Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: The New Northwest Passage by Cameron Dueck

The most extraordinary thing about "The New Northwest Passage" by Cameron Dueck is that it is not extraordinary.

It tells the story of how three men (plus for parts of the journey another man and a woman for the leg to Alaska) sailed the north-west passage across the top of Canada. They went west to east, from Victoria to Halifax, which made me wonder if it should be called the south-east passage.

A route that was so difficult it became a legend has become increasingly "do-able" as global warming kicks in, melting the ice, opening the passage to sailing yachts.

One of the objectives of the voyage was to highlight this disturbing change, but also its impact on local communities and the tensions between traditions and modernity (see this video clip for more).

But what surprised me was how few surprises there were. Yes there was ice to dodge (been there), yes they did hit some bergy bits (alas ditto too) and yes they saw the northern lights (tick), but there was less drama than expected.

Of course any 8,000 mile voyage will have breakages, including the heads (yuck), the electrics and the engine mountings, and there will be the odd storm, but that's offshore sailing for you.

The biggest drama came from bear meat infected with a type of roundworm called trichinosis, which the crew (and those in other boats) ate, leaving one hospitalised. That really sounded unpleasant.

Their success was yet another demonstration of the truth behind this book: that global warming is not a media generated myth, nor the invention of scientists wanting funding, but real, happening already, and getting worse.

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