Yippeekiyay! Arctic Cowboys At It Again for 2nd Attempt Kayaking Northwest Passage


- Advertisment -

A year after logistical complications and a slower-than-anticipated pace forced them to cut their expedition short, West Hansen and the Arctic Cowboys are gearing up for a second attempt at kayaking the entire Northwest Passage in a single season. (Story by Pam LeBlanc)

“This is something that’s never been done before,” says Hansen, who arrived in Canada this week with two new kayaks for the expedition. “It’s a rare remaining first.”

The team will again launch from Baffin Bay and paddle west into the passage. But this year, instead of solo kayaks, they’ll take longer, 23.5-foot tandem Seaward kayaks, which have more stowage capacity. “They’re more stable so we should be able to handle rougher water,” Hansen says.

They’re also starting a month earlier, which will allow them more down time in case of bad weather. Last year, the team launched in early August, but pulled the plug 17 days and 260 miles into the trip after multiple weather delays.

The team’s 2,100-mile route starts at Button Point at the edge of Baffin Bay and ends on the west side of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, in the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk.

Arctic Cowboys West Hansen
A shot from last year’s attempted crossing of the Northwest Passage.

The paddlers hope to reach Cambridge Bay, 1,000 miles away, about six weeks after they start. But that means they’ll need to cover an average of nearly 24 miles a day – still a faster clip than they made during last year’s aborted attempt.

Hansen says faster boats, a better understanding of conditions, more familiarity with the terrain, a better sense of pacing and a better nutrition will help them reach that goal. But this year they’ll face new challenges, too. Because they’re starting earlier in the season, they’ll have to deal with more sea ice.

“The ice isn’t broken up, but it’s still open enough for kayaking,” Hansen says. “It just means we’ll have to navigate around some chunks of ice and other times may not be able to get to shore because there’s ‘fast ice’ (ice that holds fast to the shore) that may make it difficult.”

But more ice brings at least one advantage. “It calms the waves, so that’s good,” Hansen says.

West Hansen
One more time, with feeling: Expedition leader West Hansen back at it again attempting to paddle the entire Northwest Passage.

Besides Hansen, the team includes Jeff Wueste, a building contractor and long-distance paddler from Austin who was part of last year’s attempt. Two additional paddlers — biology professor and endurance paddler Eileen Visser of New York, and endurance athlete and motivational speaker Mark Agnew of Scotland — joined the team after responding to a call put out on social media.

This year’s expedition also includes a scientific element. The team will collect water samples for a microplastics study by the Narwhal Tusk Research. The paddlers will carry an Explorers Club expedition flag.

If all goes well, they should finish in 90 days. Just in case, the team is provisioned for 120 days.

During last year’s truncated expedition, Hansen and Wueste caught glimpses of a polar bear, pods of beluga whales, seals and a curious fox or two. They paddled past 500-foot waterfalls and towering rock formations and, one foggy morning, inadvertently glided within 50 yards of a glacier.

This year Hansen says his biggest worries are wind and wave conditions during crossings of up to 45 miles.

“We’re less worried about polar bears this year, because we’ve worked with Inuit community to learn more about them than Texans know,” Hansen says. The team will place movement alarms around their tents at night and carry a shotgun and rifle.

They’ve contracted with VisionHawk Films, which has provided them with video equipment, to produce a documentary.

The team is equipped with electronic emergency gear and has rescue insurance, so if they do need rescue, taxpayers won’t foot the bill, Hansen says.

“We can hunker down, and we’re not as reliant on outside support,” he said.

Hansen says he’ll be relieved when the expedition, five years in the making, finally begins. “I look at it as a respite, a place to recharge,” he says. “I think it’s kind of therapeutic. It helps me cope with day-to-day stress.”

Expedition sponsors include Epic Kayaks, North Face, NRS, Seaward, BaseCamp Foods, and Calahan’s General Store.

Follow the team’s progress live through their website at https://www.thearcticcowboys.com.

To make a donation to World Wide Waterways, a non-profit organization created to fund Hansen’s expeditions, go here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Latest news

Good Gauley: Gauley Fest Turns 40!

Good Gauley, Miss Molly! American Whitewater's Gauley Fest is Turning 40, Complete with an '80s-theme party! Get ready for some...

Mtn Goat Movement Getting Kids Out on the Water (and Outside in General)

Greg Morrissey, founder of Mountain Goat Movement, is on a mission. His organization is dedicated to providing transformative adventures for...

Grabner Outside Inflatable Canoe Review

  A PL Peak Inside the Inflatable Grabner Outside Canoe (By Mike Nash) My wife Irene and I are both kayakers...

Jackson Kayaks Brand Manager Jameson Redding Leaves Role

 Jackson Kayak announced that longtime brand manager Jameson Redding will be leaving his role as Brand Manager for the company’s...
- Advertisement -

What Country’s Top in Kayak Cross? The Same that Punches Holes in its Cheese

Yep, the same country that punches holes in its cheese is tops in the world when it comes to...

Alpacka Releases New Film “Sheri” Paying Tribute to Founder

Alpacka pack raft founder Sheri Tingey defied the odds by starting a company at age 50 that has revolutionized...

Must read

Win a Bamboo SUP Paddle from Grass Sticks

  Enter daily for a chance to win a SUP...

Win a Pair of Bamboo Ski Poles from Grass Sticks

The First Contest Was So Popular We're Doing It...
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you