The Northwest Passage is the sea route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans across the top of North America.
Across the top of America
Sprague Theobald has been dreaming of following Franklin’s wake from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Northwest Passage for much of his life. This June, aboard his Nordhavn 57 Bagan, Theobald will begin to live out that dream—hopefully, with better success than Franklin and many other early explorers who perished in the Arctic.
Theobald is a film producer and documentary maker. Here’s his interview with Trawlers & Trawlering in question-and-answer format:
T&T: What’s the plan?
ST: Our plan is to leave Rhode Island on June 15, get to Greenland (via Halifax) around July 15, but not get into the passage prior to the end of July. I’d like to be through the Bering Sea by the end of September with arrival in Seattle in November, then on to California—which will be a complete circumnavigation of North America for Bagan and me.
T&T: Who is sailing with you?
There will be five of us aboard, to free me up for filming.
Clinton Bolton will be running all aspects of the boat: mechanics, navigation, weather, routing, etc. He’s been preparing Bagan for the past few months.
Dominique Tanton, my 26-year-old stepdaughter, is expedition coordinator: She’ll be stocking Bagan as well as arranging for supplies along the way, coordinating all medical matters, including evacuation if need be, and conferencing with our land-based doctor.
Greg DeAscentis is dive master and will be running the diving aspect of the trip. I plan to shoot as much above as below the Arctic waters.
Sefton Theobald, my 21-year-old son, is in charge of shore excursions as well as RIB maintenance. It’s his first big trip with me.
Sprague Theobald has dreamt of transiting the Northwest Passage most of his life.
T&T: What plans are there for a documentary?
ST: An hour-long HD documentary. Apart from wanting to simply transit one of the very few remaining pristine places in our world, I’ll be filming a full-length documentary on the passage itself. The scope of the piece will cover but not be limited to its amazing and mysterious history (We’ll be retracing Franklin’s route), its current day status for the few inhabitants up there, and its future.
Apart from the potential commercial shipping which is going to be utilizing the passage, it has been estimated that 25% of the world’s oil (more than Saudi Arabia’s reserves) and gas reserves are under those waters. Five nations are all assuming that these reserves belong to them. Unlike the Antarctic, there’s no treaty in place for the Arctic and even as we prepare to head up there, these countries are vying for position. The irony being that as the passage starts to open up geographically, it may very well close down politically. I was up there filming last fall and a teaser for the film can be found at www.bravingit.com.
T&T: Why are you doing this?
ST: It’s always been a dream of mine to retrace Franklin’s footsteps but, more importantly, the world stands at a crossroads with the passage. If the global warming trend continues, commercial shipping and drilling will soon start making themselves known up there. If I can do an adequate job of presenting an overview of the passage and its few denizens, maybe it will show people what is at stake and how much the world stands to lose if the shipping and drilling concerns rule the day.
The passage is an incredibly majestic, mysterious, historical and virginal area. I would like to document it in all its beauty and power and let people see what’s at risk.
At the same time, I’d like people to know that due to the economy, this project is being paid for entirely out of my own pocket and as such the film won’t be trying to present one agenda or another.
The Nordhavn 57 Bagan is the third Nordhavn owned by documentary maker Sprague Theobald. Photo shows a sistership.
Nordhavn 57 braves the Northwest Passage
All about the Northwest Passage
Sir John Franklin
First trawler yacht to make the passage
Geraldine transit in 2008
Tyhina transit in 2008
Arctic Solo Sail
Northwest Passage in history
Other Northwest Passage links