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Expedition Sailing Vessel Evohe
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In 2000 Evohe Successfully transited the Northwest passage from West to East, unassitsted and in one season

 

A List of the Full Transits of the Canadian Northwest Passage 1903 to 2006

by John MacFarlane (1990 - Revised 1995, 2011 & 2012)

Any vessel crossing both the entry to the Bering Strait and Davis Strait (or vice versa) is deemed to have made a full transit of the Northwest Passage.

      
1903-06 (1) Gjoa Roald Amundsen Norway Herring Schooner East to West transit. (The first transit of the Northwest Passage by sea.)
1940-42 (2) RCMP St. Roch SSgt. Henry Larsen RCMP Canada RCMP Schooner (The first West to East transit of the Northwest Passage and the first circumnavigation of North America.)
1944 (3) RCMP St. Roch SSgt. Henry Larsen RCMP Canada RCMP Schooner East to West transit. (The first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage in both directions.)
1954 (4) H.M.C.S. Labrador Captain O.C.S. Robertson RCN Canada Naval Icebreaker East to West transit. (The first warship to transit the Northwest Passage and the first warship to circumnavigate North America)
1957 (5) USCGS Storis Commander Harold Lambert Wood USCG USA Icebreaker She traveled as part of a U.S. Coast Guard Squadron, West to East (the first US vessels to transit the Northwest Passage.)
1957 (6) USCGS Spar Lieutenant Charles Vinal Cowing USCG USA Icebreaker (Buoy tender) She traveled as part of a U.S. Coast Guard Squadron, West to East (the first US vessels to transit the Northwest Passage.)
1957 (7) USCGS Bramble Lieutenant-Commander Henry Hart Carter USCG USA Icebreaker (Buoy Tender) She traveled as part of a U.S. Coast Guard Squadron, West to East (the first US vessels to transit the Northwest Passage.)
1958 (8) USS Nautilus Submarine The first (publicly known) underwater transit of the Northwest Passage. (See Submarine Transit List section)
1960 (9) USS Seadragon Submarine (See Submarine Section)
1967 (10) CCGS John A. MacDonald Paul M. Fournier Canada Icebreaker East to West transit. (She assisted the USCGC Northwind beset in ice north of Point Barrow AK. She circumnavigated North America)
1969 (11) CCGS John A. MacDonald Paul M. Fournier Canada Icebreaker East to West transit, she accompanied the tanker Manhattan through to preserve Canadian sovereignty over the Passage.
1969 (12) Manhattan Roger Steward USA Oil tanker chartered by the Humble Oil & Refining Company East to West transit (The first commercial vessel to make a full transit.)
1969 (13) CCGS John A. MacDonald Paul M. Fournier Canada Icebreaker West to East transit. She accompanied the tanker Manhattan, she accompanied the tanker Manhattan through to preserve Canadian sovereignty over the Passage.
1969 (14) Manhattan Roger Steward USA Oil tanker West to East transit. (She was chartered by the Humble Oil & Refining Company. An attempt to investigate the feasibility of commercial vessels utilizing the Northwest Passage.)
1969 (15) USCGC Northwind Captain Donald J. McCann USCG USA Icebreaker East to West transit. She accompanied the tanker Manhattan.
1969 (16) USCGC Northwind Captain Donald J. McCann USCG USA Icebreaker West to East transit. She was the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage twice in one year.
1969 (17) USCGC Staten Island Captain Eugene F. Walsh USCG USA Icebreaker West to East transit. She accompanied the tanker Manhattan on the return voyage from Pt. Barrow AK.
1970 (18) USS Queenfish Submarine (See Submarine Section)
1970 (19) CSS Hudson David W. Butler Canada Research Ship West to East transit. (She was the first vessel to circumnavigate both North and South America.)
1970 (20) CSS Baffin Paul M. Brick Canada Hydrographic Survey Ship West to East transit, She accompanied the CSS Hudson.
1975 (21) Pandora II R. Dickinson Canada Research Vessel West to East transit. She circumnavigated North America.
1975 (22) Theta I K. Maro Canada Hydrographic Survey Vessel (converted sealer) West to East transit. She circumnavigated North America.
1975 (23) CCGS Skidegate Peter Kalis Canada West to East transit A small aids–to–navigation vessel (buoy tender) transferred to the East Coast via the Northwest Passage.
1976 (24) CCGS J.E. Bernier F. ChouinardPaul Pelland Canada Icebreaking Buoy Tender East to West transit. (She circumnavigated North America.)
1976 (25) Williwaw Willy de Roos Holland Yacht Sloop (13m) East to West transit. (This was the first transit of the Northwest Passage by a sailing yacht. De Roos solo–ed after Gjoa Haven, and circumnavigated North and South America.)
1975-1977 (26) J.E. Bernier II Real Bouvier Canada SailingYacht East To West transit. (She wintered in Resolute Bay and Tuktoyaktuk.)
