Welcome to America : a new start for Borge

Published on 07.09.2010 - The Northern Passage 2010

Borge arrived at Point Barrow Sunday 5 September at night

Borge arrived at Point Barrow Sunday 5 September at night

© Enctclopedia.com

Borge Ousland and his shipmates are now through with the Northeast Passage. After 74 days of sailing off the Siberian coast, team has arrived safely at Point Barrow, Alaska, last sunday evening. Men and trimaran are tired. But the adventure goes on.

The worst memory so far? The vagaries of the wind…

Part one of the circumnavigation by the trimaran Northern Passage has been completed successfully. Without doubt the most difficult aspect of this first part of the adventure was the constant battle waged by Borge’s crew against the vagaries of the wind. Looking back, we should recall that at the beginning of their voyage along the Siberian coastline, the wind was unwilling to come to the party and when it did, it of course tended to blow straight into the faces of the adventurers. Then there were periods of no wind at all, or just a light breeze, causing the crew concern about whether they would be able to continue their journey. In fact, they should now complete their trip towards the end of September, otherwise they might get blocked by the ice off the Greenland coast on their return journey. Finally, during the last section of their voyage across the Chukchi Sea (opposite the Bering Straits), Borge and his two companions had to contend with practically nothing but headwinds. And as anyone who knows anything about sailing will be aware, a trimaran is not the type of boat that sails easily into the wind. No doubt it was because the men had to keep tacking repeatedly, putting their craft under immense strain, that the mainsail gave way. The crew is now busy making repairs at Point Barrow.

The Northeast Passage is now behind Ousland

The Northeast Passage is now behind Ousland

© IPF

Borge looks back on his voyage through the Northeast Passage.

In his blog, Borge summarises this first part of the voyage by saying: : " It is obvious that the conditions met by the early explorers such as Vitus Bering, Fridtjof Nansen, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld and Roald Amundsen no longer exists. We passed through in a few weeks, while our predecessors were forced to overwinter once or even twice. Still, it is not an easy passage for any kind of boat or vessel. There is still ice, although not to the extent there used to be, but plenty to make conditions unpredictable for ships. In addition many of the seas you have to pass are very shallow. In the East Siberian Sea, the shipping lane is located 50 nautical miles off the coast, in order for there to be sufficient depth for bigger ships. Lights, buoys and nautical markings are scarce.

In the 1930s the USSR prioritized the Northern Sea Route as a major development project. Despite massive investment in infrastructure, navigation aids, ships and establishment of local towns along the coast, the Sea Route never did become “the highway of the north”.

A very sensitive marine area

Today, however, it seems that this old vision of a more regular passage of ships, at least in the summertime, is being reawakened. Atomflot, the operator of icebreakers in these northern seas, has a fleet of modern ships. During our weeks along this coast we have been in daily contact with people representing this organisation and other authorities – and from the first moment we have meet professionalism and service-mindedness. They have not questioned the presence of a tiny trimaran zigzagging in between ice floes, but welcomed our presence and interest.

Of course the Russians are not alone in searching for opportunities in the north. The Norwegians are most definitely making their efforts as well. A look at our list of sponsors is telling. It includes North Energy, the Centre for High North Logistics in Kirkenes, Tschudi Shipping and the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (New Horizons).

The visions of future shipping in this area can be developed in a secure way.

We understand the possibilities in Arctic shipping, and we fully understand the challenges. One of them is the sensitivity of this marine area. However, we do believe that based on the professionalism we have met so far among our Russian and Norwegian friends, the visions of future shipping along the Northern Sea Route can be developed in a balanced and secure way."

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