In just a few days, I will be departing on a month-long journey that will take me into the Arctic Circle, along the west coast of Greenland, through the Northwest Passage, across the northern shores of Alaska, through the Bering Strait and ultimately to Nome, Alaska. After being in Antarctica last year, it was inevitable that I would find my way to the northern Polar Regions.
Google Satellite Image
This route was not really possible until recently because the Arctic Archipelago, through which we must pass, was choked year-round with sea ice. But the steady rise in global temperatures has changed that situation as shown in this NASA video. There are various routes through the Archipelago; our route will follow the track of the ill-fated John Franklin Expedition of 1846. (See image below) Anyone interested in the history of this epic search might check James P. Delgado’s definitive work, “Across the Top of the Word: The Quest for the Northwest Passage.”
Our Planned Route
(Note: The Mercator map projection above distorts the size of Greenland; it’s actual size equals about 28% of the continental USA)
Early exploration for a more direct route from Europe to the Orient began in the 16th Century, yet the first successful passage by boat was not achieved until 1906 and that trip, led by Roald Admundsen took 3 years. It was another 36 years before the next successful effort, this time by Henry Larsen, and that also took three years. In both cases, the expeditions were forced to spend the winter in the passage after being trapped by the sea ice. The first commercial passenger ship to make it through was the M/S Explorer in 1984. The Explorer’s journey was organized by Lars-Eric Lindblad, who had pioneered sea tourism in Antarctica on the same ship in 1969.
Aside from innumerable icebergs in various sizes and shapes, we will pass vast tundra plains, low lying bogs, sharply pitched arctic mountain ranges, and bituminous shale fires that have been burning for hundreds of years. We hope to capture images of all this as well as wildlife such as Narwhals, Beluga and Humpback whales, Polar Bears, Musk Oxen, Arctic Fox, and a variety of migrating birds.
As with last year’s Antarctica trip, the amount of photo gear one can take is limited by carry-on restrictions for the flight to the embarkation port (Kangerlussuak, Greenland). The final leg has 5 kg limit (11 pounds) for carry-on and putting any of the essential items in checked baggage is never a good plan. The duration of this trip is about 4 times longer (23 days from Kangerlussuak to Nome Alaska). For one thing that means I’ll need more memory cards. I also will be taking a tripod and a computer, two items that were not with me in Antarctica. Those will be packed in my checked baggage along with a few other accessories. Should they fail to make it to Kangerlussuak, it won’t be fatal.
It’s likely we will have little or no internet connectivity during this journey, so it may be a while before another post appears in this space or I am able to check on the posts of my fellow bloggers. Until then…..