Estonians to sail to the Arctic to draw attention to climate change

In the summer of 2021, a group of Estonian sailors and scientists are planning a sailing trip to the Arctic; the purpose of the trip is to draw attention to climate change in the region.

From July to October, the sailors and scientists will attempt to cross both the Northeast and the Northwest Passage. So far, only two sailing yachts have managed to do this by sailing from Murmansk to Pond Inlet within one navigation season.

The ship, the 24-metre S/Y Admiral Bellingshausen, will call at the following ports: Tallinn-Tromsø-Svalbard-Murmansk-Dixon-Pevek-Utqiaġvik-Cambridge Bay-Pond Inlet-Nuuk-Tallinn. The trip is organised by NGO Thetis Expeditions.

The Estonian sailboat, Admiral Bellingshausen, about to set sail to Antarctica. Photo by the Estonian Maritime Museum.
The Estonian sailboat, Admiral Bellingshausen, in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by the Estonian Maritime Museum.

President Kaljulaid to participate in the trip

The purpose of the trip is to draw attention to climate change in the Arctic – to show the vulnerabilities of the Arctic environment and the local peoples to climate change and to highlight the importance of science in understanding and combating climate change.

At the beginning of the voyage, on 4 June in Tromsø, a conference on the subject will be organised in close cooperation with the University of Tromsø. The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, will participate at the conference and then sail the Tromsø-Svalbard leg with the rest of the crew.

The Estonian sailboat, Admiral Bellingshausen, near iceberg. Photo by CJ Kask.

The Russian Geographical Society is assisting with preparations concerning the Northeast Passage. A TV series covering the trip will be produced the telecommunications company Telia and an agreement for radio and written media coverage has been signed with a media group in Estonia.

Professional sailors who sailed from Kronstadt to Antarctica

“Undertaking this trip requires excellent skills and good equipment, the crew includes professional sailors, many of whom also took part in the Antarctic voyage last year,” the organisers said in a statement.

“In 2019-2020, the Estonian Maritime Museum and NGO Thetis Expeditions organised a successful sea expedition to Antarctica to celebrate the discovery of the continent 200 years ago.” The trip took place on the same vessel, the Admiral Bellingshausen, from Kronstadt, St Petersburg, Russia, to Antarctica to celebrate 200 years from the discovery of the continent by the Russian admiral, Fabial Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, who was born in the Estonian island of Saaremaa.

Admiral Bellingshausen. Photo by the Estonian Maritime Museum.
The Estonian sailboat, Admiral Bellingshausen, in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by the Estonian Maritime Museum.

President Kaljulaid also took part in the trip, giving the world’s first digital signature on the icy continent via the Iridium satellite communication channel.

More than 20 researchers took part in the trip and spoke at conferences and forums in various ports, highlighting the importance of the ocean and its vulnerabilities to climate change. At the request of the telecommunications company Telia, a 10-part TV-documentary was produced covering the trip.

Cover: The Estonian sailboat, Admiral Bellingshausen. Photo by CJ Kask.

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