Back in 2013, three friends and I attempted to row through the Northwest Passage in a custom-made rowboat from Inuvik to Pond Inlet. Our goal was to be the first to travel self-propelled through the passage in a single season, and thereby shed light on the rapid rate of climate change in the Arctic. The Passage had been fully clear of ice the previous two summers, so we figured we had a good shot.
Things didn't work out exactly as expected. You can plan all you want, but Mother Nature simply doesn't care. She is completely dispassionate and does as she pleases. As John Franklin also experienced, the elements conspired to thwart our pious dreams of glory.
Still, it was a great adventure. Whether I succeed or fail, I never regret dipping my toe into an uncertain situation. No matter the outcome, the experience and knowledge gained from out-there expeditions always make them worthwhile.
I shot a film about the trip that came out in 2015. The film won a few awards, aired on the CBC, then disappeared into the ether. So here, for the first time for free, I'm sharing our intimate little adventure with anyone who wants to come aboard our 25-foot beast of a rowboat with us.
Named after a line in the classic Canadian Stan Rogers song "Northwest Passage", my documentary film The Hand of Franklin will reveal the sights, sounds, ups and downs of our expedition, as well as enlighten you on the circumstances of climate change as it relates to the Arctic from the perspective of Inuvialuit, Inuit and other locals we met along the route.
I also wrote a chapter about our experience in my book Lines on a Map. Entitled 'The Anchor,’ it details a sequence of events—beginning with the loss of our anchor to a large pan of ice—that very nearly saw us go the way of Franklin himself.
Whether you watch the film or read about it in my book, our voluntary 54-day quarantine in a tiny rowboat might just be relatable to all of those holed up and riding out the current pandemic. I suspect it will make you glad you weren't with us on the journey itself. There nothing like a little bit of schadenfreude to perk up one's day. Enjoy!
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