Saturday, December 29, 2007

All Climate Records Smashed in the Arctic 2007

Hello everyone and welcome to the story of Cloud Nine's record-setting voyage through the infamous Northwest Passage. If you are interested in the entirety of the sailing expedition, it is all here in gruesome detail. If you are interested in thoughts/stories on topics of climate change, politics, my exhibit, etc, please check out the links to the right. Thanks for stopping by the blog and look for lots of new posts in 2008.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Completion in Kodiak, Alaska

Cloud Nine sails with a crew of six. From front left to right: Roger Swanson, Gaynelle Templin, and Douglas Finley. Back, left to right: Chris Parkman, Matthew Drillio and David Thoreson.

Monday, October 1, 2007 Kodiak, Alaska

After 73 amazing days and 6640 miles, Cloud Nine and crew pulled alongside the dock in Kodiak and an astounding adventure through the Northwest Passage came to a close.

The Gulf of Alaska passage from Dutch Harbor to Kodiak was a lumpy one to say the least. We had a gale it seemed the whole time and one nasty storm with 70 knots of wind and 20-30 foot seas. At one point in the evening, at the helm, I surfed down the backside of a huge sea at 14 knots with Cloud Nine on a full plane. 26 tons of vessel with the bow beginning to bite. Pitch-pole conditions. I shook from adrenaline for about 30 minutes. But we made it in with everyone doing a great job, as usual.

It is going to take a little time for all of this to sink in, but we are all proud of the achievement, the teamwork, camaraderie, and the performance of the battle-tested sailboat, Cloud Nine. Also, Roger Swanson deserves whatever recognition he receives for being one of the finest captains and mentors in the profession. He’s the best, and never stops, even at 76 years young.

Now is time to re-enter the world again and try to put the travel through the Northwest Passage, climate and cultural issues, and all the images, video and writing to good use. Quite a challenge, but I look forward to sharing thoughts with everyone and the ensuing conversations.

Awesome times ahead and new adventures await. Thanks again to all of you who have followed and encouraged us along the way, and especially those of you who have helped me personally with maintaining while I have been away. Look forward to seeing you soon. For now, this is a weary, but happy sailor signing out from Kodiak.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Wow! We made it out of the Bering Sea. One low pressure after another has raced through the area, one looked like the "perfect storm" on our weather map. Actually like a bullseye. Cloud Nine sailed from Nunivak Island to the Pribilof Islands to make some south and west against the prevailing winds so a favored south and east route to Dutch Harbor could be taken. This strategy paid off as we ended our anxious sailing with a beautiful run on the first day of autumn into Dutch Harbor after midnight.

Needless to say we are tired and beaten up after 6000 miles of sailing, but we are planning our departure to Kodiak in the next few days. We have storms again and big seas out there, but maybe following seas and westerlies at least. It is easy to see why they film "Deadliest Catch" out here. This is one of the wildest weather areas any of us has ever seen. Weather races through here, but the geography here is spectacular with 7000 foot peaks right out of the sea and lots of activity in the busy fishing seaport.

We've been joking about a new series called the "Deadliest Sailboat," and telling our tales of adventure and where the crew will be next week and which crewmember has what going on and such. Good way to pass long hours on watch. At any rate, we have a great and new respect for the Bering Sea and all those who make their difficult livings and lives in this rugged, remote part of the planet.

One leg left. Will post from Kodiak. I'll try to get more photos up. Thanks all to all of you out there. Cheers, David

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Shelter at Nunivak Island

We finally made it about 275 miles south of Nome to Nunivak Island and a safe anchorage, but we have a gale for a few days and it's proving to be difficult out here in the Bering Sea. This undertaking is not over, by any means.

We will be ending our journey from Kodiak after all. Very stormy in Kodiak, but Seward's yard is full for the year and another day's sail from Dutch Harbor. Still 1200 miles to go from here and it looks tough.

For now, we are safe and in a good spot. There is a solo Arctic sailor on a boat named Alpha Wulf next to us who is also going to Dutch Harbor. He is a retired filmmaker who used to film wolves. Our own little pack on the sea...

Thanks to all of you for the support and feedback on Douglas Belkin's great article in the Wall Street Journal. (Heard it also made the paper in Seattle. Please let me know if you found out about Cloud Nine's accomplishment elsewhere.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stuck in Nome, Alaska

Thursday, September 13, 2007 Nome, Alaska
Well it had to happen sometime. We thought we would be waiting in the ice somewhere up north, but that did not happen in the mostly ice-free waters. Now it seems to have caught up with us. Storms keep brewing in the Bering Sea and we have had up to 56 knots along the sea wall where we are tied up. Waiting is difficult and trying our patience, but we'll make it out of here and south to Dutch Harbor...eventually.

