Rowers’ attempt through Arctic’s Northwest Passage to highlight climate change

3 May 2013

Three Irishmen and one Canadian will attempt to row across the Northwest Passage in a single season for the first time ever this July. Their goal is to become the first people to cross the 3,000km passage by human power alone, a feat that is only made possible as a result of melting ice in the passage.

Until recently, it was not possible to row across the Northwest Passage but melting sea ice has changed all of that, so the adventurers will also use their expedition as a platform to highlight the impact of climate change.

The Northwest Passage is a sea route that connects the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. It is a series of waterways through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America and through the Canadian Arctic archipelago.

Irish natives Paul Gleeson, Denis Barnett and Kevin Vallely, and Canadian Frank Wolf, will set off from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories in Canada on 1 July in their 25-foot long customised rowing boat called The Arctic Joule.

The Arctic Joule

The Arctic Joule customised boat that will be used by the four rowers. Image via Last First

They will row in continuous shifts for 24 hours a day, seven days a week during their adventure, which is expected to take two to three months, ending at Pond Inlet in Nunavut, Canada.

Gleeson said it wasn’t long ago that the Northwest Passage was the sole domain of steel-hulled ice-breakers.

“We hope by making this traverse completely under human power in a row boat, without sail or motor, in a single season we will be able to demonstrate first-hand the profound affects climate change is having on our world,” he said.

Irish renewable energy company Mainstream Renewable Power is sponsoring the expedition, which will go by the name Mainstream Last First.

Mainstream’s chief executive Eddie O’Connor said the company was sponsoring the rowing attempt, as it will draw attention to global warming.

“The melting of the permafrost and the release of methane hydrate is perhaps the biggest single calamity that mankind faces and it’s all down to human-induced global warming,” said O’Connor.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic