A Chinese merchant ship is bound for Europe via the “Northeast Passage,” raising the possibility of somewhat easier arctic circumnavigations. The voyage began from the northeast China port of Dalian.
The ship “Yong Sheng”, is a multi-purpose vessel owned by COSCO Shipping and is scheduled to arrive at Rotterdam port in mid-September. The Arctic routes would greatly shorten the shipping distance between China and Europe and even North America, further reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, improve the energy efficiency, and lower operational costs, COSCO said.
A Russian sailboat Petrer became the first sailboat to circumnavigate via both the Northeast and Northwest passages in 2010 without icebreaker support. A Norweigian trimaran also made the trip. The Russian vessel took 109 days to transit both passages, a total of 9,023 nm.
Even with the Chinese voyage over the top of Russia, we cannot expect a heavy traffic in recreational arctic voyagers. Serious challenges remain.
In 2009, documentary filmmaker Sprague Theobald, on board his Nordhavn 57, Bagan, completed a five-month exploration of the elusive Northwest Passage. In doing so, he joined only two dozen private watercraft ever to do so. He has since published a book “The Other Side of the Ice” and made his movie. Here’s how Nordhavn described Theobald’s project:
His Nordhavn 57 was equipped with high tech still and video cameras and editing equipment which enabled him and his crew to capture day-to-day life in this virtually uncharted territory. The result: a fascinating – and sometimes disturbing – documentary film, which will be released later this year, as well as a riveting new book called The Other Side of the Ice.
The crew knew they’d be faced with unrelenting cold temperatures, hungry polar bears, and a haunting landscape littered with sobering artifacts from past failed explorations. But what they weren’t prepared for were the personality clashes that threatened to tear them apart and put the success of the mission – and their lives – at risk, especially when faced with the possibility of getting trapped in receding ice
Although press releases and news stories never made mention of any onboard unrest, the turmoil ultimately figured prominently in the way the excursion played out, and helped make The Other Side of the Ice a harrowing story of survival, adventure and redemption.