Some exciting news from Silversea: the ultra-luxury line’s first expedition ship, Silver Explorer, has just successfully completed her first-ever transit of the fabled Northwest Passage.

Silversea's Silver Explorer off the coast of Greenland at the start of her first Northwest Passage transit. Photo courtesy of Silversea

Silversea’s Silver Explorer off the coast of Greenland at the start of her first Northwest Passage transit. Photo courtesy of Silversea

Capable of carrying 132 guests, Silver Explorer left Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 9 and arrived in Nome, Alaska on September 1. During that time, she covered nearly 3,500 nautical miles on a route once imagined to be the Holy Grail of trade between Europe and Asia, then an un-navigable passage. After numerous failed expeditions to find a route through the Passage – including Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition – Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to sail the passage, traversing it over three years between 1903 and 1906. Amundsen would, interestingly enough, also go on to beat Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole in the winter of 1911.

“Sailing the Northwest Passage is an experience reserved for true adventurers and dedicated explorers,” said Conrad Combrink, Silversea’s director of expedition planning and strategic development. “We are honored to know that what was once an unfulfilled dream for such renowned explorers as Captain James Cook, Henry Hudson, and many others, is now a successful chapter in the history of Silversea Expeditions.”

The desolate landscape of Beechey Island has played an important role in history. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

The desolate landscape of Beechey Island has played an important role in history. The location of several members of the Franklin Expedition, it is typically a major highlight of a Northwest Passage transit. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

If you don’t know much about the Northwest Passage, here’s why this is so cool: the passage isn’t really a passage at all, but a constantly-shifting sea of ice intermingled with small islands, archipelagos, and uncharted rock formations that make up much of Arctic Canada. The first cruise ship didn’t transit the passage until 1984, and only a handful of specialized, ice-strengthened ships typically do so each year.

For many travelers, transiting the Northwest Passage is the ultimate bucket list destination, beating even Antarctica and Far Arctic destinations like Svalbard in terms of exclusivity.

Silver Explorer can now lay claim to having traversed all three of the above regions. She has a shallow draft that allows her to be maneuvered quickly, coupled with an ice-strengthened hull known as “Finnish-Swedish Ice Class 1A.” This means she can safely navigate through sea ice to a degree that other cruise ships simply cannot.

Silver Explorer anchored off Brodick, Scotland. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Silver Explorer anchored off Brodick, Scotland. Her hull is ice-strengthened and rated to Class 1A. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

At her helm is Captain Alexander Golubev, a man I met on my own Silver Explorer sailing through the British Isles, where he managed to squeeze us into the inner harbour of Galway City, Ireland – which requires navigating a narrow lock with only a few inches of clearance – and bring the ship alongside without so much as bumping her rubber fenders. He guided Silver Explorer on this first Northwest Passage transit.

“It’s a special privilege to sail through the world’s most elusive and historic waterways. Such a journey requires careful and meticulous planning at every stage,” said Golubev, who has led over 50 voyages to the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland. In an abundance of caution, Captain Golubev enlisted the services of an icebreaker to escort Silver Explorer through a critical portion of the route. “I’m pleased that all our strategizing and preparations resulted in success for Silversea’s first-ever Northwest Passage expedition, and I’m very grateful to be among a small group of mariners who have experienced such an extraordinary opportunity during their careers.”

The Panorama Lounge and adjacent Connoisseur's Club are intimate, cozy and inviting - and finding a seat is never an issue. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Silver Explorer has the distinction of being a luxury expedition vessel. Here, the  Connoisseur’s Club is designed to be intimate, cozy and inviting – and finding a seat is never an issue. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Silversea is a member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), dedicated to managing respectable, environmentally friendly and safe expedition cruising in the Arctic. No word yet on if the line will repeat this feat in the coming years – but I’m going to start saving my pennies, just in case.

More information on Silver Explorer can be found by visiting the Silversea Expeditions website.

 

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