A nice surprise this morning was to be informed of Doug Belkin's fine article in the Wall Street Journal. It was published today and I have just seen it online. Great story about the Northwest Passage and Cloud Nine. Check it out for sure.

Some of you have mentioned there is no direct link on this blog to my website. Yes, it is there on my profile link, but just so you know my website is

Friday, September 7, 2007

Completing the Northwest Passage 2007

Friday, Sept. 7, 2007 Nome, Alaska
Arrived in Nome yesterday and just in time as a gale is forecasted for the Bering sea through the weekend. Good time to duck into this booming gold town on the west coast of Alaska. This is a great place to really cut loose and celebrate and we did just that last night.

We passed through Bering Strait into the Bering Sea with Siberia less than 40 miles to starboard Wednesday about 1600 Hrs. At that point, Cloud Nine was farther west than the Hawaiian Islands. Very interesting, but totally remote part of the world. We have seen only one vessel in the last 1200 miles.

Reflecting on the Northwest Passage a bit and on the Arctic in general, some of the same themes keep coming to mind. First of all, I have an overwhelming respect for our predecessors, many of whom perished in this unforgiving wilderness. It is awesome, in the International Polar Year, 100 years after Amundsen first transited the NW Passage, to revisit the Arctic and retrace his path, in his footsteps.

I feel strongly that we have witnessed the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. The golden age of exploration, Amundsen’s era, has come to a close, and a new era of exploration involving study and change in the earth’s climate is just beginning. We on Cloud Nine have experienced both eras. Frozen in and stuck in the ice twice over 13 years, and now sailing through unscathed and witnessing an ice-free Northwest Passage. We have bridged the two eras.

Will the Passage remain ice-free? Probably not every year, but the trend appears to be in place for continued opening for longer periods, as multiyear ice has a more difficult time forming as land and seas warm. I feel privileged and humbled to have witnessed these events and to have been a minute part in this vast history.
The Arctic and Antarctica are experiencing rapid change in climate and anyone interested in this issue should take a good, long look at what is happening around the poles. Now, what do we do as people to change? Thus begins a new, and exciting, era of exploration.

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007 Chukchi Sea near Bering Strait
At 0544 Hrs, 9/5/07, Cloud Nine and crew recrossed the Arctic Circle heading south to officially accomplish the transit of the Northwest Passage. We had a small party to celebrate (hard to party at 6 am), recounted a few stories, and were on our way again, now to the Bering Strait, and Nome, Alaska.

It is very hard to put my feelings into words today. Thirteen years ago we tried the passage, ice turned us back north of Peel Sound. Two years ago, Cloud Nine attempted again and was thwarted by pack ice in Franklin Strait, and ironically, abandoned their attempt on the same day, Sept. 5, that we accomplished the Passage this year.

As far as history, we made a couple “firsts” here. We are the first American sailboat in history to transit the Passage from east to west, the classic route, Amundsen’s route. We are the first American sailboat to ever sail the Passage in a single year. And we will no doubt go down as one of the fastest transits of any nationality throughout history. Roger also thinks he may be the oldest skipper to accomplish the feat at a spry 76. It has been a very hard push as we have traveled over 5000 miles since leaving Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 19th.

We are all planning a bit of personal time in Nome, Alaska, upon arrival tomorrow and it will be a very welcome break to catch up with friends and family and see a bit of Alaska we have not seen before. I have taken about 3000 photos along the way and 15 hours of HD video of our adventure. It will be lots of work to edit through, but I look forward to the compilation and sharing of this incredible story.

Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007 Point Barrow, Alaska

Off watch. Have a gale and 12-15 foot seas running; just the way it should be. Very cold, about 30 degrees this morning. Just jibed at our farthest northwest point and are now on our southern run. I was laughing about feeling a bit closer to home turning south, ironically at Pt. Barrow, as far away as we could be in North America, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Wednesday, August 29 Tuktoyuktuk, Inuvik Region, NWT, CA
Just arrived after a 700 mile run out of Cambridge Bay. Climbed and clawed north and west out of the Arctic, at times tacking into the icy headwinds. Passed our first of two potential ice barriers. Soon we will be clear of this potential threat in ice-free waters again. Days are getting shorter and we now have a night, but nights are spectacular when you can see the sky. For instance, last night.

Mind you, we have not seen the moon for a month and wondered if there was some Arctic effect going on. Well, we discovered last night it was not only full, but we had a full five-hour lunar eclipse going on with a few northern lights thrown in for dessert. I have never witnessed such a sight. Once again, the special moments in these remote places on earth remind me of why I love to return.

