Showing posts with label Northwest Passage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northwest Passage. Show all posts

168 Years After Sinking in the Arctic the HMS Terror has Been Found

After years of searching in the Arctic, the missing ship of explorer Sir John Franklin has been found at long last. Earlier this week it was announced that the HMS Terror, a vessel that Franklin was using to explore the icy waters of the Northwest Passage, had been found after 168 years.

Franklin and his crew had been exploring the Arctic Ocean north of Canada back in 1848 when they ran into thick pack ice that prevented them from continuing their voyage. Both the Terror and its sister-ship, the HMS Erebus became trapped, forcing everyone onboard to abandon the two vessels. Eventually, all 129 members of the crew perished in the Arctic, and what became of the ships remained a mystery.

A few years back the Erebus was discovered by a search crew, but the location of the Terror remained a mystery. Now, thanks to a tip from a local Inuit tribesman, that mystery has been solved. The Terror  was found in – of all places – Terror Bay, where its mast was spotted sticking out of the ice by passing hunters a few years back. That tip led to an archeological team going to the site to check out the area, only to discover the very vessel they had been searching for.

According to early reports, it seems that the ship is in relatively good condition, and may contain most of the things that were left onboard when it was abandoned by Franklin and his crew. In comparison, the Erebus has suffered hull damage, and Arctic currents had spread out its contents over a wide area. It'll be some time before salvage crews can truly get a look at the Terror however, so just what might be on the ship remains a mystery.

As for Franklin and his men, it seems that after they abandoned their ships, they began a long and perilous march across the Arctic with the hopes of reaching the Hudson Bay Company – a fur trading outpost far to the south. None of the men made it to the safety of that place however, vanishing in desolate white expanse of the north. Inuit oral histories talk about the foreigners passing through their area, but their ultimate fate has never been fully told.

The disaster that beset the Franklin crew is one of the worst in British naval history. It was quite a blow to that country, which ruled the seas and was pushing the boundaries of exploration at the time. Now, after more than a century and a half, at least part of the mystery has been solved.

Arctic Explorers Bring Bad News After Sailing Northwest and Northeast Passages

One of the most ambitious and interesting adventures of the summer has been the Polar Ocean Challenge. Led by famed explorer David Hempleman-Adams, the objective of the expedition was to sail both the Northeast and Northwest passages in a single year, circumnavigating the North Pole and taking stock of the arctic sea ice along the way. A few days back the crew of adventurers, sailors, and researchers completed a major milestone of their journey, and they brought back some sobering news about the state of ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The sailing ship Northabout set sail from Bristol, in the U.K. back June, making way for Norway before proceeding on to Russia to the start of the Northeast Passage. The ship ran into a delay at that point due to pack ice still blocking the route. That isn't too uncommon in the early part of summer, as it generally takes a few weeks before the passage clears. From there, they navigated on through the icy waters of the Arctic before exiting into the Northern Pacific and crossing over to Alaska. The next stage of the journey was through the Northwest Passage above Canada, which is the section that was just completed. Now, the plan is to sail on to Greenland, and then back home to Bristol.

By successfully navigating through the both the Northwest and Northeast passages, the crew proved that those once mythical routes are now fully open, and accessible. They also became the first ship to make such a journey in a single season, although they certainly won't be the last. Climatologists now predict that both passages will see increasing numbers of commercial traffic before the middle of the century, even by ships that are not hardened against ice.


On the Polar Ocean Challenge website the team posted a press release a few days back sharing the news of their successful completion of the Northwest Passage, which took just 14 days to finish. That's an incredibly fast time through that part of the world, but the team revealed that they had encountered almost no ice along the entire route. In fact, in the two weeks that they spent there, they came across ice only twice in 1800 nautical miles (3333 km/2071 miles).

This news is both astonishing and troubling at the same time. It now seems pretty clear that both the Northwest and Northeast Passages will soon be open for longer periods of time each year, and that they will be safer than ever to pass through. The Arctic sea ice is a bit like the canary in the coal mine, giving us an indicator of just how much impact climate change is having on our planet.

The crew of the Northabout is on the home stretch now, having completed the most difficult sections of their voyage. The team's website shares some important information about their expedition, which has now been at sea for more than 20 weeks and covered over 13,500 nautical miles (24,076 km /14,960 miles). Perhaps the most startling statistic of all however, is that researchers about the ship have recorded a 13.4% drop in the sea ice levels, which is a faster and higher rate than was expected.

I suspect these kinds of reports will become the norm moving forward. It is still troubling to read however.

Ocean Rower Anne Quéméré to Challenge Northwest Passage Once Again


Ocean rower Anne Quéméré has announced that she is returning to the Arctic Ocean once again this summer in an attempt to complete the very difficult journey across the Northwest Passage by kayak. Last year, bad weather thwarted her efforts, but she has vowed to go back and finish what she started by covering the entire 3000 km (1864 miles) over a three month period. 

That 2014 expedition to the Passage proved to be an eye-opener for the veteran adventurer. She discovered that it was not as easy as she thought it would be to pass through the ice-choked waters found north of Canada. The weather was surprisingly bad all season long too, with high winds and heavy seas making it difficult to make any kind of progress. She also traveled solo on that journey, and unarmed. Two things that she'll rectify this time out. 

This year, Quéméré will have a companion joining her on the expedition. A Swiss scientist by the name of Raphael Domjan will accompany the her across the passage, and while she will be paddling her kayak, he will be following along in a second boat powered by a small electric motor that will match her pace. Domjan will spend his time in the Passage taking notes and environmental readings as he makes observations about the impact of climate change on the Arctic Ocean. 

Since the duo will be kayaking, they will stop and camp on shore most nights. That means they'll run the risk of encountering a polar bear, a creature that Quéméré had a few brushes with last year as well. This time out, they'll go armed with shotguns to scare the bears away. Massive and powerful, a hungry polar bear can be a real threat to a person in the arctic, and Anne and Raphael will not underestimate that threat in 2015. 

No stranger to oceanborn adventures, Quéméré has successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat in the past, and even crossed the Pacific in a prototype boat using a kite for propulsion, spending 78 days at seas. She has also kayaked in the ice waters off Greenland, and has last year's experience in the Northwest Passage to her credit as well. 

The two will set out for Tuktoyaktuk in Canada in June, with the crossing starting shortly there after.