British Royal Marines Kevin Oliver and Tony Lancashire have successfully tested their mettle and helped their mates by attempting a 1,700-mile open boat voyage of the Northwest Passage. They completed 1,400 miles, 1,100 of which were in the intended direction. Via their expedition they hoped to raise awareness and support for the charity Toe in the Water, a group that directly benefits Her Majesty’s servicemen and servicewomen who have been injured in the line of duty. The charity was set up in 2008 to use arduous and competitive sailing as an extension of the rehabilitation work carried out at Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in the U.K.
The Marines, who were both on leave from active duty, rowed, sailed and hauled their 17-foot open fiberglass boat for six weeks from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories to Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, above the Arctic Circle.
Their stout open boat, a NorseBoat 17.5, was built by NorseBoat, Ltd. of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and constructed of a fiberglass composite. It was Kevlar-reinforced for ice and specially fitted for buoyancy and stability.
During the six-week passage Oliver and Lancashire endured ice strewn waters and harsh Arctic sailing conditions. Their trek took them on a historic route passing sites where Sir. John Franklin’s men perished during his disastrous expedition of 1846-48 as they struggled to find a way out of the ice.
Oliver and Lancashire reached Gjoa Haven on Sept. 5, 2009, the same hamlet Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen made landfall on in 1903 during the first successful traverse of the Northwest Passage.
Throughout the expedition, Oliver and Lancashire blogged about their journey via satellite phone. An account of their journey and route tracking can be found by visiting www.arcticmariner.org.