Team of Rowers Takes on the Treacherous Northwest Passage

The Last First Expedition faces bone-chilling water, icebergs

Flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The Northwest Passage, in red, connects the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean through the Arctic Ocean

Way back in August of last year I wrote about a potential expedition that was set to take place this summer. The plan was for four adventurers to row across the Northwest Passage in a single season, something that has never been accomplished before. At the time, the expedition was still in the early planning stages with just a few details to be shared. Now, the team is en route to their starting position and will soon hit the water for a 3000 km (1,865-mile) journey through some of the most challenging waters on the planet.

Dubbed the Last First Expedition, the plan is to set off from Inuvik in northernwest Canada and row to Pond Inlet in the northeastern part of that country. Along the way, the team of rowers will make their way through incredibly cold waters strewn with icebergs and other hazards.

The rowers hope to complete their journey while also raising awareness of the impact of climate change. It wasn't all that long ago that the Northwest Passage was accessible only by steel-hulled ships designed to slice through the ice. Now, it is freely navigable for several months of the year. While that window remains a narrow one, the fact that it is possible at all is a dramatic departure from what we've known in the past.

The four men making the journey include an experienced team of adventurers. They are led by Kevin Vallely who has skied to the South Pole, covered the length of the Iditarod trail on skis and raced in some of the toughest adventure races on the planet. He is joined by Paul Gleeson, who has rowed across the Atlantic and ridden his bike across Australia; Frank Wolf an award-winning filmmaker who has traveled more than 2400 km (1,491 miles) on foot, bike and pack raft through some of Canada's most remote wildernesses; and Denis Barnett, whose background involves rugby and sailing (this will be his first major expedition).

As I write this, the team is now driving to Inuvik and should be there sometime in the next couple of days. Once there, they'll get their boat ready for the Passage and will set out in a matter of days. You'll be able to track their progress on the expedition's website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Introduction from Mainstream Last First on Vimeo.


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