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These Four Guys Plan To Conquer The Northwest Passage… In A Row Boat
May 31, 2013
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The team trains on English Bay in Vancouver (Photos: Mainstream Renewable Power)

They will face ice, storms, polar bears, and maybe some in-fighting, but they're determined to try something that's never been done: these four men want to cross the Northwest Passage in a row boat.

The journey is expected to take 75 days, and the four adventurers, all of whom live in Vancouver, are Kevin Vallely, an architect, Paul Gleeson, a self-employed personal adviser, Dennis Barnett, who works in shipping, and filmmaker Frank Wolf.

Three of them have experience with long-distance wilderness expeditions - Vallely set a world record for the fastest unsupported trek to the South Pole, Gleeson has rowed across the Atlantic, and Wolf has cycled more than 2,000 kilometres through Alaska and the Yukon - but Barnett is new to it all.

The crew (l-r): Paul Gleeson, Frank Wolf, Kevin Vallely, Dennis Barnett (Photos: Mainstream Renewable Power)

Vallely told The Globe and Mail he offered Barnett some advice about living in close quarters with three other people during a long and arduous journey:

"Really the trick is not to get too burned up... you are going to get pissed off for no reason, at the way someone brushes their teeth, or something. You've just got to realize that's the way it is and try to laugh about it and have fun."

The team is referring to their trip as the Last First expedition because they believe making the crossing solely on human power is the last great challenge in the Northwest Passage - and they hope to be the first to pull it off.

Mainstream Renewable Power, an international solar and wind power company with offices in Canada, is sponsoring the trip.

According to CEO Eddie O'Connor, the journey is meant to show the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

"The expedition can only happen because the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate," O'Connor writes on the company website.

"The melting of the permafrost and the release of methane hydrate is perhaps the biggest single calamity that mankind faces and it's all down to human-induced global warming," he continues.

The planned expedition route (Image: Mainstream Renewable Power)

As you might expect, the guys are training but not too hard. Vallely says you don't want to be "Tour de France fit" for a trip like this.

Instead, he says the guys will be "fit, but not crazy fit, and you build up and you get really strong about half-way through. And then you slowly start to fall apart."

"By the end you want to be tired, happy to be done, but not completely fried," he told the Globe.

As for the boat itself, it's a specially built seven-metre long vessel called The Arctic Joule, and the men will have guns in case they run into polar bears.

But they won't be armed with anything deadly - the weapons fire rubber bullets, and the guys will carry "bear bangers" (noisemakers that scare away threatening animals).

Here's Vallely talking about how the boat is riding so far:

The 3,000 kilometre journey from Inuvik, Northwest Territories to Pond Inlet, Nunavut will begin July 1st. You'll be able to track their progress at

Via The Globe and Mail


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