Circumnavigating The North Pole

map of route lr l
Polar explorer Børge Ousland is joining forces with his Norwegian countryman Thorleif Thorleifsson to attempt to become the first men to sail around the North Pole, something that has not been possible in the past, but is now thanks to global climate change.

The explorers plan on setting out on June 21st, sailing east to west through the Northeast passage, which traditionally opens to traffic during the month of August. That treacherous sea route falls in the Arctic Ocean to the north of Russia. Once they have successfully navigated through that portion of their trip, Børge and Thorleif will will continue east towards the Northwest passage, another icy and dangerous route that opens up through the Arctic Ocean above Canada. That route opens in September.

These two routes had been sealed off to ships for centuries, with a thick ice pack preventing anyone from being able to sail those waters. But as global warming continues to have an effect on our planet, the ice in the Arctic Ocean has become less stable. As a result, the Northeast and Northwest Passages have both opened up for brief periods of time in recent years, allowing adventurous travelers and explorers to navigate through those ice waters.

The Norwegians will be sailing on a small boat designed to be quick and maintain a good pace in variable conditions. The ship isn’t designed to break through ice however, nor does it allow them to carry much in the way of gear and supplies, adding an element of danger to the expedition. Furthermore, they’ll need to rely on satellite imagery to chart their course through the two Passages, as the ice will break up in irregular patterns and the open channel may not be as obvious at it would seem.

ExWeb points out that a similar voyage was attempted last year by a different team of Norwegians, but that crew failed in their objective thanks to Russian bureaucracy. The ship was detained while crossing through the Northeast passage due to a lack of the proper paperwork, and by the time they were allowed to go on their way, the Northwest Passage had already begun to close. Lets hope Børge and Thorleif have better luck.

Kraig Becker