Ocean Watch sailed south of the Arctic Circle this past week and officially left the Arctic and in doing so completed the historic west to east transit of the Northwest Passage. We are the first American vessel to ever achieve this in a single season from the west and only the third small American vessel of any kind to make the easterly passage.
There were a record number of vessels attempting the passage this season another sure sign of a changing climate in the north. There will certainly be more and more attempts in the years to come. This comes with other consequences as sailors and boaters of any and all skill levels will be trying the north. The Canadian Coast Guard will be put to the test and as we found out this summer with another sailboat, it is very expensive when assistance is requested. The Canadian icebreaker burned through $25,000 in fuel to come to the assistance of the small sailboat only to find the owner had freed themselves of danger and not bothered to let the Canadian Coast Guard know. One of many stories.
The multi-year ice is diminishing and the cycle is in place for further melting. There is quite a discussion about how many events, such as the dramatic 2007 melt, the polar ice cap can withstand. I encourage everyone to take a serious look at the issue. Very easy to find information online. Here is some of the latest from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC):
August 2009 compared to past years
Arctic sea ice extent for August 2009 was the third lowest August since 1978, continuing the downward trend observed over the last three decades. Only 2007 and 2008 had lower ice extent during August. The long-term trend indicates a decline of 8.7% per decade in August ice extent since 1979.
Now we are heading south and on to Halifax, Boston, NYC, Charleston, and Miami. Our focus will shift into the science, education, and presentation modes. We look forward to the challenges ahead.
Again, thank you to all who have assisted us on Ocean Watch and those of you who have helped me in so many ways in a more personal manner.
See you in a port closer to home very soon...