Barbadian Philip Als To Row The Arctic's Infamous Northwest Passage

Barbadian Philip Als announces his plan to join UK lead Northwest Passage Ocean Expedition 2021, 2000 miles, 60 Days, 3 Boats, 1 Barbadian Rower

In the world of Atlantic rowing, Barbados born Philip Als needs no introduction. In 2003, Philip as part of Barbadian Team “Rowing Home”, sailed the Atlantic setting a Guinness World Record. A professional windsurfer and rower, Philip always had a great passion for the ocean, so when the call came from UK based Expedition Leader Leven Brown about taking on this stretch of the Arctic ocean, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  

The Challenge of the Northwest Passage

The allure of the Northwest Passage (NWP) is undeniable. It was discovered in 1850 by the McClure Arctic Expedition who travelled through the passage by sea and sledging. They were in the Arctic to discover the lost expedition of British explorer Sir John Franklin who along with his crew of 128 men, lost their lives after their ships got stuck in the ice.

The 25 attempts over 40 years to discover what happened to the expedition, led to much of the Arctic being mapped. Over the last 100 years, Arctic pack ice has largely prevented travel through the Passage.

Only a few ships have manged to cross the passage successfully. None have ever attempted to cross this notorious passage by rowing boat, making this a world first and the most challenging feat on water to date.

The Arctic’s changing weather conditions – an environmental emergency

Over the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed at roughly twice the rate as the entire globe. A phenomenon known as Arctic amplification – the result of greenhouse gas emissions. The dramatic change in the Arctic’s climate is shown by the shrinking ice cover of the Arctic Ocean.

  At the end of July, the last fully intact ice shelf – the 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf, located at the edge of Ellesmere Island in the northern territory of Nunavut, collapsed into the Arctic Ocean – it was bigger than the size of Manhattan. The melting ice packs afford the Expedition the opportunity to row the passage during its brief summer, but still facing freezing temperatures. As the Expedition rows through ice, it will document the changing climate and environment with an unbiased view.

The Expedition

As this will be the first Expedition to attempt the NWP in specially designed rowing boats, Philip had no second thoughts about joining the UK Expedition, lead by Leven Brown. Speaking from his home in Barbados Philip said, “ This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to row the NWP and be part of the team that achieves this and makes history” . Growing up in Barbados just one road away from the great Sir Garfield Sobers, Philip has always been inspired to strive beyond the obvious and to stretch the boundary of possibility.

For the small Caribbean island of Barbados, rowing is becoming as much a matter for national pride as cricket is. Barbados Minister for Culture, John King, commented; “ We are extremely proud of Philip as one of our Island’s Ambassadors, joining this incredible rowing expedition. We are encouraging all Barbadians at home and abroad to get behind Philip and support him with fundraising to get him to the start line”.

The NWP expedition will be lead by Leven Brown, highly regarded as the greatest ocean rower and skipper of the 21 st Century with five Guinness World Records to his credit. Leven has a long-standing relationship with the Barbados rowing community with 4 of his Mid-Atlantic expeditions from Gran Canaria finishing in Barbados.

Speaking of the challenge he said “ This expedition will be a true test of human achievement and endeavour for our team of ocean rowers and explorers who will be attempting one of the world’s ‘last great firsts’. We look forward to Philip joining us on this epic ocean row journey”.


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