French luxury yacht cruise specialist Compagnie du Ponant has recently made French maritime history with a crossing of the Northwest Passage from Greenland to Siberia made by its newest vessel, Le Soleal.
Le Soleal left Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on August 26 and arrived in Anadyr, in Russia on September 16, becoming the first French commercial shipping vessel to traverse the North Pole by way of the ‘mythical shipping route’ which links the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via northern Canada’s Arctic islands and which has long been an inspiration to navigators throughout history.
In classic seafaring style, here’s an excerpt from Le Soleal’s transcript which reported the historic journey, day by day: “September 6, 2013 – We are in Gjoa Haven, 110 years after the arrival of the Gjoa which dropped anchor here for the first time in September 1903! For a mariner and his passengers, there is great significance attached to this port of call as this is where Amundsen wintered for 2 years.”
The ‘Amundsen’ referred to in the transcript is Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who became the first person to open the passage in 1906, after an epic, three-year journey. Sailing in Amundsen’s wake at the helm of Soleal was Captain Etienne Garcia, who led the voyage without assistance, calling on his extensive experience of navigating polar waters on a section of the cruise which lasted eight days.
Following a successful navigation of the Northwest Passage, Soleal travelled along Alaska’s Yukon coast before reaching the Arctic Ocean and making a surprise stop at Petite Diomede Island before arriving at her final port of call, Anadyr in Russia.
At 466 feet in length, Le Soleal caters for up to 264 passengers in 132 staterooms and suites and operates a crew of 139.
By Simon Brotherton