The M/V Artic Sea: When Reality Imitates Art

The whole mysterious story surrounding the Arctic Sea, the Russian-crewed freighter that may – or may not, who can keep up with these things? – have been hijacked last month in European waters grows more and more like a badly-written television show every day.

Today, apparently, mysterious figures are threatening the author who first reported the ship’s “disappearance” back at the beginning of August; said author has apparently fled Russia, fearing for his safety. Why, nobody really seems to know, but a lot of fingers seem to be pointing at the world’s leading scapegoat for high-risk black-ops hijinks, Israel. What a surprise, huh? Apparently we’re to believe the Arctic Sea was carrying missiles or rockets or weapons or ammunition or something, destined for somewhere in the Mideast (some news stories say Iran).

I’m not saying the two are related, but some media outlets are reporting – with a depressing lack of details, damnit! – that an explosion in Lebanon in July involved a cache of chemical weapons of some indeterminate type, which supposedly came from Iran, via Syria. Hmmn…

What nobody seems able to explain is where the supposed weapons on the Arctic Sea, if they existed, would have come from, and where they would have actually been going.

We have four datums that may be relevant:

1, The ship left Finland on 21 July.

2, The ship was contracted to deliver a cargo of lumber to Algeria fourteen days later (on 4 August), which it failed to do.

3, The ship transited the English Channel more-or-less on schedule, suggesting it didn’t immediately, you know, hang a right and head to Russia or the Ukraine, or something like that.

4, The ship was “intercepted” by Russia near Cape Verde on 17 August.

The sea-route distance between Finland and Algeria is roughly 5,000 miles (this is a very rough estimate), meaning it planned to travel at an average speed of something like 16 MPH / 13 knots, give or take a bit.

It was located about 2,000 miles from its supposed destination in Algeria on 17 August. Where did it go in the intervening time? Theoretically, it could have traveled a bit in excess of 11,000 miles since leaving Finland, which will get you to… quite a number of places, and back again. (Finland to New York City and back, with a bit to spare, for starters.) It could have pretty literally gone just about anywhere in the western hemisphere.

Could it have gone from Finland, South around the coast of Africa, East on to Iran, and made it back to the West coast of Africa in twenty-seven days? Maybe, but I don’t think it would quite work, though I could easily be wrong.

Here’s another interesting thing to consider: With the alarm raised on 8 August, and Russia searching for the vessel as of 12 August – meaning the ship was basically “wanted” for the last five to eleven days of its journey – that’s potentially somewhere between 1900 and 4000 miles of travel after its disappearance made national news and the theorized masterminds behind the whole plot – whatever it might have been – should have realized the whole thing had gone to hell. Draw some circles on maps, and you’ll see where it could have been while everyone started looking for it.

What I can’t figure out, though, is where the ship could have been coming from en route to Iran – or anywhere else in the Mideast – that would have put it well off the western coast of Africa. I know that a lot of people want to know where it was headed to, but IMO the “from” is just as important.

I bet Jack Bauer could figure it out. Heck, I bet L. Jethro Gibbs and team could figure it out. Too bad we’re stuck with politicians, journalists, and bloggers…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 3rd, 2009| Comments Off on The M/V Artic Sea: When Reality Imitates Art

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