His mission is to solo cross and arctic dive along the mythical Northwest Passage, the sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The objective of the exploration is not a selfish, sporting pursuit but one at the service of the planet. Alban will capture the beauty of a poetic, mysterious region and demonstrate its increasingly fragile nature in the face of the ravages of climate change.
Why the Northwest Passage?
Scientifically, the Northwest Passage is an underdiscovered region. Dually, it is one of the world’s most breath-taking and important natural environments. Its existence is threatened by climate change and increasing commercial and political interests. In 2014, the first cargo ship crossed the Passage without the need for an escort from ice breakers. The route has opened for crossings for increasing longer summer periods in recent years – one of the most visible manifestations of man-made climate change on the planet. By the summer of 2050, there is a consensus among scientists that if the current rate of warming continues, the entire Passage will be largely ice free. These increased commercial interests will lead to a rise oil spills, black carbon waste will accelerate ice retreat, and have a catastrophic impact on marine mammals.
What will Alban test?
Alban will travel alone equipped with a pair of skis and two sleds which will allow him to store the 440 pounds of material needed for the expedition. When the conditions dictate, he will be propelled by kite surf. He will only have polar wildlife for company. The freezing temperatures will drain him of 20,000 kJ a day. Throughout his mission, Alban will collect samples and data. He will analyse plankton and its DNA, collect ground measurements of the atmosphere and aerosols and study brain reactivity in this extreme environment. Through film and photo he will document the beauty of the region before the summer months and arctic melting ensues.
When does the mission take place?
Alban will travel from the hamlet of Kugluktuk to the village of Resolute Bay in the Nunavut region of Canada. The adventure begins in early March, 2018 and is set to finish some two months later. He will travel some 1,240 miles tracing the route of Norwegian explorer Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen who with his crew was the first person to cross the Northwest Passage following a journey of more than three years in 1906. This is a crossing not without risk.
Who is Alban Michon?
One of the world’s foremost adventurers and ice divers. Alban fell in love with diving at the age of 11 when admiring pictures in magazines – notably of compatriot Jacques Cousteau. At the age of 16 he dived under ice for the first time at a lake near a friend’s home. It was an experience which had a profound effect on Alban who decided at that moment he wanted to dedicated his life to the pursuit and to adventure.
Over the past decade, Alban has achieved numerous successes in the polar regions. In 2010, he was part of the Deepsea Under The Pole team, spending 45 days crossing the North Pole and diving under Arctic ice floes. Two years later, he completed a 51-day, 620-mile expedition by sea kayak diving under icebergs along the east coast of Greenland.
How will Alban spread his message?
“This expedition is not adventure for adventure’s sake, or about physical strength or being alone for three months. It is an exploration at the service of science and the general public,” explains Alban. On his return he will work with laboratories, biological stations and academic institutions to present the expedition’s scientific findings. His ultimate target is to capture the imagination and empathy of the general public, promoting the beauty of the region and raising awareness about its perilous predicament. He will work on a dedicated film, a commemorative book, a photo exhibition and present at conferences. As Alban continues: “The expedition will bring unique moments, moments which may not exist in a few years’ time. We need to do it now before it’s too late so we can share the adventure with the general public. It’s important to share the values of these expeditions and the environmental message. When something is beautiful, we have a stronger desire to preserve it.”