One Ping Only

The MainstreamLastFirst rowers got stuck for a while, backtracking a bit over their previous path before shutting off their position transmitter again.  About 28 hours later, they’ve turned it back on … for one ping only.  They’ve made about 12 kilometers in the intervening period, but they are hoping for 40km per day average and 100km on good days in order to meet their goals.

So far, in ten days they’ve covered 180km in linear distance (it will be somewhat more in reality as they’ve not traveled in a straight line). But this is still less than half of the average speed they’d hoped to make.

Their position transmitter is set up to send their coordinates ten minutes. Early in the voyage, it was doing that — even on the drive from Vancouver to Inuvik. But there have been days where nothing is seen of their position on the map, including yesterday up until a few hours ago. And, after a single ping, they have shut it off again. But in that one point, the map shows that they are heading up a very narrow inland channel … and appear to be running out of waterway:
Inland passage?

I am guessing that they will have to backtrack all the way out, and go around on the windward side. Interestingly, they’ve got computers and Internet on board, and they can examine this course as well as I can, in addition to comparing it with what they see around them. Despite this, they’ve made at least one similar mistake already, and their course shows two times where they’ve backtracked. One was admittedly a wrong guess as to the passability of the inland course.

I understand the motivation. On the windward side, they’re fighting the large “sail area” of their 25-foot (almost 8-meter) rowboat, with only two men able to row at a time. Anything that gets them out of the wind, and the rougher seas, must look very attractive.

But if it doesn’t go through, it’s a heartbreaking waste of time. And they cannot afford such mistakes. Perhaps they’ve turned off their transponder while they go back, and will turn it back on once they’ve gone far enough forward to make the reverse course invisible. (The GPS merely draws straight lines between pings.)  If so, it’s good PR … but not particularly true to the spirit of “follow along with us every ten minutes” that they bragged about. This is frustrating to one follower, especially since the team is demonstrating that they are still on the Internet. They replied just an hour ago:

Now, they’re in the boat, and they were asked if it was “ice, wind or whatever” — and they evidently don’t know. It’s about midnight there now, but the sun is still up and their plan was to row 24 hours a day. And they have windows in the little cabin. So they are intentionally being unhelpful here, which has its own suggestions.

I’ll bet they’ve had to (or will have to) turn around, and they know it. It’s not an unpardonable sin, but it is a costly mistake both in terms of muscle and spirit.

You can follow along to the extent they allow at their tracking page here. Or their Facebook page here.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle