2010 – Northern Passage

On Midsummer's eve 2010 Børge Ousland and Thorleif Thorleifsson set sail from Oslo, in an attempt to sail through both the Northwest and Northeast passages in one season.

Ever since the 1500s expeditions have headed northwards from Europe, searching for a shorter trade route to Asia. These have sailed either east along the coast of Northern Siberia (Northeast Passage), or westwards through the icy water north of Canada and Alaska (Northwest passage). Despite much fanfare on departure and significant efforts, few have managed to navigate their way through to their destination. The ice has seemed overwhelming – until very recently. Today, it is melting. For the first time in modern history, both passages have opened up.

On Midsummer’s Eve of 2010, Børge Ousland and Thorleif Thorleifsson set sail from Oslo, in an attempt to sail through both the Northwest and Northeast Passage in a single season. During the summer of 2010 they succeeded – thanks in no small part to their fast sailboat, combined with Børge’s significant experience with the Arctic ice, and Thorleif’s decades of experience at sea.

Planned route

The journey started – and ended – at the Fram Museum in Oslo and over the three summer months they travelled over 10,000 nautical miles (18,000 km). By setting sail on Midsummer’s Eve, they followed in the footsteps of two well-known Norwegians – Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. The first leg took them up the Norwegian coast to the Russian border. Having been granted official access to Russia via Murmansk, they set a course for the Northeast Passage, joined on this leg of the trip by the Russian adventurer Stanislav. Cape Chelyuskin was particularly challenging; in previous years the ice has only melted sufficiently to allow passage in mid-August.

The trip went further eastward, crossing the Bering Strait and along the northern part of the Alaskan coast. The biggest challenge in the Northwest Passage was Peel Sound, far north of Canada, a narrow strait that previously “refused” ships access to the passageway. Usually this route is only open for a few weeks, and it was vital to reach and pass through before it closed in late September. The journey continued toward Greenland and Iceland, before reaching Oscarsborg and Oslo on October 20.

All expeditions require a strong focus on safety. Careful preparation, hard training, carefully selected equipment and good teamwork was crucial for this expedition.

Helsport congratulates Børge and Thorleif – and we are proud to have been able to partner in a new expedition feat that will be included in the history books!

Read more about the expedition on Børge Ouslands nettside – where you’ll also find daily blog updates, photos, videos, interviews, and much more.