Ocean Rowing: Challenging the Northwest Passage


Back in July, French rower Mathieu Bonnier set out from Greenland to attempt to row through the Northwest Passage, and while he has already faced a number of challenges, he continues to make good progress towards achieving that goal. At this point, he is north of Canada, and has passed through Resolute Bay, but continues to battle pack ice which has impeded his progress.

According to this story at ExWeb, Mathieu arrived in Resolute Bay around the middle of the month, but before reaching that milestone, he faced a crossing of Baffin Bay, which his support team says is the first since the age of the vikings, who also were aided by sails. It is also most likely the first solo crossing of that body of water, which took Bonnier 12 days to complete.

The row into Resolute was also blocked by ice, so when he did eventually arrive, Mathieu elected to stay there and rest for a week, hoping that the time off would not only allow him to rest, but also give the waterway an opportunity to open up further. This past Sunday he returned to the water once again, and is continuing to row west, but has been asked by the Canadian Coast Guard to check in with them on a daily basis for his own safety. The water ahead is still thick with ice, but is still believed to be passable, although the Northwest Passage doesn’t generally open fully until early September.

When I first wrote about this voyage back in March of this year, the plan was for Bonnier to row as far as he could this year, then return in 2011 to finish the job. He is making remarkable time through the frozen Arctic waters, so I’m not sure if that is still the plan or if he now thinks that he can complete the entire expedition this year. My guess is that it will be very slow going from here on out, and that he may not make it through the limited weather window for crossing the Passage, but who knows. The weather has been weird the world over this year, so perhaps the water will remain open longer than we expect.

Either way, this is an amazing row. Even in the dead of summer, it is cold, windy, and uncomfortable in the Arctic, and because of that Mathieu has had little sleep or rest thus far. He may need to take the winter off just to get some shut eye.

Kraig Becker

1 thought on “Ocean Rowing: Challenging the Northwest Passage”

Comments are closed.