A Northwest Passage Complete: CORRECTION

15 Sep

September 13, 2019

Days at Sea: 284
Days Since Departure: 349

Noon Position: 64 57N 167 16W
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SE 6-7
Wind(t/tws): NE 15
Sea(t/ft): NE 2
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast 10 
Bar(mb): 1001+ and rising
On-deck Temp(f): 53
Cabin Temp(f): 57
Water Temp(f): 53
Relative Humidity(%): 63
Magnetic Variation: 8.6

Sail: Working jib and main, broad reach on port. 

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 118
Miles since departure: 36,138

Shifting winds overnight and our close approach to Cape Prince of Wales kept me up until 4am. Admittedly, I did nap in the pilot house, wrapped boots and all in a sleeping bag and with my head on the binocular case for a pillow. That’s the kind of sleep I’ve gotten these last three nights. It’s beginning to wear.

Also wearing is this blasted counter current. We’ve been making fast time since the low arrived, fast time through the water, but over the land the number is often 4.5 knots. It’s discouraging to see your boat drive so well but with so little to show for it. Or to spend all night approaching a cape, to finally make the turn, to decide a couple one-hour sleeps in the bunk are safe now, and then to wake with the sun to find the boat doing 7 knots, but the cape is right where you left it! 

No matter the look of things, progress has been made. Nome is 18 miles E as I type. We should arrive before midnight.

In hindsight, I’m not sure why I thought that a Northwest Passage was defined as “a route over Canada and Alaska from Arctic Circle to Arctic Circle.”

Referees for something so esoteric are not easily found, but my source was a good one–the annually published Transits of the Northwest Passage by R. K. Headland of the Scott Polar Research Institute. However, when I went back to his summary for 2016, I found no such reference. Quite the opposite; Headland states the passage is from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean or the reverse.

Victor Wejer, Mo’s ice guide these last weeks, was quick to point out my error. “Crossing the Arctic Circle is nothing,” he wrote with his customary subtlety. “You have to get to the Pacific Ocean, i.e. the Bering Sea. That Arctic Circle theory is just fancy imagination.”

That was another bit of learning. The Bering is considered a “marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean.” Which is to say that when we rounded Cape Prince of Wales overnight and passed south through the Bering Strait, we not only (officially) completed the Northwest Passage, we also reentered the Pacific Ocean. My goodness, we’ve not seen hide nor hair of this ocean since last March.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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