Skippers Jaap Van Rijckevorsel, Frances Brann, Krystina Scheller and Erik de Jong. They are among ten crew members on Arctic Mission, running two polar yachts. (Photo by Conor McDonell)

In August 2017, two polar yachts attempted to sail to the North Pole to send a message to the world about melting sea ice and the opening of the Arctic to watercraft. They wanted to make a global statement about melting sea ice and the opening of the Arctic to watercraft.

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The international crew, consisting of skippers, scientists, explorers and a dog named Fukimi, departed Nome, Alaska on August 10th. They sailed aboard two polar yachts that had recently home ported in Sitka, the Snow Dragon II and the Bagheera.

After enter Arctic waters, Skipper Krystina Scheller said she was astonished by the amount of open water at the top of the world.

“I never expected to do something that really hadn’t been done before,” said Scheller. “To realize that sailboats haven’t sailed in the water that we’ve sailed in and that there is this newly accessible ocean that we as a planet can decide on its future is an opportunity we don’t get everyday.”

The Snow Dragon II and Bagheera sailing in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo courtesy of Arctic Mission Facebook page)

In addition to raising awareness about thinning ice conditions, Arctic Mission – led by British explorer Pen Hadow – conducted science experiments and gathered acoustic data. Frances Brann, who owns the Snow Dragon, marveled at the wildlife — and at the ice.

“I really did love walking on the ice. I think at our furthest north, there was some incredibly sculptural ice. I had a little bit of time to be frivolous and walk on the ice and slide down some of the sculptures. It was about the only time I had to be silly and it was a lot of fun,” Brann said.

The crew had little time at 80 degrees north, the latitude where they decided to turn around due to dangerous wind conditions and other factors. Some members of the public took their reversal of course as a sign the ice wasn’t that melted after all. Brann disagreed.

“Yes, we didn’t make it to 90 north, but we did make it close to 400 miles inside the 2008 ice age, which is quite a lot of ice melt,” Brann said.

The crew has kept in close touch and hopes to continue scientific research in the Arctic in the future.