1978 (27) CCGS Pierre Radisson Patrick M.R. Toomey Canada Medium Icebreaker West to East transit. (This was the vessel’s maiden voyage.)
1979 (28) CCGS Louis S St. Laurent George Burdock Canada Heavy Icebreaker East to West transit. (She assisted the CCGS Franklin, and circumnavigated North America.)
1979-82 (29) Mermaid Kenichi Horie Japan Sloop (17m plastic yacht) East to West transit. (He claims the first single-handed transit of the NWP. He wintered in Resolute and Tuktoyaktuk.)
1980 (30) Pandora II Robin A. Jones Canada Hydrographic Research Vessel West to East transit. (She circumnavigated North America.)
1980 (31) CCGS J.E. Bernier E. Chasse Canada Icebreaker West to East transit.(She circumnavigated North America.)
1981 (32) CSS Hudson Frederick W. Mauger Canada Hydrographic Survey Vessel West to East transit. (She circumnavigated North America.)
1983 (33) Arctic Shiko J. Dool Canada Tug/Supply Vessel, (Ice Strengthened) West to East transit.
1983 (34) Polar Circle J.A. Strand Canada Research & Hydrographic Survey Vessel West to East transit.
1984 (35) Lindblad Explorer Hasse Nilsson (withT.C. Pullen as ice pilot) Bahamas Passenger Vessel (Ice strengthened) East to West transit. (This was the first transit by passenger cruise ship.)
1985 (36) USCGC Polar Sea Captain John T. Howell USCG USA Icebreaker East to West transit. (She was accompanied by CCGS John A. MacDoanld for part of the voyage.)
1985 (37) World Discoverer Heinz Aye Liberia Passenger Vessel (Ice strengthened) West to East transit. (She traversed Pond Inlet.)
1985-86 (38) Arctic Helios R. Huckfield Canada Icebreaking Tug/Supply Vessel (ex-Victoria) Westward (Partial Transit, Lancaster Sound, Victoria Strait to Tuktoyaktuk. She completed the full Northwest Passage to Vancouver BC in 1986.)
1988 (39) CCGS Henry A. Larsen Stephen Gomes Canada Medium Icebreaker West to East transit. (This was her maiden voyage.)
1976-88 (40) Canmar Explorer II Ronald Colby Canada Drill Ship East to West transit. (See also the list of partial transits).
1988 (41) Society Explorer (ex-Lindblad Explorer) Heinz Aye Bahamas Passenger Vessel West to East transit. (She was carrying passengers. She traversed Pond Inlet.)
1988 (42) USCGC Polar Star Captain Paul A. Taylor USCG USA Icebreaker West to East transit. (She was accompanied by CCGS Sir John Franklin to Demarcation Point.)
198? (43) CCGS Pierre Radisson C. Guimont Canada Icebreaker East to West transit. (She circumnavigated North America and return to assist the CCGS Martha L. Black.)
1982-88 (44) Belvedere Sven Johansson (Master) &John Bockstoce (owner) USA Sailing Yacht (18m) West to East transit. (She was the first sailing yacht to transit from West to East. (Navigation and command of vessel was under Sven Johansson. The expedition leader and vessel owner was John Bockstoce. They traversed Pond Inlet.)
1985-88 (45) Vagabond II Janusz Kurbiel (1985-87), relieved by Wojtek Jacobsen(1988) France Small sailing yacht (12.8m) West to East transit. (This was the first French–registered vessel transit of the Northwest Passage.)
1988 (46) CCGS Martha L. Black Robert Mellis Canada Icebreaking Aids To Navigation Vessel East to West transit. (She circumnavigated North America.)
1988-89 (47) Northanger Richard "Rick" Thomas UK Yacht (18 m Ketch) East to West transit. (She wintered in Inuvik.)
1986-89 (48) Mabel E. Holland David Scott Cowper UK Small Yacht (Retired RNLI Lifeboat) Single-handed. West to East transit. (This was the first British transit of the northwest Passage. She wintered in Fort Ross twice and at Inuvik.)
1989 (49) USCGC Polar Star Captain Robert E. Hammond USCG USA Icebreaker East to West transit. (She was accompanied by CCGS Sir John Franklin to Demarcation Point.)
1990 (50) Asma C. Steede Germany Yacht (13m) East to West transit. (She was assisted by an icebreaker without which the transit would not have been successful.)
1990 (51) USCGC Polar Sea Captain Joseph J. McCleland USCG USA Icebreaker East to West transit. (She was accompanied by USCGS Pierre Radisson to Demarcation Point.)
1983-90 (52) Ikaluk R. Cormier Canada Icebreaking tug/supply vessel. West to East transit. (The passage took seven years in stages. She worked in the Beaufort Sea 1983-1990.)
1991 (53) Terry Fox Peter Kimmerley Canada Icebreaking tug/supply vessel. West to East transit.
1991 (54) Canmar Tugger L. Lorengreek Canada Ice strengthened tug. West to East transit.
1992 (55) Kapitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to east transit. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
1992 (56) Frontier Spirit Heinz Aye Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel East to West transit, carrying passengers. She traversed Pond Inlet.
1992 (57) Ikaluk R. Cormier Canada Ice-breaker East to west transit.
1993 (58) Dagmar Aaen Arved Fuchs Germany Yacht (27 m) East to West transit
1993 (59) Frontier Spirit Heinz Aye Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger ship. East to west transit carrying passengers.
1993 Kapiitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker West to east transit carrying passengers.
1994 (60) USCGS Polar Sea Captain Lawson Brigham USCG United States Ice Breaker
1994 (61) Hanseatic Hartwig van Harling Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger ship East to west transit carrying passengers.
1994 (62) Itasca Allan Journing UK Tug (175') (Owned by William F. Simon) West to east transit, completed in 26 days.
1994 (63) Kapiitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker West to east transit carrying passengers.
1994 (64) Kapiitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker East to west transit carrying passengers.
1995 (65) Kapitan Khlebnikov Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to east transit. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
1995 (66) Dove III Winston Bushnell Canada Yacht (8 m) West to East transit. She was the the fourth yacht to make a full transit in one season.
1995 (67) Hrvatska Cigra (Croatian Tern) Mladen Sutej Croatia Yacht (19.8 m) East to West transit. She was the the fifth yacht to make a full transit in one season.
1995 (68) Arctic Ivik Norman Thomas Canada Icebreaking Anchor-handling & Supply vessel West to east transit.
1995 (69) Arctic Ivik Robert Mellis Canada Icebreaking Anchor-handling & Supply vessel East to west transit.
1995 (70) Canmar Ikaluk D. Connolly Canada Ice strengthened Supply Vessel West to east transit.
1995 (71) Canmar Miscaroo D.W. Harris Canada Ice strengthened Supply Vessel West to east transit.
1996 (72) Arctic Circle Jack McCormack Canada Tugboat West to east transit.
1996 (73) Hanseatic Hartwig van Harling Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel (She ran aground near Cambridge Bay NT. She was escorted by the USCGS Henry A. Larsen to Victoria Strait, and traversed Pond Inlet.)
1996 (74) Canmar Supplier II P. Dundervale Canada Cargo vessel West to east transit.
1996 (75) Kapitan Dranitsyn Oleg Agaforov Russia Polar Icebreaker West to east carrying passengers.
1996 (76) CCGS Wilfred Laurier Norman Thomas Canada Icebreaker West to east escorted by CCGS Louis St. Laurent for part of the voyage. She traversed Pond Inlet.
1997 (77) Kapitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to east transit. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
1997 (78) Alex Gordon Paul Misata Canada Tug West to east transit. Escorted by CCGS Wilfred Laurier to Franklin Strait and then escorted by CCGS Pierre Radisson.
1997 (79) Hanseatic Heinz Aye Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel. East to west transit. Escorted by CCGS Henry A. Larsen to Victoria Strait, and traversed Pond Inlet.
1997 (80) Supplier Allan Guenter Bahamas Tug West to east transit. Escorted by CCGS Terry Fox to Victoria Strait.
1998 (81) CCGC Louis St Laurent Canada She transited by the difficult northern route.
1998 (82) Kapitan Khlebnikov Captain Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
1998 (83) Hanseatic Heinz Aye Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel. West to East transit. She was escorted by CCGS Sir John Franklin to Victoria Strait. She traversed Pond Inlet.
1999 (84) Kapitan Dranitsynz Viktor Terkhov Russia Polar icebreaker East to West transit. She circumnavigated the Arctic Ocean.
1999 (85) Ocean Search Olivier Pitras France Yacht (12.5m) West to east transit. She traversed Pond Inlet.
1999 (86) Ocean Search Olivier Pitras France Yacht (12.5 m) West to East transit.
1999 (87) CCGC Louis St. Laurent Canada She transited by the difficult northern route.
1999 (88) Irbis Aleksandr Aleksenko Russia Icebreaker She accompanied the Russian ocean-going tug towing a floating drydock.
1999 (89) Admiral Makarov Vadim Akholodenko Russia Ocean-going Tug (towing a floating dry dock) West to East transit. She was accompanied by the Russian icebreaker while towing a floating dry dock from Vladivostok to Bermuda.
1999? (90) Kapitan Khlebnikov Captain Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polaricebreaker (carrrying passengers) She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
2000 (91) RCMP Nadon (St. Roch II) SSgt. Kenneth Burton RCMP Canada RCMP patrol vessel West to East transit. (She circumnavigated North America in a voyage to commemorate the transit of the North West Passage by the RCMP St. Roch in 1940-1942.)
2000 (92) CCGS Simon Fraser Captain Robert Mellis Canada Icebreaker West to East transit. (She acted as a support vessel to the RCMP Nadon (St. Roch II)).
2000 (93) Evohe Stephen Kafka New Zealand Yacht, ketch (25 m) West to East transit. She was a sailing yacht.
