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Social Issues
Melting Ice: These Guys Have Done The Impossible; They Made It Across The Arctic In A Sailboat
September 25, 2012
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When it comes to climate change, we've heard the warnings. We've heard the scientists. We've heard the political spin.

But sometimes, it's hard to truly understand the effects and the consequences. Take the Arctic, for example.

Just last week, scientists said the ice cover in the far north has melted to the lowest level ever recorded. And they said it's happening faster than anyone thought.

But unless you've been up there, it's still just a warning. Not that it isn't true. But you know the old saying "seeing is believing."

Well, the Atlantic has a story about three sailors (from Canada, the U.S. and Sweden) who just got back from the Arctic and as one of them put it "You do not need to be a scientist to see the environmental change in the climate."

Nicolas Peissel of Montreal, his cousin Morgan Peissel from Boston and his friend Edvin Buregren from Varberg, Sweden actually got through the Northwest Passage.

Not with an icebreaker. With a sail boat. No engine. Nothing to reinforce it to handle the ice. All they had was your standard 31-foot fiberglass sail boat.

That is crazy, especially when you consider that even in the summer, many passages in the Arctic are still blocked by ice. And the idea of going through the far north - from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific - in anything but a massive icebreaker has been all but impossible.

But these three guys made the complete Northwest crossing.

Here's a map the Atlantic posted to show you the route they took.


Ultimately, they went much further up the West Coast of Greenland (than you typically would) to the highest latitude possible before turning south.

"We reached 78 degrees latitude where we were stopped by the polar ice cap," Nicolas Peissel said. "It was a wall of ice."

From there, they eventually made their way to Resolute, in Nunavut. But instead of turning south at that point (as per the traditional northwest passage), they wanted to do the northern route.

That took them toward Viscount Melville Sound and eventually the M'Clure strait. To give you an idea of how risky that was, officials with Ice Services Canada warned them not to go, because the winds were going to shift and push huge pieces of ice south, closing the channel.

If they did decide to go, they'd have a "48-hour window." So, Peissel and his crewmates set off and made it all the way through in a sail boat.

Actually, they had to make it through because the ice was closing up behind them and there was no way to turn around.

"We became quite nervous," Peissel told the Atlantic. "If the rest of the ice had sealed us in, we would have certainly had to spend the winter in the Arctic."

But he said "the fact that both (routes) were melted at the same time, and that we were able to sail through... is quite telling of the change taking place in the Arctic at the moment."

From there, as they wrote on their blog "We sailed out into open waters, the wind and seas died immediately transforming the churning sea to a peaceful place allowing us to travel south quickly to the Arctic Circle."

The sailors say they wanted to do this, partly for the adventure, but mainly to show the impact of climate change in a real, tangible way.

They say they would never have been able to make it in the past. But now so much ice has melted, the impossible has become alarmingly possible.

You can read the entire story on The Atlantic's website.

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