Patrick Winterton, Mick Berwick and Olly Hicks take on their toughest challenge to date as they attempt to make kayaking history by following the WW2 story of The Shetland Bus. They will take on 400 kilometres of open water in their bid to make the first kayak crossing from Shetland to Norway.
On the 16th July 2011 the team will launch from Lerwick and start their journey west. The expedition will celebrate the seafaring achievements of all those involved in the Shetland Bus operation during World War Two and raise vital fund for the Make a Wish Foundation and the RNLI.
Taking on the North Sea is a serious undertaking in any craft but in single sea kayaks it is a daunting prospect. Travelling at an average of less than 2.5 knotts means that the three paddlers will take at least 84 hours, that's four days and three cold, sleepless nights. Squeezed into damp cockpits with no escape from the elements and no opportunity for good rest this is as much a test of mental strength as it is physical. The North Sea is notoriously rough with a constant barrage of steep breaking waves and water that gets little warmer than 10 degrees. Staying upright will be hard enough but the major problems are the cold, injury, sea sickness and shipping. 'Perhaps our biggest concern is ensuring we stay together during the dreaded hours of darkness.' The odds of success are small and will depend to a large extent on the team's ability to remain motivated, positive and uncompetitive.
There are many cultural links between Shetland and Norway that find their roots in Viking times. One story that is relatively fresh in the minds of both Shetlanders and Norwegians is that of the 'Shetland Bus'. After the German occupation of Norway in WW2 a small, essentially non military, operation was set up between Shetland and the West Coast of Norway to ferry agents, saboteurs and arms into Norway and to aid refugees in their escape. Norwegian fishing boats and fishermen were used to make repeated crossings of the notoriously inhospitable North Sea, with a mix of success and tragedy. Their actions were crucial in forcing Germany to base a quarter of a million troops in Norway but the cost of this success was high with many boats sunk and with the loss of the lives of 44 of the Shetland Bus Crews. Despite this there was never a lack of willingness to set out on a mission. Of all the dangers they faced they knew that the wild conditions of the North Sea was by far the greatest threat to their survival. We are celebrating and commemorating the courage, the seamanship and the remarkable ability of many like Leif Larson to survive again and again, against the odds.
Patrick Winterton: Sports broadcaster, Winter Olympian from 1988 and part of the two man team the made the first crossing between Scotland and the Faroe Islands. Patrick has completed a number of ground breaking expeditions around Scotland which have been recorded in award winning films such Scottish Extremities and Stevensons' Lights. Patrick has spent a month in Shetland this year filming the wildlife and researching the Shetland Bus story. Mick Berwick: Former national slalom paddler and the other half of the team that made the crossing to the Faroe Islands. At 55 Mick is the veteran in the team but his paddling strength and stamina are well proven. Olly Hicks: Olly is the youngest man to have rowed the Atlantic solo and the first man to row solo west to east. His big ambition is to make the first circumnavigation of Antarctica in a rowing boat so this trip is little more than a warm up. Olly is relatively new to sea kayaking but has spent enough time at sea to know exactly what he is taking on but there is little doubt that he'll miss the warmth and comfort of his row boat cabin.
|Leg 1: Scalloway Memorial - Lerwick||Foot||16 July||6||2|
|Leg 2: Lerwick - Lunna Voe||Kayak||17 July||35||7|
|Leg 3: Lunna Voe - Outer Skerriea||Kayak||18 July||23||5|
|Leg 4: Out Skerries - Bergen, Norway||Kayak||19-22 July||388||84 +|
All the paddlers are now fully equipped with kayaks, clothing and safety equipment. The key to survival is to stay in the boats whatever so our final task is to ensure that the cockpit fits like a glove. We have to limit the discomfort and the risks to acceptable levels and limit the amount of energy we spend worrying about the possible consequences. The entire team will be reading Alone at Sea by Hannes Linderman to develop a positive frame of mind.
Follow their progress here