French Team Sailing To The North Pole


A pair of French adventurers are attempting to sail from Barrow, Alaska to Spitsbergen, Svalbard in Norway via the North Pole this summer. That’s a distance of 3300 km (2050 miles) by way the croew flies. But this route is seldom straight and easy as they pass through the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean and it’s massive ice flows.

Sébastien Roubinet and Vincent Berthet set out from point Barrow in early July and have been attempting to make their way to the North Pole ever since. The voyage has not been an easy one however as they have encountered more ice this summer than they had expected. Often times they find themselves sailing south just so they can find an open waterway that will allow them to continue towards the Pole. The weather hasn’t been all that cooperative either as they have at alternating times battled high winds that were too dangerous to sail and lacked wind altogether, becoming becalmed while they wait for an opportunity to move ahead.

They are making this unprecedented journey aboard a specially designed catamaran that can capture the wind to help sail both around and over the ice. They’ve named the boat Babouchka and for the most part it has performed remarkable well in very tough conditions. But travel has been extremely sporadic. Some days they are only able to cover just 3-4 km (2-2.5 miles) while on their best day they managed to cross 194 km (120 miles).

A few days ago Sébastien and Vincent crossed over the 78ºN latitudinal line. That means they still have a long way to go before the reach the North Pole, located at 90ºN. The duo are hoping that surface conditions will be more stable as they head north, possibly allowing them to cover longer distances more easily. Since the Babouchka is capable of traveling over both water and ice, they are looking forward to a time when they aren’t necessarily battling both.

You can follow the two men on this epic journey on the expedition’s official website. After five weeks out on the Arctic Ocean, their tale is a compelling one to read. But with such a long way to go yet, it will be interesting to see if they can actually complete this expedition at all.

Kraig Becker