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Arctic rowboat crew reaches halfway point in ocean journey

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Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 7:46 am | Updated: 1:55 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

The Arctic Row team of four men has reached the halfway point in a month-long journey from northern Canada to Russia, traveling north of Barrow.

They left Inuvik in the rowboat July 17 and hope to travel through the Bering Strait and across to Providenyia by mid-August.

Wind conditions are the major factor in whether they cover a lot of distance each day or not.

On Tuesday, Scott Mortenson, one of the rowers, sent an update to the team's website, www.arcticrow.com, about a day in which they had "some incredible winds from the east."

"That means they’re pushing us to the west, our desired Russia direction. We’re cruising along about 3 1/2 to 4 miles per hour, which is smokin’ in this white lightning boat we call the Arctic rowboat. The only caveat to that was suddenly out of nowhere, on our way to Barrow, we started getting these pockets of icebergs. So you can imagine how harrowing it was in the iceflow, because of the shifting maze and the low visibility — well this was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. We’re flying about 4 miles an hour, having to row backwards, with our heads on a swivel, looking for every possible obstacle, because if we hit anything at 4 miles an hour, you’re looking at a breach in hull integrity there."

When the winds are too strong from the west, the team deploys a sea anchor, basically an underwater parachute, so that they are not blown backwards. They are going at about one or two miles an hour when the wind is not blowing.

They report seeing a lot of birds, seals and a couple of polar bears, the latter at a distance, about 15 miles off the Alaska coast.

  Here is a phone message from the boat, with background video taken during a training run in Chicago.

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