart, of Montpelier, suffered a blow to his head after the boat turned and the electrical wind generator was torn loose and solar panels destroyed.
They decided to abandon the expedition at 10am on Friday and contacted Falmouth Coastguard. They were rescued by the crew of Overseas Yellowstone at 7.20pm on Friday and said the captain and crew were fantastic hosts.
Mark Thomas, of Falmouth Coastguard, said they received an initial satellite call from the crew of the Fleur at about 5am on Friday and remained in contact throughout the day.
He said: "They took the decision to be evacuated after suffering several more knock-downs in bad weather. Their anchor had gone and they were not having a particularly good time in 30ft seas and very strong winds."
The Overseas Yellowstone was about eight hours away from the team when they were first called to help.
The intention had been for Mr Spink, 31, and Mr Surcouf, 40, to reach Nuuk in Greenland by wind power alone and then to head across the ice caps on foot to carry out research for the Bristol Glaciology Centre, raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and speak to pupils back home about their trek, while Mr Stoddart, 43, sailed up the West coast.
Explorers usually fly to the ice cap, but the team decided to sail 2,200 miles from Plymouth to make a minimal impact on the environment.
The irony of the team's rescue was not lost on them.
In a statement posted on the Carbon Neutral Expeditions (CNE) website, Mr Spink said: " The team are now safely and, ironically, aboard the oil tanker Overseas Yellowstone.
"The ship's captain and crew are being fantastic hosts we are due to be in port in Portland Maine USA towards the end of the week.