Northwest Passage Kayakers Finish Epic Journey

The four Northwest Passage kayakers who style themselves The Arctic Cowboys have successfully finished their attempt to paddle the entire arctic throughway in a single season.

Yesterday, West Hansen, Jeff Wueste, Mark Agnew, and Eileen Visser rounded Cape Bathurst, which marks the western end of the fabled passage. From here, the channel opens up into the wide Beaufort Sea.

That last 26km was not easy. Their home team reported:

The team experienced the roughest waves of the entire expedition…They seal-launched from Whale Cliffs in 15-foot waves, some going over West’s head with 20-foot breakers at the turn. Once past Cape Bathurst, they paddled into the mud flats. West and Mark had to get out of the kayaks and pull them through ankle-deep freezing water and mud 200 yards back into Snowgoose Channel. Jeff and Eileen got out when they hit mud, to help. Jeff’s boot got sucked off and he ended up in the muck. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.

Winter has already set in, and temperatures now remain below or around freezing, even during the day.

The journey is not quite over. They still have to either paddle to Tuktoyaktuk (some 225km further) or arrange a pickup en route. But with the primary mission accomplished, the thoughts of real food again should help warm them in the remaining days ahead. Leader West Hansen has lost 14kg during the three-month journey.

map of western end of Northwest Passage

Cape Bathurst is now behind them.


Two other parties attempted the Northwest Passage this season. A party of British rowers, also rowing from east to west, quit near Cambridge Bay. And a solitary kayaker, going west to east, had to stop near Gjoa Haven, a little less than halfway, overwhelmed by repair issues.

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. One of Canada’s premier arctic travelers, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and has just finished a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada and in 2022, he received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for services to exploration.