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The New Northwest Passage

Author and Journalist Cameron Dueck is speaking at 7:30  tonight (April 12th) at Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club about his experience transiting the Arctic.  We’ll be there too with copies of his new book, The New Northwest Passage. [Facebook Event]  An excerpt from his talk is below.

The New Northwest Passage

Our first encounter with ice caught us by surprise. First a small piece bobbed by, and then a second, and then we were in the thick of it. We had to drop our sails and start the engine to allow us to stop on a dime, reverse and carefully inch our way around the ice floes. I sent crew up the mast to look for clear lanes of water through the ice floes. If we were careless or luck turned against us, the ice could easily crush our fibreglass hull and sink us, leaving us precious little time to move from the frigid water into our life raft.

But soon it was not only ice on the horizon. As we drew closer we could see hundreds of walruses sunning their flabby bulk on the ice pack, bellowing and belching. We sailed so close we could smell their stench and admire their yellowed tusks. For hours we wound our way between the floes as the walruses lazily watched our progress.

Soon the novelty of the ice and the walruses wore off, and the stress of driving a fibreglass boat through this minefield began to wear on me. Again and again we bumped into ice, the hull grating against the floes and leaving streaks of paint behind.

Although there was enough ice to give me sweaty palms at the helm, there was far less ice than there should be. Higher temperatures have meant that the Arctic sea ice has virtually disappeared from the Northwest Passage for a few weeks each summer. What was good for our progress on this voyage was ultimately bad for the planet. And it is just the latest in a long history of challenges for the Inuit who live on the Arctic shores.

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