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Canada's infamous Northwest Passage successfully traversed by sailboat

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 6, 2012

A group of eco-explorers have successfully traveled from Greenland to Alaska, completing the most northern crossing of the Arctic Circle ever traversed by sailboat, CTV News reports. But for the Canadian crew, the journey was bittersweet.

Planning for the trip began several years ago, as the crew started to track changing Arctic sea ice cover. Expedition leader Nicolas Peissel says they were "really shocked" by the extent to which the sea ice was receding every year. So, the voyage was planned in part to "highlight the importance of climate change."

Over three months, Peissel successfully traveled from Greenland to Alaska in a 31-foot fiberglass sailboat along with two other crew members. While the trip has been completed once, by a Russian icebreaker in 1991, this is the first wind-powered vessel with no reinforcements against sea ice, to finish the difficult trek.

Peissel tells CTV News that during one portion of the path, the sea ice receded from their chosen route for only 48 hours, allowing them to continue on their journey, just barely.

The trip also contained of a lot of bad weather. In the Beaufort Sea, they faced waves up to 30 feet high, with harsh winds and snow. He says that they "spent about two months in storms" before ending up at their final destination in Alaska.

While happy about their accomplishment, the crew's mission of highlighting climate change has made the journey bittersweet. Development and traffic in the Arctic Ocean is expected to increase as sea ice recedes further. This year, sea ice dipped to its lowest levels on record.

Read more, here.