North West Passage Expedition

Progress Reports




The ' delivery crew' ( Pat Redmond, Cathal De Barra, Eoin Coyle and Harry Connolly ) have now left-after celebrations in Illulisat, and Jarlath, Mike Brogan, Frank Nugent, Kevin Cronin and John Murray are aboard, more celebrations.

As this is written, we're on passage ( at 71degrees north, 55 degrees west ) in fog with icebergs, about 5 miles off the Nugssuaq Penninsula, on our way to Upernivic, the most northerly of the Greenland towns with any facilities.

But to step back a few days.

We had to use the engine for the last 100 miles to Disko, as the wind dropped . Crossing the bay south of Disko, we met icebergs in plenty. These were from the huge glacier of Illulisat, beginning their long seaward journey, anticlockwise around Baffin Bay, south to Labrador before expiring in warmer waters and, and no doubt giving concern, if not grief, to navigators along their journey.

Godhavn, the town in Disko, is now called Qeqertassuaq, ('Suaq' means big, 'siaq' means small ) and formerly was the provincial capitol. It was there that McClintock called in his vessel 'Fox', for final stores before beginning his search for Franklin. He wrote

"I do not know of a more enticing spot in Greenland for a weeks shooting, fishing and yachting than Diskofjord"

This town, village really, is nice in that the buildings are all single story and there are no taxis rushing about.

Peter, a Dane married-in, helped quench our thirst with a 'product-launch' for some new beer-a change from the Tuborg. But first Harry took Cathal and myself for a walk, a 43 kilometer walk, first crossing the peninsula northwards, along a valley used in winter as a dog-sled route. Now the ground is soft and springy, wet in places and tiring. A couple of stream-crossings in meltwater with boots-off added a touch of excitement and by-dad we were tired when we made camp that night. The mosquitos made camp too, on us. The smoke from our fire helped a  little, only.  The two lads slept in Harry's small tent. I bivvied, peeking out through my bag at the sun on the mountain across the fjord to the north. Great view, slept poorly.

At 8.30 we left, us and the mosquitos all, and couldn't say we were having fun. Then the breeze freshened, the mozzies left and it was wonderful, tramping along, stopping every couple of hours or so, beside a lake or a stream. That evening Pat and the lads on the boat came out to collect us from a stony cove west of Fortuna Bay.

A couple of hours sleep and dinner was the preparation for Peters 'Pub'.  Pat on flute, Cathal on Feadog and Bodhran and myself stringing along, introduced the locals to  reels and jigs. 

Leaving for Illulisat, we found the centreboard stuck in 'down'. Its ability to be lifted is fundamental to this boats use in uncharted and confined waters. Taking off part of the housing cover, we could see the problem- about 3 metres underwater. We sailed for Illulisat, about 60 miles eastward, with this heavy on our minds.

The sea approach to Illulisat was thick with ice for about 4 miles off. We threaded our way  at 2-3 knots, so it can't have been more than 2 or 3 tenths ice .

In the harbour there were many more boats than there had been in 1993, when 'Saint Patrick' was in, co-incidentally also needing repairs ( to her rudder, after a brush with some unyielding ice ). 

Next day we did a repair to the centre-board, in fact a better set-up than the designed arrangement. This required a dive by Gearoid to attach a new lifting strop to the centre board-a swim from which he is still thawing out, despite the 7 mm. wetsuit. 

The Neleraq Hotel is one place where you wouldn't want to be trying to sleep. The band plays with all buttons in the 'high' mode, synthesizer, drum-machine and all, 'bangin' it out-changing every half hour or so for a round of the 'Greenlandic Polka', great craic, not unlike the 'Cor Beirte' only faster or 'The Stack Of Barley', Aran style. 

It'll  be a rest to be on the Northwest Passage! .Things look promising for the crossing of Baffin Bay/ Melville Bay. The last ice-chart showed a narrow 50 mile band of 3-4/10 ice only, all very do-able.

