Bear Grylls and his team, including Future Capital Partners chief executive Tim Levy, have completed a 13 day trip through the formerly frozen NorthWest Passage to raise awareness of the effect of climate change on the planet.
The team became the first crew to cross the Passage in a rigid inflatable boat when they landed in Paulutuk, Darnley Bay on 9 September.
The team encountered treacherous conditions, floating icecaps and polar bears along their way. An impromptu rescue mission of a boat that had run aground on the ice highlighted the dangers the team faced.
Among the many experiences the crew enjoyed, the most memorable was the discovery of a possible piece of a puzzle that has fascinated historians and experts for over 150 years. In 1845, Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin embarked on his fourth and final expedition to the Arctic, to navigate the last unchartered section of the famous NorthWest Passage. His crew of 128 men set off on their doomed mission in two ships, the Erebus and the Terror. Neither the vessels nor their crews were heard from again.
In 1848, the British Admiralty launched a subsequent and unsuccessful search mission to recover Franklin’s lost expedition. The search for the wreckage of the Erebus and the Terror continues to this day. As recently as July this year, the HMS Investigator, a ship sent in 1848 to search for Franklin, was discovered icebound in the Passage. The failure of repeated searches to uncover any evidence of the expedition has seen Franklin’s story enter British maritime folklore.
Grylls says: “I have grown up on the tales of Franklin and his lost crew. Here in 2010 it is exciting, to the bottom of my own bones, to know that exploration is still alive and mysteries are still out there to be solved.”
During their trip, the FCP NorthWest Passage team uncovered human bones, tools carved from whale bone and evidence of large fires built from masts. The discovery was made on a small outcrop, inaccessible to all but the smallest craft, in the Wellington Strait, where Franklin is thought to have become icebound.
Grylls says: “Our tiny island, no more than a couple of acres, bore signs of large fires on the Northern side, as well as pins made of whale bone, together with human remains. To build a fire on the Northern side made little sense, given the direction of the wind, save if it was being used as some form of signalling beacon. Perhaps their vessel had become beached in the narrows of the Wellington Strait and, in despair, and out of food, they finally resorted to burning their only method of travel - their only hope of escape.”
Levy, whose company’s investment partnership Future Fuels sponsored the expedition, says: “As the first team to cross the NorthWest Passage in a RIB, we knew that this trip was going to be historic, but we never dreamed that it might touch upon the folklore of Arctic exploration. This is a potentially momentous discovery, and there is a remarkable symmetry in one of the famed explorers of our time possibly discovering the fate of one of the most famous of the past. ”
Charitable donations raised by the trip will go to UK Charity Global Angels, providing safe drinking water for thousands of children in Africa.
To donate go to: www.globalangels.org/fundraiser/BearGryllsNorthWestPassage/