Canada: North West Passage blocked with ice – yachts caught

The North West Passage seems to be reversing its recent warming trend and is threatening to end the dreams of dozens of adventurous sailors. Report by

Published 10 years ago, updated 4 years ago

North West Passage showing ice blockages: ©

A scattering of yachts trying to transit the legendary Passage are caught by the ice, which has become blocked at both ends and the season may be ended early. Douglas Pohl tells the story:

The passage has become blocked with 5/10 concentrated drifting sea ice at both the eastern and at the western ends of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. At least 22 yachts and other vessels are in the Arctic at the moment. Some who were less advanced have retreated and others have abandoned their vessels along the way. Still, others are caught in the ice in an unfolding, unresolved drama.

The real question is if and when the Canadian Coast Guard decides to take early action to help the above yachts exit the Arctic before freeze-up or will they wait until it becomes an emergency rescue operation?

Here is the detailed position, as far as it can be established: 

Prince Regent Inlet in position 73.7880535N, -89.2529297W became blocked on 27th August with 5/10 ice concentration with 7/10 ice pushing.

This effectively closes the 2013 Northwest Passage without Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker escorts for transit.

Currently, there is a commercial cruise ship on a west to east passage which will reach Prince Regent Inlet in another day. It is unknown if there is a CCG icebreaker in the area to provide assistance since government ships do not provide Automatic Identification Service (AIS) to public AIS websites.

Since one of the Canadian Coast Guard’s prime missions is to provide icebreaking for commercial shipping it will be interesting to see if they view this opportunity for good public relations to help recreational yachts transiting the Northwest Passage.

Another choke-point stopping marine traffic is on the western Canadian Arctic at Cape Bathurst in position 70.6672443N, -128.2763672W which became blocked on 26th August with 2/10 ice concentration and quickly filled with 5/10 ice on 27th August and today have 8/10 ice pushing towards Cape Bathurst.

There are a number of yachts known to be in the Cambridge Bay area heading west.

For the list of yachts and the rest of this story go to

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