Through History and Ices

Published on 22.09.2010 - The Northern Passage 2010

One of the most critical part of the voyage

One of the most critical part of the voyage

© IPF

Ousland and his cronies are sailing into what was to be the most perilous part of the voyage. But the danger was not entirely real.

The area where  Borge and his men are sailing (Eric Brossier came aboard in Cambridge Bay) is literally packed with bits of legends and pages of history. Let ‘s first mention the first successful crossing of the North-West Passage by famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen between 1903 and 1906; then the tragedy experienced by the British explorer John Franklin (1786-1847), who charted nearly two thirds of the northern coast of America, losing 129 men (155 according to some) and two ships (Erebus and Terror, both crushed by the ice) during an expedition undertaken in 1845 and who himself died during that expedition on 11 June 1847.

Børge on watch

Børge on watch

© Børge Ousland

On paper, it was written that this was going to be the most perilous part of the voyage. Admittedly Borge and his men have encountered lots of ice floes, particularly along the islands, but the testimony of Eric Brossier (the Frenchman who came aboard in Cambridge Bay) bears witness to the extent that the climate is changing.

Here is what Borge writes in his diary on 19 September : "Sailing in this waters, we feel being very close to history. As we read the many place names on the sea charts we are reminded of all the European mariners that for four centuries searched for an open water passage across the seas above mainland Canada. Grave Bay, Cape Felix, and Cape Franklin - to mention a few of the place names. Amundsen’s successful voyage is, of course, reflected in many of the place names along the Northwest Passage.

"At the moment we are tacking (again) against the wind, northwards in the Peel Sound.

"To our new crewmember Erik Brossier, who sailed through this passage in 2003, it is strange to see the reduction of sea ice since then. Right here where we are now in the Franklin Strait, we can tack in open water; while Eric had to spend eight days in a bay inside the Tasmanian Islands, waiting for a lead south, when he sailed here in 2003. ..."

In a few days, they ought to reach Pond Inlet (Baffin Island) and to recover the forestay which they most definitely need for crossing the Atlantic.

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