sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery

 

Sail-World.com : North West Passage Adventure, but 'It's Warming'

North West Passage Adventure, but 'It's Warming'

'Sailing to the North West Passage'    David Thoreson
David Thoreson was a member of a sea-weary crew of six, halfway into the 73-day trek on the edges of the Earth, trying to become the first American yacht to travel east to west through the Northwest Passage. Thoreson, surprised by the lack of Arctic ice, knew they had made it.

Ice had stopped vessels for centuries on this treacherous route, as explorers dreamed of cutting a path between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic seas and Canadian archipelagos. But after Gjoa Haven - ominously - the ice would be no problem for the rest of the 6,640-mile journey.

'When we went into town, we were like rock stars,' said Thoreson, 48, of that September day. 'They wanted to look at you. They wanted to see your beards. It's a very remote village. They don't have many visitors.'

David Thoreson and Skipper Roger Swanson -  David Thoreson?nid=41107  
Thoreson, along with captain Roger Swanson of southwest Minnesota, went on from there to complete the passage in a 57-foot Fiberglass ketch in 73 days, considered the fastest trip ever by Americans and just one in roughly 30 recreational boats to make the passage in history.

The euphoria has faded a bit.

Today, Thoreson is immersed in composing a traveling photography exhibit that will tour Iowa this summer. More importantly, he has been honing a message to awaken others to the planet's peril.

The voyage was aided, Thoreson and others suspect, by global warming.

'Not only was there less ice but a record amount of less ice,' said Thoreson, whose last attempt with Swanson failed in 1994 when ice stopped them. 'In fact, we didn't encounter any ice.

'The arctic ice pack is shrinking. My feeling is that it's irreversible. Within my lifetime, there will be no more ice in the Arctic. Some scientists say it could be gone within 10 years.'

Thoreson is no activist or climate scientist. He's an adventurer and photographer. But researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Snow and Ice Data Center both released research last summer showing that Arctic ice will drastically decrease from the effect of global warming over the next 40 years.

Thoreson only knows what he saw and how it affected remote villages and wildlife along the way. 'I really think we bridged two eras of history,' he said. 'The end of the era of exploration and the new era of climate change.'

In 1905, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to navigate the passage in a wooden sailboat. The graves and sunken boats of countless others litter the way, including that of Sir John Franklin, whose two ships and 129 men disappeared in 1845.

Thoreson and Swanson saw the Franklin crew's graves - a sobering sight - on their first failed attempt in 1994. They would soon have to make a hasty retreat from danger themselves. Swanson tried it again without Thoreson in 2005 and failed, vowing never to try it again.

Then news of melting ice this year made the trip seem possible. The ice had steadily retreated in prior years, but last summer's shrinkage was extreme, Europe's space agency told the BBC.

Different Paths

Thoreson and Swanson met in 1990, having taken different paths to their dangerous adventure.

Cloud Nine in an ice field -  David Thoreson?nid=41107  
Swanson, 76, is a former pig farmer and factory owner from tiny Dunnells, Minn., who took up sailing in midlife. Approaching age 50, he took his daughter sailing in the Caribbean, and she asked him when he was going to sail around the world.

'I decided if I waited until I had the time and money to do it, I never would,' said Swanson, who has since done it three times.

Thoreson literally grew up on smaller water, spending summers in Okoboji, an hour from his hometown of Algona. He became the third generation of his family to become commodore of the Okoboji Yacht Club.

While freelance photography is his profession, operating the Blue Water Studio with wife Teresa in Okoboji, he has fit in 20 years of adventures, such as bicycle trips across Canada and the United States.

When he met Swanson, he asked if he could be part of the crew of Swanson's yacht, Cloud Nine. Swanson tested him in 1991 on a trip around the southern tip of Africa, where they encountered dangerous seas with no Coast Guard to rescue them.

'We neared Antarctica when we were caught in a band for three days with 40 to 70-knot winds,' Swanson said. 'He handled himself real well.'

The audition complete, Thoreson joined Swanson at the opposite pole in 1994. There, icebergs loomed in the water, popping into vision out of the fog, ready to sink their boat.

'I used to think I did this because I'm a photographer,' Thoreson said. 'It's more than that. I'm trying to learn something about myself personally, and the world we live in, and share the wonder. It's really uncomfortable and I don't like it when I'm doing it. But then there is this breakthrough. One of those wow moments.'

Extreme Moments

The 'wows' are alive in his photographs of the beautiful seas at the edge of the Earth: The polar bears; two hundred beluga whales in the bay; the deep blue tint of the skies over rolling, ice-cold water.

Cloud Nine route through the North West Passage -  David Thoreson?nid=41107  
'The serene beauty of the poles is something I really like,' Thoreson said. 'I enjoy the remote cultures and being able to experience them and not just fly in as a tourist. To work hard to get to these places makes it all the more special, in addition to the feeling of being where not many people have been.'

Crew members took four-hour shifts sailing the boat. Sailing is Thoreson's greatest skill, honed by navigating small boats in races on Okoboji.

The three-bedroom ketch - it has two masts and four sails - caught winds over the treacherous seas, starting along Greenland.

The ketch sailed through Canadian archipelagos to along the coast of Alaska. Even with less ice, storms brewed stronger as the boat made its way toward Alaska, Thoreson said.

