Then there is a sociological impact. With climate change reducing the scope for traditional Inuit customs, younger generations face an identity crisis in a community already struggling with alcohol and other issues.
“They need to know who they are and why they are living there. Without that connection to the land they lose their identity, their pride,” Dueck said.
While the ice is a life-giver for the Arctic and its inhabitants, for Dueck it was a constant threat capable of crushing the hull of his boat and putting his crew into the water.
The dangerous voyage has been made by far fewer people than have climbed Mount Everest, but numbers have been rising each year since 2007, when the passage was open water from East to West for the first time in living memory.
Dueck and his crew spent four months and four days at sea — and getting on with each other was as much a challenge as navigating through unpredictable ice patterns.
“When you’re on a 40 foot boat at sea, there’s not much you can do if you don’t like each other,” Dueck said.
“You don’t stop, you keep going 24 hours a day,” Dueck said.
The crew took three-hour shifts at the helm, averaging a total of eight hours on deck a day in freezing rain, fog and punishing wind.
“For the last half of our time above the Arctic Circle we were sailing through dark nights, so we had the terror of knowing that if you strike ice you’re likely to end up in your lifeboat. That is terrifying, especially during storms,” Dueck said.
Perhaps equally challenging is the re-entry into society at the end of the voyage.
“Any time you come back from sea it’s astounding how loud and how busy life on land is,” Dueck said.
“That was something you’d cherish in the Arctic. Time at sea to reflect. Time to think,” he added.