David Scott Cowper, 71, is our greatest living yachtsman.
Our greatest living explorer slips out of harbor un-noticed to continue navigating the epic Northwest Passage for a record breaking sixth time - this will be an unheard of late ice season west to east passage in 2013 which is likely to be remembered before it is done around October 15th at freeze-up.
When you check on legends you rarely find facts which cause you to take pause and ask the question - why have I never heard of this living legend before?
I'm blown away when I find out David Scott Cowper's accomplishments:
- Fastest solo circumnavigation by sail of the world via Cape Horn, Cape of Good Horn and Cape Leeuwin beating Francis Chichester's record of 226 days by one day.
- First sailor to solo circumnavigate the world by sail in both directions beating Chay Blyth's record by 72 days becoming the first person to circumnavigate in both directions single-handed and holds the record for the fastest single handed time in each direction.
- First sailor to solo circumnavigate the world by motoring westward through the Northwest Passage. Upon reaching Fort Ross, Bellot Strait was blocked with ice and he remained two years in the ice before he managed to make repairs and complete his historic westward Northwest Passage. Upon reaching the Bering Strait he became the first person to have completed a single-handed circumnavigation of the world. He continued on via Midway and Papua New Guinea to reach Darwin Australia before returning to homeport via the Cape of Good Hope.
- Hoping to complete the Northern Sea Route over the top of Russia he took a route around Cape Horn and up the west coast of the Americas but was refused permission by the Russian authorities so he turned east and completed yet another Northwest Passage again in two summers from west to east, becoming the first person to have completed an east to west and west to east single-handed transit.
- Not done with his thirst for the open sea, in 2009 he sailed on his 6th circumnavigation voyage. Starting in England he motored to Greenland then through the Northwest Passage to Dutch Harbor Alaska to complete his third single-handed NW passage. Departing Dutch Harbor he arrived at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco then sailed for Chile and Antarctica. He would round Cape Horn for the Falkland Islands and continue to Cape Town then route to South Australia, cross the Pacific Ocean to Fiji, Hawaii back to Dutch Harbor then through the Northwest Passage back to homeport in England. The first circumnavigation involving a double-transit of the Northwest Passage.
- In 2012 motor yacht POLAR BOUND achieved a historic record to become the first yacht to navigate west of Cape Prince Alfred on the original Northwest Passage through McClure Strait discovered by Captain Robert McClure aboard HMS INVESTIGATOR in 1851. POLAR BOUND departed Portrush Northern Ireland on August 2nd 2012 and arrived in Nome on September 7th 2012 - Atlantic Arctic Circle to Pacific Arctic Circle in just under a 20 day transit.
To appreciate these accomplishments a bit of history is in order. I'll try and give a shorter version... lol (so much to say... so little space... why couldn't this be in a pub with 100 taps and time to enjoy saying it all with friends... lol)
In 1823, Sir John Franklin returned to England from an expedition to Hudson Bay where he lost 11 of his 20 men. Franklin married poet Eleanor Anne Porden. A daughter named Eleanor Isabella was born; his wife died in 1825 of tuberculosis. Later in 1825 Franklin left for his second and third Arctic expedition. The goal was to travel overland from Hudson Bay to MacKenzie River and survey the coastline to the west and meet Frederick Beechey who would try sailing to the northeast from the Bering Strait (Beechey only reached Point Barrow). At the same time William Edward Parry would sail west in Lanchaster Sound. Parry reached Winter Harbour and his ship was frozen in the sea ice. Franklin found the Mackenzie River and followed it down to the Beaufort Sea then west where on August 16, 1826 he turned back at Return Reef just 150 miles from Beechey's Point Barrow. He reached Fort Franklin on September 21 and continued on February 20th 1827 to Fort Chipewyan Alberta for winter and spring. He reached Liverpool on September 1, 1827 and reported his expedition details to the Admiralty.
In 1828 John Franklin married Jane Griffin, a friend of his first wife. On April 29, 1829 he was knighted by George IV. On January 25, 1836 he was made Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order and Knight of the Greek Order of the Redeemer by King William IV.
Franklin was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land in 1836 but was removed from office in 1843. He was remembered in Hobart with a statue which below appears Tennyson's epitaph:
Not here! The white north has thy bones and thou
Heroic sailor soul
Art passing on thine happier voyage now
Toward no earthly pole
Lady Jane Franklin was quite a liberated woman of her day, known for 'roughing it' to the extent that she made crossings to wilderness areas, established a university, a museum, and botanical gardens. She helped colonize the village of Franklin on the Huon River named the Franklin River on the West Coast of Tasmania.
Back in England, Franklin, now age 59, was offered command of a well funded Arctic Expedition to close the remaining 300 miles of uncharted sea and land of the Northwest Passage. He was given command on February 7, 1825 and received his orders on May 5, 1845 sailing on HMS EREBUS and HMS TERROR for the Arctic with both ships outfitted with steam engines enabling the ships to power at 4 knots of speed. The Franklin Expedition set sail from Greenhithe England on May 19, 1845 with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men. Five crew were discharged and sent home on RATTLER and BARRETO JUNIOR from Greenland, reducing the ship's final size to 129 souls. The Expedition was last seen on July 26, 1845 when Captain Dannett of the whaler PRINCE OF WALES encountered TERROR and EREBUS moored to an iceberg in Lancaster Sound.
After two years there was no word from the expedition. Lady Jane urged the Admiralty to send a search party but delays took another year and it was not until 1848 that the first ships started to search. A note found indicated that Franklin died on June 11, 1847 after the ships had become trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846.
The Admiralty, not to give up, dispatched two more ships to the Pacific Arctic in 1850. HMS INVESTIGATOR under the command of Captain Robert McClure and HMS ENTERPRISE under the command of Captain Richard Collinson. The ships sailed in Janaury 1850 from England south through the Strait of Magellan then northwest to Hawaii then north into the Pacific Arctic. INVESTIGATOR was ahead of ENTERPRISE who retreated to Hong Kong for the winter while McCLure was excellent at navigation and his crew recovered their ship from sandbars by rowing and kegging them off with skiff crews. The first winter was spent in Prince of Wales Strait in 1851 where Captain Robert McClure observed the prominent 1,000m peaks on Mellville Island and used his sextant to determine that Captain Parry's Winter's Harbour was less than 100 miles distance. During that winter when the sea froze he sent a sledge party across the sea and discovered in Winter's Harbor a carin landmark and named it Parry's Rock where they left a message in case a search party came this way again.
The next summer HMS INVESTIGATOR navigated the western shore of Banks Island and reached Mercy Bay on the north east shore. The ship became stuck in the sea ice in 1852 and was abandoned in 1853 after Lieutenant Pimm from HMS RESOLUTE who had discovered their message in Winter's Harbour at Parry's Rock and came looking for the INVESTIGATOR and crew.
The INVESTIGATOR crew in their third year in the Arctic started to walk across the sea ice to Winter Harbour and joined the crew of HMS RESOLUTE on June 17th. But HMS RESOLUTE (Ex barque Ptarmigan) became stuck in the ice and was abandoned in August 1854 when there was no hope of more ice melting. The crews were forced to walk out over rotten sea ice some 340 miles to Beechey Island where they met up with the HMS NORTH STAR. The RESOLUTE and INVESTIGATOR crews returned aboard NORTH STAR to London in 1854. McClure and his crew were rewarded 10,000 pounds by Parliament for the discovery of the Northwest Passage and all were awarded the Arctic Medal by the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.
The search for the Franklin Expedition involved over 50 ships and encompassed ship navigations in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Arctic seas. It is consider one of the largest maritime searches in history.
SIDEBAR: The HMS RESOLUTE was later recovered adrift in 1855 and timbers from her ultimately were used to construct a desk which was presented to United States President Hayes in 1880 for the United States contribution to searching for the Franklin Expedition in the Arctic and the return of HMS RESOLUTE.
SIDEBAR: If we ever meet and you have time for a pizza and pint, I'll relate the rest of the HMS INVESTIGATOR story about Captain of the Foc'sle John Calder and his new life in America with wife, Frances (Fannie) Farmer.
It would be a short wait until 1900 when Roald Amundsen would buy the 70 foot second-hand herring smack named 'Gjoa' built in 1872 and would outfit her with a 13hp parafin single-screw motor. In June of 1902 Gjoa sailed with seven crew for the Arctic. Reaching King William Island on the Boothia Peninsula in late September, Gjoa was iced in by October 3rd in what Amundsen called "the finest little harbour in the world." There she remained for two years before mother nature's grip was released on August 13, 1905 and sailed as far west as Herschel Island and was once again iced in for the winter. On August 31, 1906, Gjoa arrived in Nome Alaska. The first Northwest Passage entirely by sea route. Gjoa sailed on to San Francisco and in 1972 was returned to Norway for historic restoration.
In 1940-44 Henry Asbjorn Larsen would command the RCMP auxiliary schooner ST. ROCH on both a west to east two season passage and the returning first one season east to west Northwest Passage.
There would be many icebreakers and commercial vessels challenge the Northwest Passage - their place in history is duly noted - but not until 1977 would a yachtsman named Willy de Roos, in his yacht WILLIWAW succeed in an east to west Northwest Passage, much of it solo single-handled.
From 1976 to 1979 Real Bouvier would winter at Holsteinborg, Resolute and Tuktoyatuk to succeed in a Northwest Passage aboard his 10m J.E. BERNIER II ketch.
From 1979 to 1982 Kenichi Horie aboard his 15m MERMAID sloop with winterings at Resolute and Tuktoyatuk to complete his Northwest Passage.
In 1983 to 1988 John Bockstoce's 19m motorsailing yacht named BELVEDERE under the command of Sven Johansson conducted whale research in 1987 near Tuktoyaktuk would later complete the transit in 1988 through Pond Inlet.
In 1985-1988 Janusz Kurbiel ('85-87) and Wojciech Jacobson ('88) would navigate 12.8m VAGABOND with wintering in Tuktoyaktuk and twice in Gjor Haven would then complete a Northwest Passage and go on to circumnavigate North America.
In 1988-89 Richard Thomas in his 16m ketch named NORTHANGER after wintering in Inuvik would complete a Northwest Passage.
ENTER THE HISTORY OF YACHTSMAN DAVID SCOTT COWPER
In 1980, Cowper completed the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe via Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin in Ocean Bound, a Sparkman & Stevens 41' sloop, beating Francis Chichester's 16m Gypsy Moth IV, record of 226 days by one day.
Two years later, he repeated the feat, sailing against the prevailing westerly winds and rounding all five capes in 237 days, beating Chay Blyth's 59' British Steel record by 72 days and becoming the first person to circumnavigate Cape Horn in both directions single-handed and also holds the record for the fastest single handed time in each direction.
What a joy to watch a master mariner exercise his skill and knowledge... no less than while underway on POLAR BOUND during his sixth Northwest Passage.
Your voyages give me shivers and bring me to near frostbite.
Wishing you and Jane a very safe voyage to your home harbor.
You are the greatest!
Not here! The white north has thy bones and thou
Heroic sailor soul
Art passing on thine happier voyage now
Toward no earthly pole
Godspeed POLAR BOUND and her good crew!
Many of the recognized Northwest Passage routes through the Arctic between the Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait and the Atlantic Ocean Arctic Circle in Davis Strait.
20130827 UPDATE - DRIFTING ICE BLOCKAGE ENLARGING