So, a quick stop in this dusty, little western Canadian Arctic hamlet. It’s very shallow coming in here and we had 10-16 feet of water for over five miles (we draw 9 feet). Went aground six feet from the dock in under 8 feet of water, but no problem getting off the soft mud and just sat at anchor. Interesting village, very nice people and the last place to get any provisions in a safe harbor for the next 1200 miles.

*Look for an article in the Wall Street Journal, by writer Douglas Belkin, who we met with at our last stop. He's working on a story involving climate change and how it is affecting the area economically (for example, new multi-million dollar DeBeers mine.) Exploration. Exploitation.

Finally, for those of you who know my family, this Labor Day weekend marks a sad time for us. Seven years ago I was on Cloud Nine, in Alaska, and got the call that Dad had died. A strange coincidence to be aboard Cloud Nine and arriving in Alaska this very weekend; but I believe Dad is watching and helping things go better this time around.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday, August 21 Cambridge Bay, Northwest Territories (Nunavut), Canada

Cloud Nine arrived in the harbor and actually got tied up to the end of the pier in good shape at 0800 this morning. Had some tough conditions the last 24 hours with rough seas and headwinds. No ice though. Great, calm harbor even in the heavy air and we will enjoy our time here for a couple day before departure on the long passage.

Cambridge Bay is another milestone. Here we have passed the last great danger of pack ice in the Northwest Passage which could block us and now we "only" have about 3000 miles of high latitude sailing in the Beaufort Sea, Chuckchi Sea, Bering Strait, and Bering Sea to get to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where we will surely enjoy a few cold ones with the "Deadliest Catch" crab boats. Looks like we are going to make it this time. Third time will be a charm for Cloud Nine.

The northern peoples and their cultures in the communities here are fascinating. They are heading out now on long fishing and hunting expeditions to gather food and materials from the bush for their winter survival. Although using all the same technologies as the rest of us, there is also a big push to maintain traditional ways and maintain control over their lands. There is huge energy and mineral potential being unlocked with the warming of the north and their is a race on for control of these resources. The native people believe they have rights to this land. Who could argue. But many other countries are arguing that Canada does not even control the resources of the Arctic, and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the future.

Thank you to those again who have helped me along in this process. Next update may be from Alaska, and a rare and successful completion of the Northwest Passage by an American sailboat.

Friday, August 17, 2007

August 17th, Gjoa Haven, NW Territories (Nunavut)

We have been on Raold Amundsen's trail now for many years, but finally arrived at his wintering harbor of two years (1903-04) during his successful Northwest Passage attempt. Gjoa Haven represents a milestone for us on Cloud Nine. This is our 30th day and we have sailed over 3000 miles during this period. The Peel Sound and Franklin Strait areas have blocked Cloud Nine's previous attempts. This time we sailed south right through almost ice-free. We have had amazing weather and conditions to acheive our goal. Success looks very good at this point; we expect to make it and spirits are high.

It is with mixed feelings, however, that I write this, noting that the Northwest Passage is virtually ice-free. Although good for our attempt, it is not a good indicator for the planet. We are really just a mobile piece of data in the climate change equation. We are witnessing history in the making in the Arctic. However any of you feel about the issue, it is undeniably taking place and the peoples of these high latitudes are feeling the changes first and rapidly. We are utterly shocked at the lack of overall ice coverage this year up north.

We next move on to Cambidge Bay from here to repair our radar, reprovision and prepare for a very long passage over the top of Alaska in unforgiving seas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tuesday, August 14th "Icebergs and Radar Problems"

News from Cloud Nine's Captain, Roger Swanson:

We are getting on well, but still having radar problems. We fixed the
antenna problem, but now it won't pick up targets. Fortunately it
worked crossing Baffin Bay where we had fog all the way with icebergs, but
it died yesterday. Some of the icebergs show up on radar, but by no
means all of them so we must be very careful. I'm thinking about
ordering a whole new radar and have it shipped to Cambridge Bay. The problem
is to try to find one in Canada to avoid customs delays.

We expect to reach Peel Sound in the morning and head south. Other
than the fog, weather has been good, very little strong winds. Shortly
after entering Lancaster Sound weather cleared and the icebergs have been
thinning out, practically none now. More later.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Updates for the Passage

Please follow my updates under the Sailing the Northwest Passage portion of my blog. I will post journal entries as I can. Sitting in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, currently making final preps, stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Follow Cloud Nine

Many of you out there have expressed an interest in following Cloud Nine's attempt to transit the Northwest Passage over the summer/fall of 2007. While we will not have a daily blog per se, we do have a reliable and interesting way to track us daily through the Arctic. *Note these direct links are on my links page on my website. They are hot, the following need to be pasted into your browser. Ham radio operators run a site that will post our position and daily comments at
When arriving at this website go to position locator and then enter our call sign- nøduy. *Note that this is a zero, not the letter o. Once there, a Google map will come up. Zoom in and out. Another site which we use a lot to get our weather and ice conditions is This site is extensive and has everything you will need to see the same information we have. You can have a lot of fun following us us and learning about the Arctic and its environment at the same time.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sailing the Northwest Passage

