The Nagalaqa Expedition

Extremely belatedly I’ve just discovered that many weeks ago Sébastien Roubinet set out on another expedition to cross the Arctic Ocean in an ice skating catamaran, now christened Babouch-ty. Seb has already led several similar expeditions in the high Arctic, and on this occasion he is accompanied by Eric André and Jimmy Hery. They set sail from Sachs Harbour on Banks Island at the end of June, and have seen many sights since then! Here are a few of them:

Here too is a more recent image of Babouch-ty and Ellesmere Island:

The Nagalaqa tracking map shows that Babouch-ty looks set to round Cape Columbia, the northernmost point on Ellesmere Island, round about now:

The original aim of the expedition was to reach Svalbard via Cap Morris Jesup, but given the length of time it has taken the team to get this far they have sensibly decided to take an early exit from the Central Arctic via the Nares Strait:

[Edit – September 26th]

Seb has decided to terminate the Nagalaqa Expedition in the Nares Strait, north of the Kane Basin:

Winds of more than 30 knots are forecast. The weather window didn’t really open. Luckily we’re not on the water, with our wobbly little boat, it would have been catastrophic… Here and now, the winds, the cold, the snow, the darkness remind us that winter is back. The Arctic requires patience, perseverance, but also a large dose of humility. We are waiting for better weather conditions so that a helicopter can take off and pick us up. In a few days, we will leave Babouch-ty, dismasted, coiled in a fold of ground and moored to bags of stones… This expedition ends here for this year.

Watch this space!

9 thoughts on “The Nagalaqa Expedition

  1. Seb et al. have reached Cape Columbia after going “off piste” to negotiate some tricky obstacles:

    For a few days the configuration of the terrain has changed… Gone are the large fjords, with their relatively smooth and passable ice, which allowed us to progress slowly but steadily.

    Here, the coasts are steep and the pack has come to accumulate along the land. To avoid this chaos of ice, interspersed with partially frozen water areas, we have to adapt to the terrain…

    Ah, we’re having fun at 83° North!

    Today, the conditions were difficult, it was complicated between glacier with large slopes, rotten ice, chaotic plates and even rappelling down an ice wall…. but tonight we are in Cape Colombia and from from now on our course will always be a little further south towards Robeson Strait which separates Ellesmere Island from Greenland.

  2. Another report by Seb from north of Ellesmere Island:

    In the last few days, we have taken stock of our food stocks, everything is fine, we have enough until the end of September…

    Alert, we are coming! One more cape to pass tomorrow and then we’ll head seriously south. Alert is a Canadian science and military base. For us, it is above all the gateway to the Great South (50km from us this evening), the point where we will turn our backs on the pack ice, where we will find open water and enter Nares Strait, due south. . The expedition will clearly take a new turn! Further on we will find the first Greenlandic villages. Our first human presence since June 26th, we will have to readapt!

  3. Some more spectacular images from the far north, as the Nagalaqa team see Greenland for the first time and enter the Nares Strait:

    We are now turning our backs on this pack ice which has occupied our days for several weeks! The expedition is therefore at a turning point, in every sense of the word. The difficulties don’t end there, however, as entering the strait means having to juggle the currents, the ice and the strong winds predicted.

    For the moment, the wind is not yet too strong (15/20 knots) but the current is felt, causing a suction effect and large movements of the ice floes… we are beginning our descent.

    The positive thing is that the drift does the work for us… there’s a chance that over 24 hours, we’ll explode our daily average for the past few days, while staying in our duvets!

    The wind will quickly increase but we have very large floes, which constitute very good shelter to let ourselves drift towards the south and if the weather deteriorates too much, we will find shelter on land.

  4. Seb reports from the Nares Strait:

    We knew that entering Nares Strait would be a turning point for the expedition. In recent days, our daily life has changed completely. In addition to the ice, we now experience night and cold. A nice layer of frost sometimes even forms in the cabin. Not hot !

    The boat is also getting tired, this is its second expedition, with thousands of kilometers and shocks to the hulls!

    And the current that carries us to the south, that too is new! And what a treat, from his down, to see the kilometers go by!

    However, the drift takes us to the wrong side of the strait, to the west. Now, we have to stay on the east side (Greenland), that’s where we’re going, and that’s where we’ll find open water.

    But above all the wind is picking up and we know that a storm is forecast for the next few days, there’s no question of getting stuck on a drifting ice sheet, we have to find a place on land to put ourselves on the beach to shelter:

  5. Hi Jim, how’s your summer been?! Some great reporting there on the Nagalaqa expedition! Today I checked out a couple other expeditions I’d been meaning to follow, and I’m hoping you can help answer one of my questions:

    A kayak expedition of the Northwest Passage going East-West in 2022, that had to break due to severe weather, and a SUP / paddleboard solo expedition going West-East in the Northwest Passage, that settled for a multi-year over-wintering in place Arctic expedition instead of a one-season thing.

    Both plenty ambitious! But my question is, what are the stats for the Northwest Passage when it comes to successful crossings of a) SUPs, b) kayaks and I guess c) sailboats, catamarans, and other non-cruise ship vessels?

    Especially, I guess, are there any “first” left unclaimed? For the Northwest Passage, of course, but ultimately also for the North Pole.

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for your kind words!

      Since you asked, summer has been very hot at times here! Also I’m very busy at present thanks to our “Indian Summer”. For example, wearing my “North Cornwall Free Press” hat I’m currently battling the powers that be at Twatter:

      Hopefully (most of) your questions will be answered over on the dedicated Northwest Passage 2022 thread?

      David Scott Cowper has done most things in a “small craft”, but SUP via route 1 is still on the TODO list!

  6. No more photos from Seb yet, but having been parked near the entrance to Petermann Fjord for several days Babouch-ty is on the move once again:

    We left our shelter tonight and have already covered 30km. Trying to make our way through Strait and Ice… Luckily the current is helping us. Goal: North of Kane Basin!

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