Should UK Funded Ice Breaker Support Mass Artic Tourism?


We are looking forward to our up coming trip through the North West Passage this coming August. It is one of those chance in a life time opportunities that will see us cross from Europe to Asia across the top of Canada’s Artic.

We will be sailing with Adventure Canada in Ocean Endeavour a small ship fully capable of making the trip unaided and one boasting a 1B ice classification enabling her to freely explore throughout the Arctic summer.

According to the US Coast Guard, since 2007 only a handful of ships have ever travelled the route and last year just 17 made it all the way.

So we like many others are worried by the thoughts of larger less suitable ships making passages through the ice carrying hoards of passengers through what is a pristine wilderness.

Later this year Crystal Serenity carrying up to 1,700 souls on board aims to become the biggest passenger ship yet to attempt to sail through this famous route in the opposite direction to that which we are taking.

Clearly the ships owners are worried to! So much so that they have chartered RRS Ernest Shackleton an ice breaking ship that normally carries out support work for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to act as a consort for the fragile passenger ship.

Critics say it is inappropriate for a vessel funded by the British Government and normally dedicated to science to support mass tourism in such a eco fragile area.

In a brochure advertising the trip Crystal Cruises suggests, that as well as increasing the safety of passengers, RSS Ernest Shackleton will also “offer a platform from which guests will be able to disembark for landings in the wilderness, kayak in scenic coves, take guided zodiac cruises and view the vast Arctic wilderness from above from one of the two helicopters”.

We believe that sailing with a maximum of 198-passengers, Ocean Endeavour is the way to visit such areas. She is perfect vessel for expedition cruising. Her shallow draught and manoeuvrability allow her to access isolated fiords, bays and secluded communities.

Launched in 1982, Ocean Endeavour has had numerous refits, most recently in 2010 and 2014. At 137 metres overall, she is outfitted with twenty Zodiacs, advanced navigation equipment, multiple lounges and a top deck observation room, she is purpose-built for passenger experiences in remote environments.