August 7, 2007. Arrived at Upernavik, Greenland, some 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This is our exit point to move north and then west into Lancaster Sound and enter the Norhtwest Passage. Weather has been good. Ice reports good in the Passage. Counted 79 icebergs in view two days ago. I had to go diving to free the prop of fishing gear 200 miles north of the Circle, quite cold, but good wetsuit and equipment- successful. Some radar problems. Leaving tomorrow. Have now met three scientists from the US, Denmark and Norway. All are here studying climate change. Very interesting conversations. Also talking with locals and others studying local cultures about the changes in their weather, ice, traditional hunting, fishing patterns and all. Changes are happening at a rapid rate. It is staggering. Upernavik is one of those last little places on earth. Enjoying our stay tied alongside the Norwegian sailboat, Yotun Arctic, great guys, very smart and in tune with the Arctic. Next report Canada after crossing Baffin Bay. Important crossing coming up here to position ourselves.
July 25, 2007. Cloud Nine and crew arrived safely in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, 0700 hours, July 24th, in a full gale. Slow going the last 25 miles in heavy air at night and many icebergs around visible only by radar. Winds close to 50 knots. Overall good passage of 644 miles from Halifax, Nova Scotia. We are now in iceberg territory for our next passage to Greenland. Departing tomorrow morning for the Disko Island region of Greenland (about 1200 miles) where we will reprovision before heading on to Lancaster Sound and the Northwest Passage. Track our progress and I will check in as I can.
July 17, 2007. Cloud Nine, a 57' Bowman ketch, has arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the 2007 Northwest Passage attempt. We will be a crew of six underway July 18 for St. Anthony, Newfoundland, then north to the west coast of Greenland. This will be the third attempt for Roger Swanson and Cloud Nine. Hopefully the third time is charm. I was last in the Northwest Passage in 1994. Cloud Nine reached the northern outpost of Resolute, the southern channels were full of ice and we became icebound for a period of time before retreating back out to the east and south, eventually sailing across the North Atlantic to Ireland. The history of the Northwest Passage is rich with adventure, exploration, and great tragedy...

Monday, August 1, 1994 EREBUS BAY, NWT, CANADA
So....history. Today’s lesson and why we are here, besides a good harbor, is the Sir John Franklin expedition. His vessels, Erebus and Terror, spent the winter here in 1845-1846. There are still some remains of their winter cabin on Beechy Island, a large cairn at the high point and, of course, the graves of the first three crew members to perish on this fateful expedition.
Little did the rest of the crew realize what awaited them as they buried their comrades. As we solemnly meditated over their frozen tombs, we could not help thinking of the slow, wretched deaths of the entire crew over the next two years. Their vessels became hopelessly frozen in the ice and their food supply was tainted with lead from their soldered containers. They were getting poisoned and did not even realize it. The final history of their demise is still a great mystery to this day......

And so, that’s about it, this is the Northwest Passage.....
It has a fairly short, but highly charged history, full of fatal errors and few triumphs, resolute stubbornness and an eventual acceptance of native ways and Arctic realities. It is a dream world, which did not cooperate with the terms imposed by its conquerors. The Arctic and Northwest Passage have their own dreams, their very own unchanging and somewhat harsh realities that must be accepted on their terms or the consequence is peril. It is on these terms under which we will proceed, or turn back, knowing full well our own limitations and frailties as compared with the immensity and power of this most special and powerful place. This one small spot, Erebus Bay, sums up the history and the Arctic saga very well and speaks loudly, and yet subtlety, of mans’ triumphs and failures in this foreign world.

August 20, 1994 POND INLET, NWT
We escaped and did reach Resolute, but only briefly to refuel, grab a few supplies and see a few new faces. But we have now hit our “go, no go” date and must turn back and abandon our quest to venture through the Northwest Passage this year. We are in peril of becoming frozen in for the season and cannot risk this occurrence. There will soon be a night again, and darkness in the ice is fatal. Cloud Nine is sailing southeast across Baffin Bay to Greenland, and south to some relative safety.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

It has taken well over a year to put together, but the first retrospective exhibit of my 22 years of photography is now complete and finishing it's first run at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa. We had 400 people there for the opening night and it has stayed very busy throughout the showing. The interactive exhibit, which includes photography, journal entries, and ipod stories, weaves together a series of adventures, forming a larger storyboard of life, travels, and challenges. Look for the exhibit traveling around Iowa through 2007-2008. Schedules will be available through the Lakes Art Center. Use the link on the website. Thanks to everyone who has helped with this amazing project.