Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
I must admit, being an oceanic adventurer myself, I do love to read about outrageous voyages. The feats of Shackleton in the Endurance stir my blood. I’ve stood on the deck of the Gjoa, the first ship to make the northwest Passage, and marveled at how tiny it was, and the steel nerves of the men who sailed it into the unknown.
But the latest crop of Arctic adventurers leave something to be desired. Last year we had the “Row To The Pole“, which didn’t … and in 2008 some other fools tried something similar in kayaks. This year, we have “Arctic Row”, whose stated goal is to make “the first, non-stop, unsupported row across the Arctic Ocean”.
Here’s the ocean in question.
Now, when I read that they were going to row “across the Arctic Ocean”, from Canada to Russia, I thought “No way”. There’s always too much ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean to make that at all possible. But I hadn’t reckoned on their ingenuity. So how exactly do they plan to make “the first, non-stop, unsupported row across the Arctic Ocean”?
I searched all over their web site for a map showing their route, but I couldn’t find one. However, I did find where they are leaving from (Inuvik, Canada) and where they are landing (Provideniya, Russia) , and with the help of Google Earth I’ve plotted out the likely route of their Arctic crossing for you …
I guess that the term “across the Ocean” must mean something different where they come from …
They are asking for sponsors on account of their important scientific work. They are going to record all of the whales that they see, and mark down which direction they are traveling, to determine if whales use their noses to navigate to the nearest krill patch. There was no word about how they would know where the nearest krill patch might be. There was also no word on whether they are asking for sponsors who will pay for the ships and planes in case they need to be rescued … although from the looks of their route if they get in trouble they could just wade ashore.
I note that they say that “The Arctic Row expedition presents an unusual opportunity to conduct scientific research with absolutely no carbon emissions or negative impact on the Arctic ecosystem.” I’m not clear how they plan to get the boats and rowers to Canada and back from Russia without using carbon fuels.
I also note that their web site references, without a hint of irony, the discredited Nature magazine claim that the plankton in the oceans is only half as abundant as a century ago … so they are going to “create a thorough zooplankton sample transect along the entire path”. We’ll see how that goes …
I wish them well, and I do not minimize the difficulty of such a long row. I used to fish commercially from a rowboat, and rowing it eight or ten miles a night was a long and tiring pull. I’ve also fished in the Bering Sea, and I know how changeable and deadly the northern waters can be. I admire their courage and search for adventure, and I wish them a safe journey.
But calling that journey a voyage “across the Arctic Ocean”? Sorry, that’s a coastal voyage they have planned, and is hardly “across” anything but the Bering Strait. I can see why they neglected to put a map on their site showing their proposed route …
[UPDATE] An alert reader yclept “climatebeagle” noticed the following:
I wonder if their route will even cross into the definition of the Arctic Ocean?
Looks like it could just be the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
I looked into his excellent reference, and found the following (click on image for larger version):
Note that their route actually doess cross the Arctic Ocean as they claimed … looks like the crossing will take a couple of hours.