'There were 80-mph winds and 25-foot seas. I can't explain the gravity of the situation. We were surfing down the waves with 26 tons. They are pitch-pull conditions and you can just go end over end. It just scares you, and you start shaking.'

Although they wore harnesses, if Thoreson went overboard he was certainly dead.

'You can't think about the danger too much or you can't function,' he said. 'But you have to know it's dangerous. There is a fine line there. You know you will be tested. There is that one moment when things are hanging on the line and you have to use your instinct and talent and experience. I like that challenge.'

They made it through the storms and ended their voyage on Oct. 1 in Kodiak, Alaska, a record 73-day voyage.

Peter Semotiuk, a ham radio operator in Arctic Canada's Cambridge Bay, who has been broadcasting ice reports for 25 years, is one of the official sources on voyages through the Northwest Passage. He said last summer was 'unbelievable,' as six boats attempted passage - four successfully, although one was later lost in Alaskan seas.

The ice was out a whopping six weeks, while some years it's open for only 24 hours or not at all, he said.

Get the Word Out

On Cloud Nine, with skeptics on global warming aboard, the crew became astounded at the change in climate. None more than Thoreson. Locals told Thoreson about weather phenomena they had never seen before. He heard of hunters unsure if ice packs would break apart. They saw remote Alaskan villages emptied by approaching violent seas.

'The trip solidified my feelings about what is going on in the Arctic,' said Thoreson, who winters in Sante Fe, N.M. 'What I'm working on now is to relay to the public what I have learned in my travels.'

His exhibit, '20 Years/20 Stories' concludes with a call to action. Thoreson wants people in every community to explore steps to slow global warming.

Someday, he plans to captain his own




by Mike Kilen, Desmoines Register

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=41107

5:28 AM Wed 23 Jan 2008 GMT






Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.

Click for further information on
Yachting News

Related News Stories:

05 Jan 2013  The yacht club with no water.
11 Jun 2012  Yacht Club of Monaco-'New clubhouse new horizons,' says Prince Albert
11 Apr 2012  Yacht Club celebrates fifty years
25 Jan 2012  European Yachts of the Year: Beneteau, Oyster, Pogo and Esse
28 Jun 2011  What, actually, is a superyacht? Australia ponders
04 Jun 2009  OBE for Sailing Team Manager Stephen Park
03 Jun 2009  Leaders of world’s premier yacht clubs 'in the same boat'
01 Jun 2009  UK boat builders feel the stress
30 May 2009  Sailing Clubs named as Olympic Pre-Games Training Camp venues
29 May 2009  Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to visit WPNSA
MORE STORIES ...

News - USA and the World



America's Cup: Challenger calls Competitor Meeting ahead of deadline *Feature by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com/nz,
































































America's Cup: 2017 venue short-list reduced to two Cities
Formula Windsurfing Youth and Master Worlds overall
49er and 49erFX Europeans: Pitfalls aplenty on day 1 + Video
ISAF Youth Worlds - Laser Radial sailors look to join list of legends
Coville soon to chase solo circumnavigation record in giant trimaran
Fierce competition at the Meanline Fins Slalom Challenge
Volvo Ocean Race - Team Brunel opt for experienced winner
Bakewell-White supermaxi designed to take Transpac's Barn Door Trophy *Feature
Crew rescued by navy patrol from J/111 racer after Mayday in storm
Team Alvimedica practice in Newport, RI - Photos
18 foot skiff European Championship (Open Europeans) - Final results
Nacra 17 European Championships - No action on day 1
ISAF Youth Worlds - 29er and SL16 sailors prepare for battle + Video
Volvo Ocean Race: Eight new crew members named by teams
Volvo Ocean Race: New additions to Spanish team announced
2014 Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek - Phuket Island is ready to host
PWA Awaza World Cup - Cyril Moussilmani and Delphine Cousin on top
Foiling Week - Moth Class Italian Open Championship Day 2
America's Cup: Luna Rossa foiling in AC45s at their Italian base
Star World Championship - Germans claim dramatic win in Malcesine
PWA Awaza World Cup - Down to the wire in Turkmenistan   
Route Halifax Saint-Pierre - Off to France!   
Nacra 17 Europeans - La Grande Motte back in Olympic classes arena   
Stena Match Cup Sweden - Hansen hat trick in Marstrand + Video   
Route Halifax Saint-Pierre Race keeps an eye on Arthur   
World Match Racing Tour: See the Finals replay at the Stena Match Cup   
Newport International Boat Show unveils exciting 'At The Helm' Program   
Stena Match Cup Sweden - First blood to Hansen over Canfield + Video   
Star World Championship - Americans claim race win in Malcesine   
PWA Awaza World Cup - Weather halts action on day 4   
Clipper Race - Henri Lloyd wins OneDLL Cup into Den Helder   
Clipper Race - Close match racing in closing stages of the OneDLL Cup   
Volvo Ocean Race: Spanish play catch-up with under 100 days to go   
World Match Racing Tour: Catch the live action at the Stena Match Cup   
Finn Junior Worlds - Battle for the Jorge Bruder Silver Cup   
Mobiles drive traffic - 72% increase in Sail-World.com page view *Feature   
British Open Dragon Championship finale at Royal Lymington preview   
2014 Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek - Phuket is ready to host   
PWA Awaza World Cup - Valerie Ghibaudo hits back on day 3   
Star World Championship - Hard fought win on day 4 + Video   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT