The Expedition Northwest Passage Project participants will sail into the Passage in the tradition of polar explorers, but with the capacities to carry out 21st century oceanographic research.

Photo of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry at sea under sail.
The SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. Her masts are 13 ½ stories high. Holding the masts in place are approximately four miles of permanent, or standing rigging. There are twenty sails, which are controlled by seven miles of running rigging (rope). Image credit Jan Forest.

Commencing in July 2017, the Northwest Passage Project will embark on a four and a half week expedition into the Passage. Expedition participants will be sailing the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on an east to west journey. Departing from Pond Inlet, the Oliver Hazard Perry will travel north via eastern Lancaster Sound to Beechey Island, south through Franklin Straight to Todd Island, and across Queen Maud Gulf to Cambridge Bay, with numerous stops along the way.

The four and a half week, east to west journey into the Northwest Passage will depart from Pond Inlet, north via eastern Lancaster Sound to Beechey Island, south through Franklin Straight to Todd Island, and across Queen Maud Gulf to Cambridge Bay, with numerous stops along the way.

The four and a half week, east to west journey into the Northwest Passage will depart from Pond Inlet, north via eastern Lancaster Sound to Beechey Island, south through Franklin Straight to Todd Island, and across Queen Maud Gulf to Cambridge Bay, with numerous stops along the way.

Finding a northwest passage, a northern water route shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, has long been the obsessive quest of explorers and navies. For over 400 years, more than one hundred ships carrying thousands of mariners sailed into the Arctic to probe its waters and trek its shores. A warming climate and subsequent ice melting has opened up the Northwest Passage during the summer months, and it is profoundly changing the Arctic. There is unprecedented global interest in this once impenetrable region and its pristine environment.

The Ship

The sailing school vessel, SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be the first full-rigged sailing ship to enter the Canadian Arctic in over a century. The Oliver Hazard Perry is a 200 foot long, three masted, full-rigged tall ship. A full-rigged ship is a sailing vessel with three or more masts, all of them square-rigged. Square rig is a type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts.

The Oliver Hazard Perry is the first ocean-going, full-rigged sailing ship built in the United States in over 100 years. Venturing into the Passage aboard a modern tall ship will capture the tradition of historical polar explorers, while allowing for 21st century ocean science research to take place. While the vessel looks like she just sailed out of the 19th century, she has been designed as a modern, steel-hulled vessel, with state-of-the-art electronics, purpose-built for training and education to the highest modern safety standards. The ship will provide a historically poignant platform from which the expedition’s participants can observe, study, and experience the changing Arctic ecosystem first-hand.

The Oliver Hazard Perry will be the first tall ship to be outfitted with telepresence capabilities. Telepresence technologies will allow for real-time connections with the vessel while she is in the Arctic. A mobile telepresence unit will be installed on the Oliver Hazard Perry to connect the expedition’s participants at sea to shore-based facilities. Live broadcasts from the Arctic will be transmitted to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC; the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA; and the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, AK. Audiences at this leading informal science education institutions will be able to interact in real time with the scientists and students aboard the ship. The public will also be able to follow the Northwest Passage Project on this website through live streams and daily highlight videos, as well through social media outlets.

The Participants

The Northwest Passage Project is a collaborative effort between the University of Rhode Island (URI), Inner Space Center (ISC), and the Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), the film company, David Clark, Inc., the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, and several other collaborators, including six U.S. universities that are classified as Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

Along with the ship’s crew, there will be scientists, education professionals, and students sailing through the Northwest Passage. On each of the two expedition legs, there will be 18 students aboard—six high school students, nine undergraduate students, and three graduate students. The students will receive science instruction as the ship is underway, gain navigation and sailing skills, participate in live broadcasts from sea, and work alongside ocean scientists as they conduct Arctic research.

Onboard participants will also include the Oliver Hazard Perry crew, ISC education and operations staff, scientists, historians, journalists, and members of the David Clark Inc. film production team.