Arctic expedition to fight climate change

CNC reporting from Vancouver
Added On June 20, 2013

To raise awareness to climate change and its effects, next month a group of eight adventurers will attempt to become the first to row, entirely through their own power, the 3,000 kilometers of Arctic waters above the American continent -- that is, the Northwest Passage.

STANDUP (ENGLISH) AL CAMPBELL, CNC correspondent:
"Four Vancouver-based adventurer explorers, two Canadians and two Irishmen, are about to undertake the trip of a lifetime when they attempt a world first in rowing the 3,000 kilometer Northwest Passage entirely by human power in a seven-and-a-half meter boat. The expedition has a serious message in that it is meant to create awareness about the profound effects of climate change on the environment and how the Arctic ice melt will ultimately affect humans and all life forms on the planet."

Speaking to media in Vancouver Tuesday, the four explorers will leave from Inuvik (IN-YOU-VICK) in Canada's Northwest Territories July 1st with the goal of rowing 40 to 50 kilometers on average per day. With the sea ice in the Northwest Passage unblocked for only a three-month period in summer, the crew aims to get to Canada's northern-most territory, Nunavut (NUN-A-VOOT), by September.
 
Lead rower Kevin Vallely (VAL-E-LEE) told CNC climate change is undoubtedly transforming the Arctic, and thus the world climate, and the voyage will document what's happening and raise awareness of the phenomenon and its detrimental impact.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KEVIN VALLELY, Lead rower:
"There is no doubt anymore, we're causing this. And we're causing it faster than we ever dreamed. Last year was the lowest extensive ice in the Arctic ever. We just past 400 parts per million in terms of carbon there a few weeks ago. It's happening and it's cascading and it's one of these things, it's an exponential thing. Imagine the sea ice, the sea ice from space is white. It reflects solar energy back into the atmosphere. Looking at an ocean it's black and it absorbs it and it just gains heat."

With the sea ice in the Arctic starting to break up in early July and freezing again in late September, crew member Frank Wolf says each team member will row about 12 hours a day in four-hour shifts.

Frank Wolf is a filmmaker documenting the experience. He says the crew will interview Canada's Inuit people, the native inhabitants of the area, as well as gather scientific information by, for example, taking water samples, to share with the Canadian government and other organizations.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) FRANK WOLF, Crew member and filmmaker:
"The filming side will just be interviewing a lot of the Inuit up there who have seen how things have changed so dramatically over the last few decades. So to get their personal perspective of what's gone on with life up there and how it's affecting them is going to be a very relevant way for us to bring back the story of what's happening as far as climate change goes in the Northwest Passage."

To fund their voyage, the expedition has raised about 150 thousand ($150,000) Canadian dollars. About 80,000 dollars have gone into constructing the purpose-built Arctic Joule (JEWEL) boat featuring multiple layers of fiberglass, a reinforced hull, solar power for the electrical equipment, and two cabins to house the crew if needed in rough weather.

In an area rapidly changing with strong winds and large chunks of ice moving around the water, veteran explorer Vallely (VAL-E-LEE) says it won't be an easy trip in an area where many 19th century explorers died in search of the Northwest Passage.

Despite the Northwest Passage being part of Canada's sovereign territory, Vallely suggests international dialogue is needed to ensure the proper development of the Arctic but also its protection.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KEVIN VALLELY, Lead rower:
"And we need more dialogue like that, understanding where it's going, and how quickly it's changing, and what it means for everyone because we don't want to move foolhardily into it and make mistakes in such a fragile eco-system we have to be very, very careful. We've blown it everywhere else, let's not blow it there."

The adventures of the Arctic Joule (JEWEL) can be followed online at www mainstream last first dot com (www.mainstreamlastfirst.com) as the crew will be writing a daily blog and posting images of the trip.

Best of luck to the crew. We'll be keeping tabs on them.