Coast Guard Cutter Healy altan girl

With Insufficient Horsepower, the Northwest Passage Proves Unpassable

Rob Almeida
Total Views: 7
July 14, 2014

U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Healy

For the solo-sailor aboard the 36-foot steel-hulled sailing yacht Altan Girl, the Northwest Passage and the rumors of ice-free summers appears to have been deceptive advertising.  The yacht became beset in sea ice approximately 40 miles northeast of Barrow, Alaska over the weekend.

Luckily, the U.S. Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker Healy was conducting a National Science Foundation-sponsored project nearby and came to the rescue.  The ship took the yacht under tow and cut a 12 mile path through the ice to open water.

According to a statement by the Coast Guard, the sailor is not undeterred however, in his ambitions to complete the Northwest Passage this summer.  “The mariner intends to sail to Barrow to resupply and await safer weather conditions before continuing his journey.”

The following image depicts the typical routes taken through the Northwest Passage.

northwest passage


Sea ice north of Canada and Alaska has been on the decline this summer, and will likely continue to retreat over the next month.  The following image shows the current extent of ice:

ice extent northwest passage
Via the National Snow & Ice Data Center

In June, the sea ice extent was over 11.3 million square kilometers.

The North Slope Borough Search and Rescue in Barrow, Alaska relayed the call for assistance to Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders on Monday.

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