Thursday, April 18, 2013

M/V BAGAN 2009 NWP recalled in new book "The Other Side of Ice"

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More people have been sent into space than have traversed the infamous Northwest Passage. With that thought in his mind, Sprague Theobald took to the seas in an effort to cross the Northwest Passage. 
It took him five months and 8,500 miles of sailing, but he crossed the ice-filled waterway safely. Along the way he would face potentially deadly circumstances and grow closer to his crew, which happened to be his grown children and step-children.
Theobald documented his 2009 journey with a book and a film, both titled The Other Side of Ice. Along the way he grew to love this desolate landscape. He also witnessed the extreme transormation of the Arctic due to warming temperatures and climate change.
As the tundra is starting to melt, it’s potentially going to be exposing an incredible amount of resources up there. ... These resources are just below the surface. I envision a free-for-all. I hope there’s paperwork in place that’s going to protect this area from mining, excavating, from ripping the land up to get at these resources.
Sprague Theobold, sailor
“A village elder told me ‘This word slush is new to us,'" Theobald said. "The firm, hard ice is still in evidence but it’s not as solid as it used to be. I’m not a meteorologist or climatologist, but slush means higher temperatures.”
Theobald departed from his home in Newport, R.I. and traveled north into the icy waters of the Arctic, which until recently were blocked in winter by ice and glaciers. He used a satellite uplink on his boat several times a day to get updated ice reports, which helped him traverse glaciers and ice floes that litter the waters of the Northwest Passage. He eventually and  eventually completed his journey in Seattle. (You can see a detailed map of his route by clicking through the photo slideshow at the bottom of this article.)
Along the way, he encountered danger from ice, polar bears and severe weather. Theobald said one of the most harrowing moments was when his boat was surrounded by huge chunks of ice, which could rip a hole in his boat in mere seconds.
“It’s one thing to be caught by the ice but it’s another thing to be caught by old ice. The dark, grey, cement-looking ice. It didn’t take much to figure out the new ice , meaning 10-15 year old ice, was melting and moving south out of the way allowing this larger, old ice to come down and that’s what we got caught in," said Theobald.
"That then begged the question what’s going on with the old ice. It’s been there for hundreds if not thousands of years. If nothing’s replacing it immediately then it’s breaking a dam.”
Theobald grew to love the dark, forboding landscape of the Northwest Passage. He hopes others who are also intrigued by this deadly, beautiful landscape will become active in helping protect it.
"As the tundra is starting to melt, it’s potentially going to be exposing an incredible amount of resources up there. I mean diamond, gold, nickel. These resources are just below the surface," said Theobald. "I envision a free-for-all. I hope there’s paperwork in place that’s going to protect this area from mining, excavating, from ripping the land up to get at these resources.”
The Other Side of Ice was released in March 2013.
The Other Side of the Ice (

The Other Side of The Ice is a film about exploration, survival and family redemption. With the Arctic's infamous Northwest Passage as the back drop Theobald and his once estranged children try and accomplish what hundreds have died trying to do.

Starring: None - Documantary None - Documentary
Directed by: Sprague Theobald
Release year: 2013
Studio: Hole in the Wall Productions
Play trailer

Sprague Theobald on his beloved Bagan, a 57’ Nordhavn.


Nordhavn 57 
 Bagan, a Nordhavn 57 ready for a trip of a lifetime.
Nordhavn 57 
Pilothouse of a Nordhavn 57 sistership to Bagan.
Nordhavn 57 
The saloon of a Nordhavn 57 sistership to Bagan.
Nordhavn 57 
The galley of a Nordhavn 57 sistership to Bagan.
A single 325-hp Lugger diesel engine powers the Nordhavn 57.

2009 NWP Blog:
Personal Website:
T&T Article:
HITW Blog:

Previous NorthwestPassage2012 blog post:

What is the Northwest Passage really about?  Can you say m-y-s-e-l-f? Or is it more about those Explorers and families of so many years gone bye?

Sprague Theobald has been there and completed a Northwest Passage... what are his memories?

Some Memories Are Better Than Others

Catching the meaning... years after completing a Northwest Passage... Sprague makes a new connection...

( nd-us/)

Them and Us

In one of the book’s early reviews it was pointed out: Revealing just how tenuous relationships can be in such situations, he (me) inadvertently reveals far more about the tenseness of similar nineteenth-century voyages than he likely intended.  A statement that, at the time, I wasn’t quite sure that I understood. I took it as a left-handed compliment. But then I started thinking…
We, I anyway, have always looked back at the men from the 1800s, the adventurers who took on the challenge of trying to find the Northwest Passage with absolutely no assurances that they would come back alive.  They did so with nothing but flat-footed awe and reverence.  In fact, if one were able to draw up the odds and likelihood that they would have a safe return, I’m sure this number wouldn’t move from the single digits.   For this reason, in my writing, I referred to these amazing men as “Supermen”, the true heroes of their day, for which they unarguably were.  We aboard Bagan and they, the “Supermen,” may have been sharing a similar challenge.  However, any comparisons stop there for they, unlike us, had no comfort such as modern electronics, electronics that will show within a three foot radius where they/we were at any given moment.
Today the power of a GPS is taken for granted.  But for those men in the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845, knowing precisely where they were from moment-to-moment would have literally been a God send.  For them to be able to make use of a satellite phone, albeit it with very limited success, as we did was something that assuredly never entered their conscious thinking.  Even something as mundane as watching a DVD, (oh, let me count the times the crew watched “Caddy Shack”) for a needed distraction, was over a hundred years in coming.  We, on Bagan, were able to take advantages of these modern day devices, whereas those heroes of the 19th century were iced in and blissfully ignorant of possibilities to come.
Yet there is one thing that doesn’t require much imagination. It’s to know that we shared the tedious hours and days of waiting and the depths to which one’s thinking could sink.  It’s the complete and total lack of familiar visual distractions that could help pull, even the darkest of thoughts, into a comfortable level of familiarity.  They, as we, shared these hallow, dark and tenuous hours and days and, what’s more, we most probably all shared the feeling of, “If he says one more word I will pick up that flare gun and either stick it in my ear or his!” 
Even adventures separated by 164 years know how tenuous relationships can be in such situations.  I love my family dearly, as they hopefully love me.  But there were certainly those moments, when my thoughts consisted of anything but family love!!
Yet 19th century or 21st century, this sharing of despair, emotionally tight living quarters, very little room for a breath of quiet and uninterrupted self-reflection stops at a certain point.  We of the 21st century were able to distract ourselves by means of any one of the above mentioned modern electronic devices.  We were able to somewhat create our own zone of “self” and comfort by staring at Bill Murray, watching him chase a gopher for the umpteenth time. Like the men from Franklin’s Erebus and Terror, we didn’t all share one cramped living space watching as ice formed around and upon us.  At the very least, we had dependable diesel heat.  Unbelievably these men lived literally inches apart, for years on end, and for the most part were reported to keep their sanity.  This again is why, when looking back at our trip to and through The Northwest Passage and thinking of those from the 19th century who went before, there is absolutely no comparison between us and these “Supermen,” these true heroes of their day. I am humbled.
- Sprague

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