On the 30th of June Danú of Galway set sail for Iceland, en route to Scoresby Sound, Greenland. The crew of Peter Owens, Richard Darley and Paddy Griffin were off on a sailing, mountaineering and scientific expedition. To be Joined by Paul Murphy, Sean Marnane and Richard Church in Iceland.
The 13m (43ft) steel ketch led by NUI Galway scientist and mountaineer Owens was heading to the world’s largest and deepest fjord system, Scoresby Sound which is in east Greenland. An area explored by very few that had very little chart information available. Hence the attraction to Owens of this expedition. His wife Vera explained that
“If he lived in the 1900s he’d be up there with the Shackleton’s of the World!”
The crew set off to explore this remote arctic region, mountaineering difficult routes that were often hard to access and surveying new anchorages. On their journey they also took daily sea and freshwater samples to assess the level of microplastics in northern waters, a scientific collaboration with Trinity College, Dublin’s centre for the environment.
The first leg of their journey was not without its trails, some serious conditions rarely dropping below force 7 made light work of smashing their forward port window of the pilot house and ripping off one of their newly installed solar panels. But the ice blocking their passage to Scoresby Fjord gave them time to remedy their boat.
In part with their experiments the boat also aimed to be completely self-sufficient in the arctic, adhering to a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy. As a boat they aim to keep it simple, not taking more than required (with adequate preparation) and using as little electronics as possible. Thus having a minimal environmental impact as possible.
They posted regular updates to their Facebook page, describing the difficulties they came up against with persistent walls of ice blocking their way into the Fjord. Leading to some 48hour stints on the go. But after a few days wait in poor weather, early morning of the 29th of July, they decided to take a chance and to their favour the ice had dissipated making it easy to sail straight to the east coast of Milne land.
Here their goal was to circumnavigate Milne land, giving them knowledge of new anchorages that can be added to the next sailing guides.
The crew concluded their expedition on the 12th of August, explaining;
“With such expansive terrain, you could spend a lifetime exploring this region but given the time we had, we are happy with the outcomes. As a team we worked very well through the highs and lows of Arctic travel. We are not over yet as Danú will be getting ready for the next part of the adventure, a change of crew and the upcoming sail back to Galway, which will no doubt not be easy.”
This was an incredible expedition making important discoveries for both science and sailing, reaching new heights, such as the fine summit of Hermelintop, 1172m, giving a panoramic view of the meeting of three ice choked fjord systems.
This expedition embraces Irish Sailing’s goal of trying to reduce the carbon footprint of our sport, and when all the data has been collected in the coming months it will become clear just how important protecting our seas is going to be for the future of our sport.
To find out more about this expedition you can check out their Facebook page.