NWP: Shoestring projects stretches

Posted: Aug 09, 2011 11:16 am EDT

(By Jon Amtrup)Edvin Buregren and Nicolas Peissel have finally reached the southern tip of Greenland on their Northwest Passage on a shoestring project. The ice conditions are difficult, but the crew on the Hallberg Rassy 31 are enjoying their time in ice. Due to delays the team has decided to over winter the boat.

Buregren and Peissel had a late start from Sweden due to some problems with getting the equipment they had ordered through the Swedish postal system. But when they finally got on their way they sailed fast towards Greenland.

The ice conditions on the coast of Greenland are difficult this year with a lot of ice drifting around. The two adventurers had to head out to sea again on their first approach to Prins Christian Sound on the south tip of Greenland. Ice where blocking the way.

But they managed to find their way through with one man in the mast spotting the free routes through the pack. They reached the settlement Nanortalik and spent a few days there before heading North along the west coast.

The area around Nanortalik was one of the first parts of Greenland settled, both by Inuit and by the Norse. Nanortalik, according to Wikipedia, was founded in 1770. In 1797, a permanent trading depot was set up in Nanortalik by traders from Julianehåb. Due to poor harbour facilities, in 1830 the town was moved three kilometres northward, where it remains today.

The settlement is well known for its towering mountain peaks and vertical walls in Tasermiut Fjord. Names like Ketil Mountain (1500 m) and Ulamertorsuaq are familiar to mountain climbers from around the world.

But the sailors are sticking to the challenge of the ice. Here is their latest report:

"When we woke up we contacted the Ice central for updates on the ice situation going to Fredriksdal but like many times before we did not get satisfactory information. The ice chart are made from observations from a helicopter that flies over the area three times a week. Since the ice conditions is changing very fast and we where just between two reports could not give us accurate information. The closer we got to Fredriksdal we realized that it would be very difficult to get through. We saw a catamaran on the horizon and after contacting them on the radio they told us that the town of Nanotarlik up north was cleared of Ice. We had another amazing day of cruising in the sun with the meditative shapes of the ice floating by. We moved in and out of different ice concentrations and a few times we had to pass through 3- 5 /10 of ice."

"From deck it sometimes seems impossible to get trough but from the mast top its possible to get an overview and passages can be found and instructions can be given with the hand held VHF to the person at the tiller while the third person is at the bowsprit fending off ice with the poles. When we are completely blocked by ice we drift up to it really slowly and push off the enormous ice block which floats of very slowly to create a gap for us to get through. We watch the ice with great respect and realize the treat it posed to the boat with its incredible weight and sharp points and edges just at the waterline. Every now and than we see Black ice whit it´s transparent ice that is really hard to see in the black-blue sea. We are constantly disusing new ice strategies and fear the day we have to sail though ice with big waves. The approach to Nanotarlik was mind-blowing coming into the small fjord with mountains and icebergs with rugged and worn down houses appearing between the cliffs."

"Once ashore we where meet by a feeling of being a a totally different culture. An Inuit community with signs and products in Danish in a bizarre mix. We had previously been told to stay away from the bars but after a few beers in a worn down venue we could not understand the reason for it. All the time we where approached by drunken Grenadians who told stories of fishing and islands where they dump their slegedogs for the summer. The night ended with Morgan dancing with a 70 year old Inuit woman to a Danish country soundtrack."

The delay and ice conditions have made the two think hard about their time schedule, and they decided to continue their journey through the NWP next year.

We figured that if we continued to rush our pace we would have time to attempt the traditional Northwest passage, but that we want to accomplish a unique route through the Arctic that requires significantly more time. We also think that more time to track up the icy coast of Greenland to the highest latitudes will better prepare us for our unique passage and will also allow us to find the perfect staging area to wait for the unique opening that we are anticipating. Finally we identified further modifications to the boat that will increase our chances of success allowing us to better negotiate the dense ice we expect to encounter during this unique Arctic route they write on their blog.


They met a lot of ice coming in to Greenland.
The town of Nanortalik.