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Rowing The Northwest Passage: Last First Team Struggle To Make Progress

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

It has been a few weeks since we checked in with the Last First crew. You may recall, they're the group of four rowers (Kevin Vallely, Paul Gleeson, Frank Wolf and Denis Barnett) who are attempting to cross through the Northwest Passage this summer. They set out from Inuvik in Canada a few weeks back and are now hoping to row more than 3000 km (1865 miles) through freezing waters choked with ice bergs and other obstacles to reach Pond Inlet. If successful, they'll be the first to row this route in a single season.

So far it has been anything but easy for the crew. Despite the fact that it is summer, the only time of the year that the Northwest Passage is open at all, the weather conditions have been poor with high winds making it difficult to make substantial progress. In fact, some of the days have been so rough that the team has manned the oars for hours just so they don't lose any ground. Throw in the constant threat of icebergs, which could trap their boat or even break its hull, and you begin to understand just how difficult this undertaking has been.

With the wind at their backs, the boys can make excellent time however, as evidenced just a few days ago. While rowing near Franklin Bay they managed to cover 120 km (74.5 miles) in a 24 hour period. That was more than double what they had done on their best day previously. They paid for it yesterday however when headwinds and shifting ice kept them pinned down for most of the day, seeking refuge from the weather as best they could. After scrambling for most of the day just to avoid being dashed against the shoreline, the crew learned that it is best if they wait out the poor weather rather than expending a lot of energy to go nowhere. How well that plan will work remains to be seen as they still have the bulk of their journey ahead of them and the summer is passing quickly.

You can follow their progress on the expedition's official website and Facebook page as it unfolds in the weeks ahead.

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