2000 (94) USGC Healey Captain Jeffrey M. Garrett USCG United States Polar icebreaker & research vessel This was her maiden voyage.
2000 (95) Hanseatic Thilo Natke Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel East to West transit. (She traversed Pond Inlet.)
2000 (96) Kapitan Dranitsyn Victor Terekhov Russia Polar icebreaker East to West transit. (She circumnavigated the Arctic Ocean.)
2001 (97) Kapitan Khlebnikov Captain Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to East transit. he was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
2001 (98) Northabout Paddy Barry & Jarlath Cunnane Ireland Yacht sloop (15 m) East to West transit. She circumnavigated the Arctic.
2001 (99) Kapitan Khlebnikov Captain Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) East to West transit. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co. on charter to Quark Expeditions.
2001 (100) Turmoil Philip Walsh Cayman Islands Yacht (46 m) East to West Transit, in one season. Traversed Pond Inlet.
2001-02 (101) Apostol Andrey Dmitry Shparo & Matvey Shparo Russia Yacht (16.2m) In 1996-1999 they transited the Northeast Passage (first by a yacht) and in 2001-2002 they transited the Northwest Passage and circumnavigated the Arctic. (She was assisted by CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent through Prince Regent Inlet.
2001-02 (102) Nuage Michele Demai & Sabrina Tiery France Yacht (13 m.) East to West Transit. Mother and daughter crew, they wintered in Cambridge Bay.
2002 (103) Aslan Simon Layton UK Yacht East to West Transit, solo transit. Falmouth UK to Prince William Sound AK.
2002 (104) Sedna IV Jean Lemire Canada Yacht (3-masted 51 m) East to West Transit
2002 (105) Kapitan Khlebnikov Piotr Golikov Russia Polar icebreaker (carrrying passengers) West to East transit, Anadyr to Resolute NT carrying passengers. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
2002 (106) Arctic Kalvik Sanjeev Kumar Barbados Ice-breaking Tug West to East transit.
2002 (107) Hanseatic Thilo Natke Bahamas Ice Strengthened passenger vessel East to West transit. She traversed Pond Inlet, carrying passengers.
2003 (108) Bremen (ex-Frontier Spirit) Daniel Felgner Bahamas Ice strengthened passenger vessel East to West transit. She transited Pond Inlet.
2003 (109) Norwegian Blue Andrew Wood UK Yacht (12.9m) West to East transit. She traversed Pond Inlet.
2003 (110) Arctic Helios Icebreaking Tug She was owned by Svitzer Wijsmuller, A/S Em. Z. Svitzer, Copenhagen DK
2003 (111) USGC Healey Captain Daniel Oliver USCG United States Polar icebreaker & research vessel West to east transit.
2003 (112) Kapitan Khlebnikov Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrrying passengers) West to East transit. (From Anadyr, Siberia to Resolute NT carrying passengers. She was owned by the Far Eastern Shipping Co.
2003 (113) Northanger Keri Pashuk & Greg Landreth Canada Yacht, steel ketch East to West Transit, the second time for this vessel.
2003 (114) Vagabond (ex-Vagabond II) Eric Brossier France Yacht, sloop (15.3m) West to East transit, the second time for this vessel. She circumnavigated the Arctic. She traversed Pond Inlet.
2003-04 (115) Dagmar Aaen Arved Fuchs Germany Yacht (27m) West to East transit. She wintered in Cambridge Bay. She circumnavigated the Arctic. She traversed Pond Inlet.
2003-04 (116) Polar Bound David S. Cowpers UK Yacht, motor (14.6m) East to West transit. Assisted by CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent in Prince Regent Inlet.
2004 (117) Kapitan Khlebnikov Pavel Ankudinov Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to East transit. Carrying passengers.
2004-05 (118) Fine Tolerance Philip Hogg Australia Yacht (13.7m) West to East transit. Assisted by CCGC Sir Wilfrid Laurier and CCGS Louis St. Laurent in Bellot Strait.
2005 (119) Kapitan Khlebnikov Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker West to East transit.
2005 (120) Kapitan Khlebnikov Viktor Vasiliev Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) East to West transit.
2005 (121) Idlewild Benjamin Grey Canada Yacht, motor (17.3m) West to East transit. Assisted by CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent in Bellot Strait.)
2005 (122) Oden Anders Wikstrom Sweden Icebreaker East to West transit.
2003-06 (123) Minke I Peter Brook Canada Yacht (12.8m) West to East transit. Wintered in Tuktoyaktuk and in Cambridge Bay (twice).
2006 (124) Kapitan Khlebnikov Pavel Ankudinov Russia Polar icebreaker (carrying passengers) West to East transit.
2006 (125) Nekton Tadeusz Natenek Poland Yacht (13.6m) East to West transit. (She traveled in company with Stary.)
2006 (126) Stary Jacek Waclawski and Slawek Skalmierski Poland Yacht (13.5m) East to West transit. (She traveled in company with Nekton.)

