West Hansen At It Again: This Time Paddling the Northwest Passage

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West Hansen paddling the Amazon River. Photo courtesy Erich Schlegel

Austin, Texas, paddler West Hansen is trading the Amazon for the Arctic next summer, when, according to Expedition News, he attempts to lead the first expedition to sea kayak the Northwest Passage.

Hansen, 56, made the longest source-to-sea paddling descent of the Amazon River in 2012. Two years later, he paddled a first descent of Russia’s Volga River.

According to author Pam LeBlanc, who will join the expedition, team members will include veteran paddlers Jeff Wueste, 57, and Jimmy Harvey, 55. Launching in summer 2019, they’ll cover 1,900 miles, half of which have never been kayaked.

The story reports that the team will follow the same east-to-west route that explorer Roald Amundsen took during his landmark three-year navigation of the passage, completed in 1907, starting in Baffin Bay and finishing at the Beaufort Sea. Along the way, Hansen will monitor plankton and jellyfish populations, and record ice coverage. “(Firsts) are getting more and more rare, and it’s pretty special doing something no one’s ever done,” Hansen tells EN, adding that they’ll face gale force winds, giant slabs of ice, waves, orcas and polar bears.

Hansen’s proposed route through the famed Northwest Passage. (map courtesy www.westhansen.com)

“You can’t fire a gun (to spook them) because it sounds like cracking ice and polar bears are used to that,” Hansen tells Expedition News, noting that the team will carry satellite phones, emergency beacons, firearms and screaming flares to ward off 2,000-pound predators. “It’s been attempted several times, but no one’s ever come close to accomplishing it. We have a lot more experience in long distance expedition paddling than anybody else who’s tried. And we’re older, which is always a bonus.”

The expedition is expected to take 60 days and will cost nearly $75,000. Hansen is looking for sponsors, and can be reached via west@westhansen.com. For the full story, visit www.expeditionnews.com.

Pam LeBlanc is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer specializing in adventure travel, fitness and conservation. She will join the expedition as an embedded journalist.

—By Pam LeBlanc, Special Correspondent