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Transarctic 99
"La voie des glaces"(On the Iceway)

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We are designer and distributor of our trips

Musée Fram
Fram museum of Oslo
Partner Expedition 2014 Greenland/Ellesmere

69Nord is member of :

Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators
Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators

Chambre de Commerce Franco-Norvégienne
French Norwegian chamber of commerce

Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators
Tromsø Chamber of Commerce

International Sailing School Association
International Sailing School Association

 


  Since he was back from this trip, Olivier wrote a book about his journey:

"La Voie des Glaces"
Editions Transboréal
Collection "Sillages"


The Project

 

 I grew up dreaming of polar expeditions in the far north. The great open spaces, the Midnight Sun, polar bears, Inuits, ice packs. All these dreams made me view my journeys to Terra del Fuego, Patagonia and then to Alaska as practice for the real thing, a passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the waters of the north, the frozen Ocean, my Mount Everest.

It was in Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, a wonderful playground, rugged and beautiful, where the glaciers meet the sea, that I met Robert and Joan Coates, a Canadian couple. I was not to know then that they would become my second family.

 
  Their yacht, designed by Ian Nicholson and built in heavy aluminium, was designed to be taken into the North, and could with a few modifications become the perfect boat for my expedition.

When they heard of my project, they put their boat at my disposal, for two years , for the rent of one canadian dollar , so that I could pursue my dream.

Because of failing health Robert had come to realise that he could never sail into the Arctic. He took pride that his yacht could go without him. He has since died. I dedicate this journey to his memory.

  
  It took me two years to prepare for the expedition with the help of my family and numerous friends. The challenge being to get to France by sailiing through the Siberian North in the six weeks during which the ice pack relaxes its grip. If, at the end of that time, we should still be amongst the ice, we would have to overwinter and wait ten and a half months before we could continue on our way to France.

 

From British Columbia through the Pribilof Islands to Providenyia

  

Jean Michel and I left Sooke, B.C., on the Ist of June 1999 aboard Ocean Search. We travelled up the coast until Dixon Entrance, then west across the North Pacific to Dutch Harbour and north to Providenyia. We made good time, learning our boat, adjusting to the brisk weather. It was too cold to work with bare hands. The ice charts showed there were several ice bergs before we reached Providenyia.
We kept watch but had not seen even the smallest "Ice Bit" when on July 5th, we entered the fjord. To tell the truth we had not seen anything but puffins and other sea birds. For 48 hours we had travelled through such thick fog that we could not see 50 metres from the yacht.


  We found Providenyia, a small town, a desolate place, sad and decayed, lost in a shroud of mist, a sorry sight. A barge full of all sorts of uniformed officials came to meet us with a battery of administrative procedures.Two guards were left permanently on board. Interpreters came in relays to translate the forms that we had to fill in.
We soon found that things were not quite as tough as they looked. Our guards fished and smoked and accepted the plates of spaghetti that we offered them. The officials themselves joked about their system.
We shared inumerable cups of tea, our discussion sessions were long and we all got thirsty. The atmosphere got a lot more friendly. Soon we were allowed on shore.
We stayed nearly six weeks in Providenyia. The problems in Kosovo upset all the plans that I had made before I left Paris.
My Russian crew Andrei had by now joined us, so we could communicate more freely with the locals. Our Russian friends tried to help us in every way.
Frequent electricity failures did not help in the discussions between Moscow, Paris and Vancouver . At weekends we all adjourned to the hotel bar, pulled the curtains to, and danced .Vodka flowed freely. Everyone was happy, I champed at the bit.

  On July 24th, I realised that we were never going to get authorisation .The season is so short. We could no longer wait.
There was no question of going back. If we could not go west by Russia then we would go east by North America
Arrangements were quickly made by radio. Friends in Canada leapt to our help. There was no time to waste if we were to reach the Atlantic before the end of summer.

 

The Bering Strait

  

With the help of all our friends, canadian, american, french and russian, we were able to leave Providenyia on July 28th.
We had to leave Andrei behind because he did not have the required visas to leave Russia.
Jean Michel and I would have to go on alone. It was a sad parting. We made many promises to come back as soon as possible. We had learned a lot. Next time we will be successful.
From dawn to dusk the colours were magic. At times the mountains appeared as if they were on fire. we crossed over the international date line. For us July 28th lasted 48 hours.
We worked up the Bering Strait against contrary winds, tacking from Russia to America and back again. We crossed into the Arctic Circle which we should only leave again 6000 kms further east.


  At Point Barrow, the northern most point of the United States, we came on the pack ice. We could read our way throuh by the refractions and reflections of the ice on the sky. We cut through channels that got steadily more narrow.
The officials in charge of the Arctic Research Centre at Point Barrow were most helpful during the two days we stopped there. We were able to consult their documents and obtain invaluable information about ice conditions. I needed this because the study that I had done previously was mainly about Siberia.


  The Inuits were very interested in us. We told them about our journey. They told us about their fishing and their whale hunts which are permitted because they need the food. Their annual quota is 22 in the Point Barrow area.

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