In the summer of 2012, the “A Passage Through Ice” expedition went on a four-month, 10,000-nautical mile Arctic journey aboard a 31-foot fiberglass sailboat. The purpose of the voyage was to track the Polar Ice Cap and highlight the impact of climate change in the Arctic. In the process of doing that, the international crew of three also accomplished the most northerly Northwest Passage ever and became the first sailboat ever to transit the M’Clure Strait.
Most importantly to the team, the trip garnered extensive media attention — which alerted tens of millions of people globally about the scope of the polar ice cap depletion. And Iridium® had a big part to play in all of it!
Here’s how the icy escapade unfolded, as told by Edvin Buregren (Sweden), Nicolas Peissel (Canada) and Morgan Peissel (USA).
We recognized at an early stage in the planning that reliable satellite communications would be paramount to the success of our endeavor. Not only would it allow us to stay in touch, but it would also give us the ability to download daily ice maps and information from the Canadian Ice Services as we navigated through some of the most dangerous waters in the world.
We had used Iridium products during other adventures, but never for anything as “high stakes” as this. Iridium’s superior network coverage and our familiarity with Iridium equipment made it an easy decision given the pivotal role the phone would play. With support from Xsat Global, we assembled a robust communication system, consisting of the Iridium 9555 handset, the Iridium AxcessPoint for Wi-Fi transfers and an external antenna.
After a few months of testing and preparation, we left Newfoundland, Canada in early June 2012 to sail along the remote coast of Greenland. Our goal was to reach the most Northern outpost of Thule, at N 77° 30”. Stopped by the polar ice, we headed west into the Canadian Arctic towards the objective of our mission — the Perry channel and M’Clure Strait
This stretch of water and ice has blocked many expeditions before us, and is historically known to be very unpredictable. After several failed attempts, communication with our ground support team ultimately allowed us to find a lead through the ice to reach M’Clure Strait.
The polar ice cap is constantly being pushed against the shores of the strait, and when we arrived only a narrow passage was formed between the land and the ice. We traveled through the channel at full speed over 36 critical hours in order to make it out before the ice moved back in. During that time, our boat was transformed into a floating information center, sending and receiving reports by the hour via our Iridium set-up. The system worked flawlessly throughout the passage and made it possible to make safe and informed decisions.
On August 29th, we finally cleared the ice and were proud to announce the success of our expedition to the world. Interestingly, we once again relied on our Iridium equipment to tell our story. We even gave several interviews over the phone and by email and managed our website — all from the never-before-sailed icy waters of the Arctic!
Iridium is proud to help people stay connected from pole to pole, providing critical connections wherever your journey may take you. As the only truly global satellite communications network, we are ideally suited for extreme expeditions and are happy to have been a part of this incredible journey!