We'll be in Upernivic tomorrow evening. There are a few things to do to the boat, not much, take on water, top up diesel. Frank and I are hoping to get in a short climb. By Wednesday we should be on our way to Canadian water.

We look like having a route choice as between the usual Melville Bay one, going north towards Thule, Cape York and then south-westwards-or more directly in a northwesterly direction. The  ice-chart we get in by fax in the next day or two will decide for us.


Mike Brogan adds: 

We are relieved to confirm at first hand that the boat and crew are actually progressing as well as the Progress Reports led to believe! Delighted to find all repairs and provisioning complete on our arrival. Found all the fresh provisions were consumed by the 'first-leg' crew and we are now starting to live off the land-have caught our first load of fish.

The 'real' skipper, Jarlath, slipped quietly into command of the boat, which position was gracefully ceded by Paddy ( watch this space ! )

Terry and 'Donk', his constant traveling companion, are hoping to beat their previous 'furthest north'.

We arrived in Illulisat to blue skies and glorious sunshine, 16 degrees, which has been a rarity in Ireland so far this Summer. Our introduction to ice, glaciers and icebergs was immediate. The bright sunshine turned to fog as we dodged the bergs in 'Iceberg Alley', otherwise known as The Vaigat, on our way to Upernivic. More later.

Many thanks to all those who sent greetings.

The Glacier at Illulisat is the most prolific in the world, calving the most and some of the biggest icebergs.  It's awesome to stand near the glacier face and see and hear this phenomenon occurring.  These huge lumps of dense and very old fresh water ice take on amazing shapes and best avoided by sailing craft.  They are unpredictable both in movement and stability because of there varies shapes above and below the water.  Large lumps can suddenly break off, causing the iceberg to roll as it finds it new centre of gravity.  If a boat is too close when this occurs it could end up sitting embarrassingly high up on an iceberg floating around the ocean.  This is also to be avoided.  Last night we had Killala spuds and Westport cabbage with Rooskey ham boiled in iceberg water.  All was enthusiastically consumed leaving little for the hungry Pomarine Jaeger Skuas (Stercorarius pomarinus) and Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) which were in evidence at all times. 


Kevin Cronin adds:
Good things so far
Fair weather allowing us to get acclimatized slowly.
Onboard toilet
Dry boat  i.e. not damp & leaky (we do have some drink onboard)
Everything is working (except hot shower)
Tot of whiskey after watch

Not Good
Can get very cold on deck (and will get colder)
Not seen much wildlife yet
The degree of harmony on board so far is ridiculous. - more effort all round required.

Good or Bad?
Learning a new song  


Historical Notes added by Frank Nugent 

Re Disco Bay Area
Franklin Expedition July 1845
The Whalefish Islands, Disco Bay on the West Coast of Greenland, was the last place Francis Crozier, captain of Terror (Banbridge, County Down) and his ships company communicated with the outside world.  From her John Franklin aboard Erebus sent his last dispatch to the admiralty, and where many of the 129 officers and men of his expedition wrote letters home.  Among those letters Francis Crozier wrote to his old commander, James Clerk Ross, expressing his fear that they were too late that season, he wrote " James I wish you were here, I would have no doubt as to our pursuing the proper course".

These last messages were taken aboard the Baretto Junior, a transport ship, which had transported its stores to the famous exploration ships, near Lively, Disco Bay on the 12th of July 1845.  The two ships, which under Ross and Crozier's command, had previously discovered the Ross Ice-shelf and Mount Erebus and Mount Terror in Antarctica were last seen by two whaling ships out of Hull, the Enterprise and the Prince of Wales, during the last days in July 1845 above Uppernavik, (Northabout's current Destination) where they were observed, awaiting favorable conditions to cross Baffin Bay.  Neither men nor ships were ever seen again.

Map relating to this report

Pictures from expedition

Progress Reports


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