Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eric Forsyth Arrives in Dutch Harbor

Fiona arrived in Dutch Harbor, Alaska yesterday morning with her captain, Eric Forsyth, 77, the only person on board.  After the two remaining crew members, Joe and David, left the boat in Nome, Eric pushed off alone for the Aleutians.  The trip took almost a week.  He anchored before dawn Friday morning.

He next job, he said on his website, will be to find a crew for the next leg to the west coast of the United States.

This year Forsyth, unsponsored and financed, he said, "by my retirement checks," sailed with a changing cast of crew members on the Northwest Passage from his home port on Long Island, New York.

[For continuing information about Fiona's 2009 circumnavigation attempt of North America, see Forsyth's website,]

Friday, September 18, 2009

The 2009 Ice Melt Season Ends

From the National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder (September 17, 2009):

Arctic sea ice reaches annual minimum extent

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the third-lowest extent since the start of satellite measurements in 1979. While this year's minimum extent is above the record and near-record minimums of the last two years, it further reinforces the strong negative trend in summertime ice extent observed over the past thirty years.

[Note the amount of sea ice remaining the archepelago.  Even in the best of years that ice remains a challenge for any vessel transitting the Northwest Passage. -RR]

For the complete story click here:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back from the Ice

Having returned from the "Summer of Cold" on the Northwest Passage, I am in the process of editing my journal, sorting the thousands of photographs and attempting to put the trip into perspective.

This year all but one of the ten vessels (ten that we know about) attempting the Passage completed their goal. No vessels were damaged, no crew members injured, no "Mayday" calls were made and no one "found themselves passengers after the coast guard had to pluck them off boats hopelessly stranded in ice" as was recently reported in an article by the Canadian Press.

The crew of the vessel that did not complete the trip this year will return next year to continue the journey. That they are not completing the trip this year is the result of, not drama, but schedule delays.

Much was made in the blogosphere of the ice encountered by the vessels in 2009. "[That several vessels were at times beset by ice] is a sure sign that climate change is not occurring, proving global warming is a hoax" or "several boats were not properly prepared for the ice." That kind of thing.

What is remarkable is that ordinary ocean going pleasurecraft can now make the Northwest Passage in a single season. Sure it's a bit dangerous.  The ice is still there. To sail the Passage is still a calculated risk. But with planning and care it can now be done.

And that is the point.

It was not too long ago that the only "properly prepared" vessel for the Northwest Passage was an icebreaker.  It's only in the last few years that pleasurecraft, even minimally crewed, fiberglass, unsponsored boats-without-a-cause like Fiona have been able to complete the trip.

I will leave it to scientists to supply the facts and the debaters to hash out why that is possible.

[For more news of Fiona's successful 2009 completion of the Northwest Passage, including the latest position on its continued trip around North America, visit Eric Forsyth's site at]