Sources:

  • J.M. MacFarlane (1992) Northwest Passage ChallengersIn Resolution. Spring Issue. Maritime Museum of British Columbia;
  • Sale, Richard (2002);
  • Vaughan, Richard (1994);
  • Lalor, William G. (1959) Submarine Through The North Pole. In The National Geographic. Vol. CXV, No. 1 January 1959;
  • Sven Johansson Victoria BC;
  • Struzik, Edward. (1991);
  • Storrs, A.H.G. and T.C. Pullen. (1970);
  • Smith, William D. (1970);
  • Robinson, J. Lewis. (1945);
  • Robertson, O.C.S. (1964);
  • Rasmussen, Knud (1927);
  • Pullen, T.C. & C. Swithenbank (1990);
  • Pharand, D. (1984);
  • Nuligak (1966);
  • McKinlay, William Laird. (1976);
  • McGrath, Robin (1989);
  • Marshall, C.J. (1958);
  • MacInnis, Jeff (1989);
  • Larsen, Henry A. (1954);
  • Larsen, Henry A., Frank Sheer & Edward Omholt-Jensen (1967);
  • Kemp, Peter (Ed.) (1976);
  • Keating, Bern (1970);
  • Harding, Les (1991);
  • Hancock, Lyn, (1974);
  • French, Alice (1976);
  • Fillmore, Stanley and R.W. Sandilands (1983);
  • de Roos, Willy (1977);
  • de Poncins, Gontrans (1954);
  • Coast Guard Northern Arctic Operations Division (1991)

