Quest through the Pole: Sailing the Arctic, from Barrow, Alaska to Spitsbergen, Svalbard
As sponsor of “Quest through the Pole” — a two-man quest to sail the Arctic — DP Technology has chosen to support a duo who exhibit the vision, passion and commitment for which the company and its worldwide team are recognized.
- Sébastien Roubinet, one half of the two-man duo who braved the Arctic wilds for the DP-Technology sponsored Quest through the Pole, appeared on a French television news station to discuss his adventure.
The interview included video clips of the expedition, including a near-miss incident with a curious (and very likely hungry) polar bear.
Sébastien was asked during the interview if he will attempt another polar crossing. He replied that he will not; that the crossing is too risky and, because he feels indebted to his Russian rescuers, he doesn't want to put himself in that situation again.
Sébastien also said that he tips his hat to his Russian rescuers because, though they anticipated a two-week wait before being retrieved, they were rescued after just four days.
At the time of his rescue, Sébastien said, he was half way to his goal in distance and two-thirds of the way in time.
As he explains it, he and Vincent Berthet were about two weeks from reaching their goal (the North Pole), after which it would have been smoother sailing from there on out because they would have followed the ice cap to their destination. It was due to extremely rare meteorological conditions that they couldn't complete the mission.
While his polar-crossing dreams have ended, Sébastien did allude to the fact that he's working on a new expedition, but did not provide details.
Click here to see the video. Sébastien's segment begins eight minutes into the clip.
- As the Tara has safely arrived in Tuktoyaktuk, an Inuit village in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Sébastien and Vincent are close to being back home — France and Québec, respectively.
The Babouchka remained in Pevek, where she began her new life as a sport catamaran, proudly displaying our colors in northern Siberia.
Radio France generously covered the trip from the very beginning and, when the adventure ended prematurely, handed highly-respected sailor Isabelle Autissier its microphone for a touching radio homage to Sébastien!
The translation is attached and the original recording, in French, can be found here.
- Sébastien, Vincent and the Babouchka finally made it to the Russian port city of Pevek, but without the precious documents granting them the right to actually stand on Russian ground.
Transfer from the Admiral Makarov to the Tara was cleared for the men but not for the materials, which means that our friends left the Babouchka behind as they boarded the expedition sailboat Tara in the midst of her scientific mission in the Arctic.
Their hope, (and ours as well) is that the Pevek harbor crew will take good care of the Babouchka. And while we’d rather the team stick together, it’s nice to know that our ESPRIT banners will continue sailing the Arctic for a little while longer. Perhaps the Babouchka will even enjoy her leisurely cruise (hey, if she's literate and has enough cash for postage, maybe we'll get a postcard).
The Russian press reported on the rescue and subsequent transfer here and here, and the logbook of the Tara has already documented its new crew members here.
Sébastien and Vincent will stay aboard the Tara until her next stop, in Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. See the Tara’s expedition website here, and the map of her 2013 mission here.
It will take a few weeks for us to welcome Sébastien and Vincent back to France, where we can tell them face-to-face how impressed we’ve been by their perseverance, and how thrilling it's been to follow their adventure.
- The Admiral Makarov is now in sight of the harbor at Pevek.
In the last few days of travel from the frozen wilds, Sébastien and Vincent have rested and perhaps even gained back a little of the weight they lost throughout their icy battle.
And though the threat of physical danger is now over, the beaurocratic adventure is just beginning. As Sébastien and Vincent are entering Russia without visas through a highly guarded harbor far from an immigration office with the authority to issue the proper documents, regular protocol dictates that sorting everything out could take two to three weeks.
Concerning the boat and its cargo — including the scientific equipment and samples — we have no clue how and when (hopefully not if) the Babouchka will make it out of Russia. What we do know is that it won’t be simple, but luck is never far away.
In a splendid coincidence, the French boat “Tara Expedition” is in Pevek and its captain offered to lend our heroes a hand. So far, the Russian administration, the French consulate, and the captains of both the Admiral Makarov and the Tara have given the okay and made the arrangements for the two boats to meet off shore to transfer Sébastien and Vincent to the Tara.
More to come ...
- Sébastien and Vincent have been rescued and the Quest through the Pole has officially ended — until the next time they make a go for it, that is.
For those of you who haven’t seen the news on ESPRITWeb, Sébastien and Vincent are in good shape physically, but were forced to call for help when they were unable to make progress through impenetrable ice that showed up a few weeks earlier in the season than expected.
Well, no one ever said that Mother Nature’s predictable.
Though recent reports indicated that it had been fairly smooth sailing for the team in recent days, a dramatic and wholly unexpected increase in the concentration of sea ice quickly turned the expedition on its ear.
The following excerpt, which details the rescue, has been borrowed from Sébastien’s website , and has been translated from its original French.
“This morning at 3:30 a.m. local time, we noticed a speck on the horizon; it was the Admiral Makarov [the Russian ice-breaker that came to the rescue]. Time to finish putting everything away, and then it was moored to our ice sheet. The crew gave us a sign and then approached us, and we left with the feeling that we were abandoning our teammate, Babouchka.
“With the crane, they lowered a cage for us to embark. Vincent went first, and then I joined him and we were told, ‘We will embark Babouchka.’ Fifteen minutes later, all three of us were on board and heading south at 14 knots through the ice.
“The crew welcomed us with a smile, showed us to our cabin and insisted that we should not hesitate to take a shower! After the shower, there was breakfast — a large block of pâté de tête with lots of garlic and a bit of tea. Then we were shown around the boat.
“As an economy measure, we are using only three engines of the nine available, which is enough to allow us to break floes over two meters thick at 12 knots. It knocks and vibrates, but it goes fast. We should arrive at Pevek in two or three days.
“Another big thank you to the crew of the Admiral Makarov, the CROSS Gri-Nez , MRSC Pevek and all of those who made this rescue possible in an almost inaccessible corner of the world.”
— Sébastien Roubinet
Pictured is the Babouchka at the end of this year’s Quest through the Pole, just before she boards the Admiral Makarov.
We’re so very sorry that the Quest has ended, but also so very happy to know that our heroes are still heroes and will live to fight another day.
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