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The Last First Expedition: Rowing the Northwest Passage



The coveted first expedition is worth anything to an Adrenalist, especially if it’s the last one left on Earth.

First expeditions are becoming less and less common due to the scarcity of unexplored places left on our planet. That’s why Kevin Vallely’s journey to cross the 3,000 km Northwest Passage in a rowboat in a single season is so important – it may be the last first expedition ever.

The Canadian adventurer and his crew of 3 are currently attempting the trip, one that has never been done before. Paddlers have navigated the Northwest Passage, over multiple seasons, and modern ships now regularly chug across the frozen route in weeks, but nobody’s ever done it with only their muscles and in a single season. That’s partly because it wasn’t thought possible as recent as only a decade ago.

“This expedition has never been done before, and could not be done before,” Vallely, 48, told The Guardian in June. “It is being brought about because of climate change. There just is less and less ice.”

How much less? Between just 2005 and 2011, the Northwest Passage experienced a 50-percent decline in total sea ice, notes Outside Online, citing data gathered by The Arctic Institute. Whereas once you needed an icebreaker to get through, now a 4-man crew in an 8-meter fiberglass rowboat can cross the Arctic, or so Vallely’s team hopes.

After a week on the water, Vallely and crew have already experienced setbacks. As of their last Northwest Passage update on Jul. 11, the crew is currently hunkered down waiting out a howling storm that has kept them pinned in an inlet, just a few short miles from their starting point in Inuvik, Canada. Their destination, Pond Inlet, Nunavut, is 3,000 km or so away. The crew has a long way to go.

You can keep up with their progress and read about the dramatic adventure history of this daunting route at the Last First official site.

Cover Photo Credit: Tatiana Pichugina /

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