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (1990 - Revised 1995, 2011 & 2012) Full Transits of the Canadian Northwest Passage. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/NWP_Fulltransits.php

 

 

February/March, 2001

NEGOTIATING THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE

by Sandra Carrod. Photos by Chris Riley

Bang! Crrrrrunnch!

I woke with a jolt to a hideous scraping sound. I threw off my cocoon of sleeping bags, and, dragging on more layers of clothing, hurtled up to the wheelhouse.

Skipper Steve Kafka was at the helm of the Evohe. ‘We hit a submerged piece of ice,’ he explained. ‘ Didn’t see it. The sea looks like pea soup since that storm.’

We were attempting the notorious Northwest Passage, through the frozen desolation of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Over four centuries scores of men (the women had more sense and stayed home) lost their lives searching for the short cut from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The first to succeed was Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1906, and it wasn’t until 1973 that the first yacht successfully negotiated the Northwest Passage.

Steve had scrapped the original plan to sail straight home from the Aleutian Islands via Hawaii after a filming charter, preferring instead to take the scenic route. Two months earlier we knew almost nothing about the Northwest Passage and here we were.

The sea ice recedes from the shore for just a short time in the Arctic summer and, even then, not every year. Only a few dozen boats have ever made it safely through the passage and only a handful in a single summer, but there was no shortage of masochistic volunteers. Lee’s mum still thought her daughter was bound for Hawaii. Lee didn’t want to worry her. Concerned friends back in New Zealand spread the word. ‘Captain Kafka is really going over the top this time!’

Stuck in Tuk

The Inuit settlement Tuktoyaktuk is the northernmost township of mainland Canada. More Bluff than North Cape...

I arrived at the Hotel Tuk Inn in a blizzard, expecting to join the Evohe next day. They gave me a room once occupied by Courtney Love. A previous guest (presumably not Ms Love) had left a warning on the hotel notice board: ‘Don’t get stuck in Tuk.’ Well I did.

For five days I read (if the power was on) and soaked up the cook’s yarns about life in the far north. I wandered the potholed, waterlogged streets. I narrowly escaped being eaten by an overfriendly husky dog. A gang of youths shouted ‘show us your tits’, which, as any readers who have met me will know, showed great imaginative powers.

I guess it could have been worse, just marginally. I could have been on the storm-tossed yacht. What was keeping them? The storm had blown itself out, but the Canadian Coast Guard’s ice maps showed the sea west of Tuk choked with nine-tenths ice. Maybe they’d got stuck? Or turned back? We all knew that was a risk.

The Evohe finally glided into Tuk harbour under a clear blue sky. The drained faces said it all. They’d spent 36 sleepless hours riding what the American Press dubbed the ‘storm of the century’, the yacht bucking like a demented bronco in record winds, dodging massive lumps of sea ice swept down from the frozen north.

And now, to backtrack to where this tortured tale began, just hours out of Tuk...

Spanner in the works

Evohe ground to a halt after the collision and I saw the same taut faces around me. The short Arctic summer was rapidly nearing its end and freeze-up was approaching fast. We had 3000 miles to go and a bent propeller.

