The greatest problem with the Arctic is not the Arctic itself, it is the incredible ignorance of what it is truly like up here. It starts with media hype about global warming claiming an “ice free Northwest Passage”, which leads to incorrect conclusions that there is no ice or that it is not a problem one really needs to be concerned about. These incorrect conclusions sometimes end with adventurers leaping to “experience” the Arctic without real preparation or understanding.
This is not new by any means. In the hey day of Arctic exploration in the 1800’s, Royal Navy expeditions often charged into the glory of exploration with little regard for what it takes to not only work in the Arctic, but also to survive in the Arctic. Rather than watching and learning from the local Inuit, hubris and the lust for adventure, fame and promotion drove many to their deaths. Rather than dress like the Inuit and be prepared to live off the land, many simply brought their woolen suits and socks, their cocoon of known comfort, and simply assumed they would survive. Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated voyage to “finally” claim the Northwest Passage ended with the loss of the entire expedition, even though the best British technology was pulled together to “ensure success”. It was the ice that beat Franklin and his men.
So too did the ice beat the latest foolhardy group and, in my mind, their stupid quest for adventure. These adventurers had to be rescued by a Canadian Coast Guard crew, who also perhaps put themselves at risk, after the adventurers’ ill envisioned expedition was bested – by what? By ice. Steve Moll and his expedition, as part of the lunacy of a reality TV program titled quite correctly as it turns out, “Dangerous Waters”, left from Seattle and actually made it into the central Arctic before they were stopped dead in their tracks by the ice. Luckily for them, after calling for help they were rescued by CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier. Rescued and rather humbled, one would hope. ”Everyone has a point where you’re going to break. And Mother Nature here in the Arctic can break you like nothing else I’ve ever seen,” Moll said. And what about the bears, Steve? You’re just a snack to them.
Lets say that again, MOTHER NATURE HERE IN THE ARCTIC CAN BREAK YOU LIKE NOTHING ELSE I HAVE EVER SEEN.
The polar regions remain remote and subject to some of the greatest extremes in weather. Help is NOT around the corner…Moll and his band were fortunate that the Laurier was reasonably close at hand. With only 5 icebreakers spread across the entire Canadian Arctic, there isn’t always help close by. Anyone venturing into the polar regions must be aware that these areas are still extremely remote, not within reach of rapid rescue or support, and that ice remains an issue regardless of the latest media headlines. Only well prepared voyages will succeed and even then may be subject to impenetrable walls of ice. A passage is never guaranteed and even the most powerful icebreakers can be held up for days by multi-year ice that still penetrates deep into the Canadian Archipelago.
Capt David (Duke) Snider