Warming global temperatures and melting polar ice caps have helped a trio of explorers go where few men have gone before.
In an account of their trip published on Monday, the crew of the 31-foot Belzebub II – a fiberglass sailboat with a bathroom-sized living space – described how they made it through the Straits of M’Clure in northern Canada, less and less ice. crowded road through the famous Northwest Passage.
The three-man international crew – an American, a Canadian and a Swedish – claim to have piloted the first sailboat to do so.
The route is named after 19th-century British explorer Robert McClure, the first person to cross the elusive Arctic Passage that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, an arduous, icy hike that nearly killed his men.
But last week, scientists said the area of floating sea ice in the Arctic had fallen to the lowest level on record. As the Belzebub II lingered in the Prince of Wales Strait, her crew – which includes Morgan Peissel, a Boston native and assistant filmmaker Errol Morris – received the message from Canadian ice-watching officials who told them set in motion: “Good afternoon. Entering M’Clure Sound is not recommended, but there is an open window north of Banks. There is a trail that runs all along the north shore of Banks Island.
The ice would return soon, but the decision to go was made “in the blink of an eye,” the crew said in a statement on Monday. blog post. The Belzebub II then swam through the dangerous strait as walls of ice surrounded the small sailboat, with the crew unsure if the vessel could make the passage.
The sailors observed the measurements of the ice and were concerned about hitting elements underwater. At one point, they spotted another explorer’s motorboat, but it did not respond to a radio call before disappearing into the fog.
Twenty-four hours after the start of the attempt, without any sleep, the explorers said they learned that walls of ice closed the passage behind them. They rushed forward and their craft sailed through clear waters for an additional 12 hours and finally brought them to their destination just across the strait on Wednesday.
“With the sails raised in a light breeze, we sailed quickly to the northwestern tip of Banks Island and became the first sailing ship in history to sail this route,” the crew wrote in their post. A Canadian reconnaissance plane hailed and congratulated them as they circled the ship.
“We exchanged greetings and their ice cameras captured us doing what we had worked for for almost two years,” the crew wrote. The sailboat then continued on its way west, towards Alaskan waters and the Bering Sea.
The crew, which also includes Edvin Buregren, a Swede, and Nicolas Peissel, a Canadian, have embarked on a quest to raise awareness of the climate change that has radically reshaped the planet’s North Pole.
“Our approach to navigating a historic body of water that has traditionally been frozen is meant to be a clear visual example of the extent of the polar ice sheet decline,” the group said in a statement.
Although environmentalists denounce the shrinking polar ice caps – and coastal regions must already to cope with the worrying (and costly) rise in sea level – the opening of the traditionally ice-blocked Northwest Passage would bring potentially lucrative new shipping routes.
NASA officials said the passage known as the Perry Channel, which connects Baffin Bay to M’Clure Strait, would be the “most suitable” route through the Arctic for large-scale shipping. .
In the meantime, the Belzebub II is expected to continue on its way to the Pacific Ocean to become the first sailboat to navigate the Northwest Passage, the sailors said.
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