The Neil Mackenzie Trust is very excited to be assisting (in a small way) Claire Mellish (Tuppence) who is part of a team who will be attempting to be the first in history to cross the Northwest Passage on a rowing boat in a single season. This is one of the “last great firsts” on earth and we hope to be able to post updates, from her, during the course of the summer. The following is extracted from information we have received from her to date.
Update – posted 6th June
Although it might not seem like it things have been very busy behind the scenes and I am thrilled to announce that if all things go smoothly we will be setting off on the first stage of our delivery expedition this week (hopefully on Thursday evening).
The red line highlights our planned delivery route.
The delivery expedition will involve moving the boat from Eyemouth all the way to Pond Inlet. There will be two of us as crew for the whole journey (myself and expedition leader Leven Brown), with others joining us for shorter legs throughout. We will be moving our boat (Hermione) using an electric hybrid outboard engine supplied by E-Propulsion. Our journey will take us to Orkney, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland before finally reaching Pond Inlet. We estimate the journey will take around 45 days and will be hoping to update you all as we go.
With not long left until we depart, the final preparations include repacking kit to make sure we have everything, packing our rations into bags for each person per day, as well as thoroughly enjoying the last few weeks that will be spent with the luxuries of fresh food, indoor plumbing and a comfy bed.
Posted 5th May
“As a young woman in a difficult profession who has recently spent most of their time focussing on books and studying, rather than the outdoors and adventure, I want to use my experiences from this expedition to help positively influence other young individuals, especially women, to get outside and get exploring. I want to also be able show others that when you put your mind to something you really can reach your goals, no matter how unattainable they may seem at first.”
The NWP is the route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans between Canada and Alaska. The team will start their expedition at Pond Inlet on Baffin Island and intend to finish at Port Barrow in Alaska.
The search for a sea route through the NWP began during the 15th century with European explorers trying to find a trade route through to Asia. Many famous explorers such as Captain Cook and Sir John Franklin attempted to complete the passage but were unsuccessful. In 1906 Roald Amusden became the first to navigate the passage successful by ship. There have been several previous attempts to row the NWP but so far none have been successful.
The sad reality is that this expedition is only possible because of the retreating ice in the Arctic Ocean. As a team we are going to use our experiences to document and highlight the affects of climate change in Arctic regions. We will be collecting data, for research into micro-plastics, in partnership with New York University and Big Blue Ocean Cleanup. The team will be unbiased in their approach to data collection and we will be reporting the facts as we see them.
Throughout the row the team will encounter many risks and difficulties including icebergs, strong winds and rough waves and potentially polar bears. Preparation is key and as a team we have all been working hard to ensure we are both physically and mentally prepared for the expedition.
As a team we want the NWP expedition to be about so much more than our efforts to cross the passage. We want to use our experiences from this expedition and the media attention gained to be able to highlight the effects of climate change and micro-plastics in Arctic environments. We also want to encourage individuals from all walks of life to get outside and get exploring, but also to take care of our oceans and be aware of the importance of ocean conservation.
We want our expedition to have a focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility and so wherever possible we are hoping to have as little environmental impact as possible.
Preparations are ramping up now, with only a few weeks until the delivery of the boat to Canada begins. I am going to be a part of this expedition, which will see us using an electric outboard motor, rowing and possibly a small sail to manoeuvre our boat from Eyemouth to Orkney, then Faroe, then Iceland, then round the coast of Greenland, and eventually across the Davies Strait to Baffin Island. Our plan is to set off around the 15th May, although this may vary based on weather conditions. I hope that at each of our stops I will be able to provide some photographs and updates. We will be all based up in Pond Inlet, Baffin Island from late June/ early July and are expecting to leave around mid-late July (again weather is a major factor here).
Our first sea trials this week (27/4/23) involved getting our boat (Hermione) into the water and then we wanted to test out our outboard for the delivery expedition, and it was great to see how well it did. We also got rowing practice in, and found that we rowed very well together, despite massive size differences (myself being the smallest at 5ft 4.5 and the tallest being about 6ft 4), meaning our stroke lengths aren’t always easy to match but we were able to find a stroke that suited everyone. I will admit to feeling pretty sea sick on the voyage, as the boat is long and narrow and has a very particular way of moving in the water that takes a while to get used to. However, I will be taking medication in advance next time, and am convinced it is more of a mental battle whilst my body adapts to its new environment.