Skip to main content
Publish date:

No ice, big problems

photo: David Thoreson


FEB. 5 — Although being the fastest American yacht to travel east to west through the Northwest Passage was an incredible feat for Iowa sailor David Thoreson, it was also a sobering reminder of the real effects of global warming.

In response to his discoveries during the successful voyage last fall, Thoreson, 48, is putting together a traveling photography exhibit “20 Years/20 Stories” that will tour Iowa this summer to raise awareness of how fast the ice is actually melting, according to an article in the Des Moines Register.

“Not only was there less ice but a record amount of less ice,” said Thoreson in the article. “In fact, we didn’t encounter any ice.”

That is something, considering his attempt in 1994 with Capt. Roger Swanson of southwest Minnesota was waylaid by ice. Now 76, Swanson teamed up with Thoreson again in July of 2007 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and helped him complete the voyage in 73 days with four other crewmembers in Cloud Nine, a 57-foot fiberglass ketch, according to the article. They reached Kodiak, Alaska, on Oct. 1, taking their place in history as one in roughly 30 recreational boats to make the passage since 1905 when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen first navigated the route in a wooden sailboat.

Thoreson’s photos capture everything from 200 beluga whales to ice-blue rolling waves, according to the article. Though the sailor does not identify himself as an activist, the change in temperature making the journey left a dramatic impression on him.

“The trip solidified my feelings about what is going on in the Arctic,” said Thoreson in the article. “What I am working on now is to relay to the public what I have learned in my travels.”

For more information on Thoreson and his upcoming traveling exhibition, visit

— Elizabeth Ellis