Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/9/2009 (4637 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
But Philippe Poupon's trip through Canada's fabled Northwest Passage almost ground him to a halt.
"It was not so easy," deadpanned the sailor so famous in his native France he is known familiarly as "Philou."
Speaking from Alaska a few days after completing his trip through the passage, Poupon offered a gentle reality check to anyone who thinks climate change has turned Arctic waters into an ocean highway.
"We found a lot of ice. We had to take care because the ice is still there and when you are on ice, wind, fog or the night, it could be very dangerous."
"I don't know if it's normal conditions, but we had to push through."
Poupon travelled the 10,000-kilometre passage in his ice-strengthened ketch, the Fleur Australe.
Seven sailboats and power yachts attempted the treacherous crossing this season. That's down from at least eight last year, which was a record number. And that's probably a good thing.
Environment Canada reports that total ice concentrations in the central and western parts of the Northwest Passage have been near to slightly above normal this year.
"We saw some sailing boats, they were not well-prepared like we were," Poupon said. "I think these are problems -- too many boats with not enough preparation."
Sailing media report that several would-be Northwest Passagers found themselves passengers after the coast guard had to pluck them off boats hopelessly stranded in ice.
Poupon has a lengthy list of sailing victories stretching back to 1975 and years of navigation in the waters around Antarctica. But he says there's something special about the Canada's Arctic.
"It's a passion since a long time," he said. "I've never been in the Arctic before; it's very interesting to see the extwreme parts of the world."
Exciting -- and dangerous. Heading south through Peel Sound between Resolute and Gjoa Haven, the Fleur Australe almost became stuck.
"The ice was very compact," Poupon said. "We had to find a good way between the shallows and the shore."
At one point, Poupon had to let his steel-hulled boat simply drift with the ice.
"We were a bit anxious to be stranded in the ice for the winter. That's a danger."
"It's a wild place," he said. "Imagine it during the winter! It's impressive to imagine people who totally live there. We only spend two or three weeks."
Despite the danger, Poupon travelled with his wife and four children, aged one to 13, and stopped in three communities. Meeting people along the way is part of the adventure, he said.
"It's never enough to know everything about them, but we have an idea now."
-- The Canadian Press