Steve Kafka and intrepid diver Chris Riley (much maligned in previous issues) donned drysuits to check out the damage. No one on deck envied them as they descended into the murk. Their faces just centimetres away from the prop blade, the divers saw the edge looking more like a clamshell than a propeller. To lever it back into shape, Steve placed an adjustable spanner on the blade tip while Chris applied pressure at the other end of a long pipe but coordination was impossible because they couldn’t see each other. The attempt failed dismally.

Fortunately Evohe has two engines (we weren’t keen on sailing at this point) so we were able to motor on at reduced speed, dodging ice floes as we went. It got pretty hairy at times. The whole horizon would suddenly turn to a low wall of loosely-interlocking ice sheets and the lead we were following would suddenly close up, forcing us to backtrack. When things were tight Riles climbed the mast to look for leads. Twenty-four hours later we were clear of the worst of the ice and hunted for a suitable piece to tie up to. We didn’t want to drift back into the pack and it was far too deep to anchor.

Riles dived in and secured our line to a beautiful, turquoise-coloured ice cube. Adrian, the first mate, located the spare prop. But there was no spare nut! Steve and Riles carefully rehearsed their moves before they dived. Today the water was crystal clear, very cold and very, very deep. Everyone, except the divers, held their breath. Any parts dropped would be lost forever. But they succeeded and soon we were back in business. Lee sent her mother an email: ‘ Smooth sailing. Great crew. Good food. Making good time.’

The Northwest Passage

Amundsen took over three years to get from one end of the Northwest Passage to the other. In 1904 he wintered over in Gjoa Haven, which is named after his boat. Now skidoos, neatly stacked wooden sledges and piles of caribou antlers were parked outside each house. The huskies were chained, thank goodness. Riles and Kellie, the boat’s Girl Friday, were keen to dive on the very spot where the ‘Gjoa’ had sat for months wedged in the ice. Time was precious. At any moment the wind could change and the ice close in on us. Chris and Kellie wasted no time in suiting up.

Before long Riles brought up a perfectly preserved tinderbox, a ion of muskets, and a silver fob watch bearing the initials R.A. Well… actually he didn’t, but he would have liked to. Some locals soon turned up in their little boats and asked him to find their lost anchors. By the end of the dive he’d salvaged two toy plastic pedal cars, a broken hockey stick and a complete mountain bike, (honest)! Oh, and several golf balls. There is a golf course in Gjoa Haven - hard to believe in a region covered in permafrost. They charge brown fees there. Well, that’s what Riley told me.

We picked our way eastwards through some nasty shoals and a gale to Coningham Bay. Beluga whales use the shallow bay to rub parasites off their skin. The beach was lined with the tents of Inuit whalers. They hunt beluga for the blubber, a delicacy they call ‘muktuk’, which is stored for the long winter. Carcasses, stripped of blubber, littered the beach a kilometre or so from the tents. The idea was that the local polar bear population would feast on those remains rather than on the Inuit, but the number of guns strewn around the camp showed they were taking no chances.

We made various unsuccessful and hair-raising attempts, both from land and sea, to photograph the polar bears feeding. At Port Ross we came across a cabin stocked with food for wildlife researchers and stranded sailors. It had been ransacked by a hungry bear (he’d left his business card outside the door). We decided to quit while we were ahead.

The flat and featureless landscape gave way to towering cliffs and craggy, snow-covered mountains. Baffin Island was stunning. Glacier after sparkling glacier flowed down to the sea. Size and distance were gargantuan and impossible to gauge; ten miles looked like one. The icebergs here were huge blue-green ice palaces, castles, dragons and sea monsters, which dwarfed the Evohe. We voyaged on to Greenland and more unusual dives. But that’s another story…

Lee decided it was time to come clean and started on her email: ‘Dear Mum……’

 

 

http://www.ecowanaka.co.nz/about_ewa.html

 

 

Dodging sea-ice in the west and icebergs in the Baffin Sea, we succeeded in crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean by this infamous Arctic route.