Expedition Report: The Arctic taught me a lesson
Victor wrote to us:
“HMS Terror was located just NW off western approaches to Simpson Str. in
Terror Bay on 12 Sept. 2016.
“The long-lost ship of British polar explorer Sir John Franklin, HMS
Terror, has been found in pristine condition at the bottom of an Arctic
bay, researchers have said, in a discovery that challenges the accepted
history behind one of polar exploration’s deepest mysteries.”
Small M/V Bergmann found it with Inuit guide. The M/V Bergmann was based in Cambridge Bay this summer and I had a chance to meet the owner and talk to some geo physicians who were chartering the vessel.
If HMS was found, there is also hope that somebody might find Christina’s camera on the bottom of Hudson Strait in 74 meters in approximate position of N062.48.3538 W071.12.0907.
I remember when we approached Simpson Strait on the 23rd of August, I was thinking about the whereabouts of Franklin’s HMS Terror seeing an old wrack on the beach.
Simpson Strait in those days, must have been a nightmare. Thanks to Victor’s accurate tidal information it worked out perfectly for us.
But even today, you have to be alert: Of the 4 yachts sailing the NWP this year from E to W, one boat from Hong Kong had bad luck in Simpson Strait. They hit a shoal in the Simpson Strait on 31 August. It took them 12 hours to re-float with swell & wind helping (info from Victor).
The skipper wrote us:…”We grounded in Simpson Strait at high tide (checked with MTCS that the time was high tide). There were 2 paper charts with one showing recommended route and 1 without. …We sailed the open sea and reached at
shallow water at open sea. Hard to predict. Thank God, little damage…”
Sometimes you just have bad luck. On a voyage like this you cannot plan every detail and it is hard to predict in a fast changing environment where conditions are extreme. You just have to take it how it comes an overcome the challenges. Gathering as much information as possible, filtering it and putting it in your planning, risk management and decision making process is a must. But improvisation skills and reading the signs of nature really saves lives.
We have had many challenges to overcome. Here an example from last night:
Around midnight we recognized that the batteries have no charge. We had to shut down the radar and navigation in bergy waters and slow down (heave to) to avoid a collision with an ice berg. There was not enough wind for the wind generators to recharge and solar panels in the dark are useless. Without navigation we were sitting in the dark. A handhold GPS running on 1.5V batteries is our back up. After a while we found the cause: a small electric cable broke during the hard wave impact from the previous days. We used a piece of a wire, a bulb of a flesh light and a cable tie to fix it.
….and so we got rewarded in the morning after a stressful night with good wind and finally a blue sky and sun.
I feel happy about our achievement to be the 1st sailboat through the Northwest Passage via Hecla&Fury- and Hudson Strait. On this beautiful day I like to be thankful that my life changed to the positive again. Less than a year ago I was in a total different situation. My accident and the Arctic taught me a lesson:
In June 2015, 12 hours before setting sail in San Diego for the Northwest Passage I ruptured my Achilles’ tendon. I flew immediately back to Switzerland where Doctor Lukas Weisskopf fixed my Achilles perfectly.
A terrible mistake in a regional hospital after the successful surgery ended in several operations with skin drafts and therapies over 9 months. The open wound did not close for several months.
It was a nightmare for a mountain guide, who’s life so far was always outdoors climbing, sailing and cycling. It became my most challenging year not knowing if I am able to climb again. The expedition stopped. While I was lying in bed: One of the investors in the boat told us he needs his money back (1) and one of our main sponsors SGS got a new CEO, who stopped their support. All we had built up over the years seemed to be falling apart.
Thanks to my wife, my children, our parents, my sister, family and friends I made it through this difficult time. Thanks also to our main sponsor Victorinox to stay with us.
Today after a successful passage, I like to thank Doctor Lukas Weisskopf from the Altius Clinic in Rheinfelden to make my Achilles’ tendon stronger than before and Doctor Dirk Schaefer from the University Hospital in Basel, also a sailor, to safe my leg with his great art to recover my skin. I remember Lukas calling me every night and Dr. Schaefer visiting me every day to encourage me. Special thanks also to Doctor Wolfgang Langewitz also from the University Hospital in Basel for all his efforts to bring me back on track.
After the time in hospitals I was lucky to be in the hands of Doctor Christian Schlegel and physiotherapists Lea Nadig and Margit Altmann at the Medical Center in Bad Ragaz. It took months to get some muscle strength back. Christian, Lea and Margit never gave up on me and encouraged me to keep going.
In retrospect, it was them that I was able to come so far. Even in my wildest dreams I was not thinking that we sail the Northwest Passage opening a new route.
I still suffer, my leg is swollen and I am often in pain after long walks or when the weather is changing, but I enjoy every step I am able to do and would not change a minute of my life.
The Northwest Passage was the best healing for my mind and the Arctic taught me a lesson: To overcome challenges is the essence of life. CARPE DIEM!
…now I have to help Meret getting some water samples for the micro plastic study… Good day!