Following a brief layover at Gjoa-which Amundsen described as the "finest harbor in the world"-it was time to push ahead into the hazardous, icy seas to the north: Larsen Sound, Franklin Strait, and Peel Sound, the latter of which had been jammed with ice all season. But the ice charts showed that Peel was beginning to open up, and time was of the essence. Remarkably, a massive high-pressure system had parked over these waters, providing an absolutely perfect, almost unbelievable weather window that would've been foolish to squander.
In spirit and execution, this crucial leg was approached like a mountaineer's final sprint, after weeks of staging, from base camp to summit. For the next 72 hours-and through one final, tense run through thick pack ice-we pushed hard, finally making it as far as Bellot Strait, a slim, 22-mile strait that took us past Zenith Point, the northernmost tip of land in continental North America. Bellot is rarely free of ice, but our timing was impeccable-and lucky. We motored into the strait at seven knots, and a couple of hours later, we were fired out the other end on a ripping current making 14.5 knots. The immediate waters ahead of us, in Prince Regent Inlet, were also free of ice. The worst, most hazardous portion of the Northwest Passage, incredibly, was behind us.
We were out.