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Silent Sound - a North West Passage experience

by Nancy Knudsen on 12 Dec 2009
The crew celebrates - photo by Dr Tobias Newberger SW
Silent Sound, one of the few yachts who transited the North West Passage this year, arrived Halifax with a host of tales among its crew. Journalist Cameron Dueck, a Hong Kong journalist and keen sailor had been inspired by 'The Inconvenient Truth' the award winning movie by Al Gore on climate change, to undertake the expedition. The goal was to use the written word, video and photos to tell the story of how climate change is affecting Arctic communities.

The crew left Victoria, BC on June 6 for a west to east transit of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. They took the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert then cut across the Gulf of Alaska, sailed the Bering Sea and entered the Arctic in mid-July..

Then they sailed east, stopping in communities such as Sachs Harbour, Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven along the famous Northwest Passage. Altogether they sailed 8,100 nautical miles.

Silent Sound arrived at Bishops Landing on the Halifax waterfront four months and four days after setting sail from Victoria, BC on her voyage through the Arctic. Friends and family from around the world were gathered on the docks to welcome the 40-foot yacht and her crew ashore.

The Arctic is garnering global attention today because climate change is causing its sea ice to melt at a rapid pace, affecting the region’s communities and the wildlife they rely on for food and livelihood.

The challenge over, Cameron Dueck, skipper of Silent Sound, tells of some of his reactions:

'We had waves up to 8m high and winds over 40 knots. Silent Sound was being tossed around a lot, and I was thrown clear across the cabin on one occasion, suffering a minor concussion that kept me in my bunk for several days.

After they left the Arctic Archipelago and reached the open sea once again, they began seeing more icebergs, instead of ice floes, requiring careful watch-keeping to avoid them.

'We also started thinking about what we've experienced and learned during the summer.

'By far the most impressive feature of the Arctic has been its people,' says Dueck. 'In every town we visited we met complete strangers who offered us help, welcomed us into their homes and provided us with hot showers and food.

'So many people showed genuine interest in our journey and generously told us about their lives, and we left nearly every town with a few fish or other wild game in our fridge.

'We saw and heard first hand about the impacts of climate change, from slumping land due to the melting of permafrost to hunter stories about the northward migration of species and the challenge that early ice break-up poses for transportation.

'But more importantly, I left the Arctic with a sense that its communities are at a crossroads. They underwent a rapid change in the 1950s and 60s when people moved off the land and into settlements, and now there is another in progress.'

Having achieved their aim, with the adrenaline flow lowered, the crew were anxious to be home.

'Now it's getting hard and tiring.' he observed in his blog, also noting that the onboard heater had broken down.

However, on arrival back the group enjoyed a welcome home party with family and friends, and the journey, goal achieved, was wonderful a memory and an important story still to be told of how global warming is affecting the coastal communities of the Arctic.

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