Dr. Ged McLean aboard the SV JACA, wearing a red coat and brown toque. He is superimposed on a map showing the Northwest Passage.

Dr. Ged McLean aboard the SV JACA; behind, a map of the Northwest Passage (iStock Images).

For just one time, would you take the Northwest Passage?

PICS’ former associate director has taken up the challenge to trace his line through the Arctic and experience this rapidly changing marine environment.

On May 15, Dr. Ged McLean, who was at PICS from 2017 to 2020 and is currently the executive director of the BC Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy, boarded the SV JACA, a 45-foot steel-hulled sloop, with his sailing companions. With loved ones cheering and singing Stan Rogers’ classic “Northwest Passage", the crew began their journey up the coast of British Columbia and Alaska, across the Arctic Ocean and down Canada’s East Coast.

You can follow the journey through the ship’s blog to enjoy Ged’s insights into the Arctic’s present-day summertime conditions and the challenges of sailing this changing marine environment.

The Arctic Ocean is rapidly warming; in fact, the recent, dramatic decrease of sea ice in the far North makes this voyage possible. Climate change has affected ocean, land and air transportation in the region as the winter shortens and permafrost melts, affecting not only sea ice but also airport runways, ice roads and permanent highways.

In late May, the ship arrived in Haida Gwaii, where the crew was welcomed to several areas of the islands’ UNESCO World Heritage Site by Haida Watchmen. They also spent time with Haida Elder Barbara Wilson, a former PICS Scholar deeply involved in climate solutions in Haida Gwaii.

After some adventuresome sailing up the BC/Alaska Coast, the JACA arrived safely in Juneau, Alaska on June 15.

The next leg of the journey brings the ship “counter clockwise around the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak Island, then to the Aleutian Islands, North through the Bering Sea to the top left-hand corner of North America: Point Barrow which we hope to get to by the third week of July,” Ged reports.

Ged and the crew hope to arrive on the East Coast by late October, before the fall storms begin.