Three Norwegians, Trond Aasvoll, Hans Fredrik Haukland and Finn Andreassen, have started their attempt to circumnavigate the North Pole in a 36 foot sailing yacht built in 1977. Global warming can, scarily enough, contribute to their success to sail the North East and the North West passages in one season.
“We haven't found any expeditions who have sailed both the North East and North West passage in one summer. Last summer both polar gateways where open at the same time. We hope that the same conditions will prevail this summer and that we will manage to do the trip,” says Trond Aasvoll, skipper on RX II.
Even with both passages open, the chances for success are marginal – the summer season is short and the distances are huge. Not only will they have to sail through one of the world's most treacherous seas, but they also have to do it at maximum speed before the winter catches up with them.
“In this part of the world the winter is never far away,” says Aasvoll.
Senior researcher at Det Norske Veritas and adventurer Knut Espen Solberg has extensive first hand and theoretical experience about sailing in high latitudes, and his recent studies shows that there is a good possibility that the three Norwegians will make it around the globe this season.
“The North East passage is nearly ice free. Statistically this should happen by the end of September. The combination of a reduced presence of multi-year ice and a strong ocean current, washing the ice away from the Russian coastline north of Spitsbergen and through the Fram Strait, are the main reasons for favorable ice conditions experienced in the North East Passage. The North West Passage is not clear yet, but the ice-conditions are deteriorating according to the statistical schedule,” says Solberg.
The RX II is a Jerry Cartwright designed 36 footer built in 1977, and according to Aasvoll she's a sturdy 4×4 on the ocean. Before they left Vardø on the border of Russia in the end of July the boat was loaded with extra diesel, food for two months, extra water, and a dried reindeer.
“The Kara Sea is very kind to us at the moment. It's cloudy and a nice breeze, and when you think about the fact that the North Pole is close by the sea is very gentle. The weather forecast for the coming week is very favourable with southerly winds. That's good for both us and the ice conditions. We will reach the start of the North East Passage on August 10th or 11th,” says Aasvoll.
Statistically the North East passage opens mid August, while the North West passage closes end of September.
“This means that we have approximately 45 days to get through the most critical distance off 3125 nautical miles. RX II isn't a fast boat, but we should manage 100 nautical miles a day,” says Trond Aasvoll.
RX II has a number of loyal supporters: Partner Shipping, Igland Garasjen, Real Turmat, Quantum Sails, Seatronic, Ship Equip, SEILmagasinet and Flyt. Explore North will handle all media and communication during the expedition.
You can follow the expedition here: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0sh4D6qB4SbUlL8PQTx67P76naNiL79ys