Arctic Cowboys Abort Northwest Passage Kayak Expedition

West Hansen and Jeff Wueste, already down a team member, have abandoned their attempt to kayak the Northwest Passage.

Hansen and Wueste had set out from eastern Bylot Island on August 3 with a third teammate, Rebekah Feaster. But the Arctic Cowboys (all three are from Texas) got off to an ominously slow start, and Feaster dropped out after just a few days, citing “intense sea sickness and anxiety”.

polar bear walking shoreline among rocks

A polar bear prowls the shore on northwest Baffin Island. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


Too many forced rest days

At first, moving from a trio to a duo seemed to right the ship. Hansen and Wueste put in some bigger days as they traced the coast of Bylot Island. However, they soon hit rough weather.

“We planned for the cold. We planned for the ice. We knew there were cliffs. We knew there was wind. What we didn’t expect were the continuous waves.”

They had to take several rest days because of the wind and waves, including a long four-day wait.

The wind eventually abated and they moved on. But they were already well behind schedule. With more bad weather forecast, a local contact picked them up and took them on an unscheduled detour to the hamlet of Arctic Bay to recharge and recuperate.

Yesterday, Hansen and Wueste discussed next steps with their expedition team. “Based on that meeting, and the thorough review of upcoming, planned logistics, the timeline is such that the decision was made to terminate the expedition,” they wrote, somewhat bureaucratically, on social media.

houses in Arctic Bay

The hamlet of Arctic Bay: end of the road for now. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


Next steps?

The Cowboys were just 400km (and 17 days) into the 3,000km journey but they sound like they will give it another go. “The team will be making plans to store their gear and return to Texas.  They will be planning to return, after more planning, and take what we’ve learned to execute this expedition,” their expedition manager explained.

Their goal, to paddle the entire passage in a single season, will have to wait at least another year.

closeup of kayaker West Hansen

West Hansen kayaks in Texas. Photo: Pam LeBlanc

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found out in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.