West Hansen is no stranger to long-distance paddling expeditions. In 2012 he kayaked the length of the Amazon River in South America and in 2014 he followed that up with the first descent of the Volga River in Russia too. But now he’s gearing up for what will likely be his most challenging journey yet as he sets his sights on a full crossing of the Northwest Passage in the summer of 2019.
The Expedition News reports that Hansen will follow the same route used by Roald Amundsen and his crew when they completed the Northwest Passage for the first time in 1907. That route covers more than 1900 miles (3057 km), of which about half has never been paddled before. While it took the Norwegian explorer three years to finish his expedition, Hansen believes he can do it in about 60 days.
For centuries the Northwest Passage was seen as a mythical route that would provide a faster, more convenient way for ships to travel from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific. Constant pack ice in the Arctic Ocean above Canada made such a journey an impossibility however, preventing the Passage from ever becoming a viable route. Today, climate change has brought warming temperatures to the region and now it is not only a reality, it remains open for several months each year.
While en route across the Passage, Hansen and his team –– which includes Jeff Wueste and Jimmy Harvey –– will survey the health of the ice, as well as monitor the populations of plankton and jellyfish along the way. They’ll also have to contend with icy waters, even at the height of summer, as well as nasty weather, difficult currents, floating ice, and the occasional orca and polar bear too.
No firm start date has been announced yet, but I’d expect the team to get underway in June with the hopes of wrapping up in August. We’ll keep a close tabs on the expedition as the summer gets closer and follow along as best we can.
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