The Northwest Passage is a sea route through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways amidst the ice-ridden Canadian Arctic Archipelago, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
by Jack L. Kennedy
The Other Side of the Ice by Emmy Award-winning documentarian Sprague Theobald with Allan Kreda (Skyhorse) is subtitled “One family’s treacherous journey negotiating the Northwest Passage.” His vessel, the Nordhavn 46, is a moderately sized, full displacement motoryacht capable of going 3,000 nautical miles.
Life becomes a wild ride in many respects as Theobald edgily, often frighteningly, redefines the plurality of the word “adventure.” The passage is not easy, from one continent to another and having experienced a distant family of divorce to a reunification of respect, if not affection. The reader learns the reality of a memorable, difficult trip is not just in its obvious hurdles, doubts, fears and often-misread directions, but in testing and redeveloping relationships.
Theobald thought he had pretty well defined himself, many years ago. As a child he successfully combated dyslexia, was sometimes cruelly labeled stupid, had low self-esteem at age 17, and fought alcohol abuse. He became a prominent documentary film maker, sailor and ship captain, ultimately divorced and grew estranged from his children, Sefton, Chauncey and Dominique.
In 2009, his photographic and maritime passions melded into a desire to tackle the famed Northwest Passage, the sea route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, which few have successfully navigated since 1906. He invited his distant children to go along as part of the filming and naval crew, sailing from his home port of Newport, Rhode Island and passing polar bears, uncertain personal and maritime waters, unexpected cracks in the ice and personalities, testing his craft and self. Past shadows of those who made the trip and may have lost their lives haunted Theobald on the five-month, 8,500-mile trial across the top of the earth.
SPRAGUE THEOBALD: "Some times I feel it's a trip of a lifetime. Other times I feel it's the biggest mistake of my life"
He gradually grew closer to his children and stepchildren amid the challenges, as the trio learned how to handle their father and the chores aboard ship on the uncertain route. Theobald was buoyed at times by recollections of his mother’s advice whenever he faced a hurdle. “You’ll figure it out,” she told him simply but strongly years earlier. As time and miles and emotions passed, he was able to proudly hand the keys to the boat to son Sefton.
Journey’s end perhaps is obvious, and there is pride as the ship became the first of its type to thread its way through the Northwest Passage. (A few carefully-chosen color photographs illustrate the route.)
But the real pride shines as Theobald says, “we all learned something that we had no concept of five months earlier: that together, as a new united family, the four of us...” had explored, tested, teased and bonded as the understanding grew. The story of that journey, often uncertain and uncharted, is every mile as compelling as is the ice-laden Northwest Passage movement mile by mile.
Theobald blends those two often-slippery faces of the adventure well. The book demonstrates powerfully that although a channel can be narrow and filled with threats and doubts, passage to anywhere is seldom perfect and the conclusion is uncertain at times. But the trip must be taken.
Title - The Other Side of the Ice
Author: Spraque Theobald with Allan Kreda
Publisher: Skyhorse (Aug. 1, 2012)/ pp. 240/4383HB
$19.13/hard copy, $7.99/Kindle, $12.99 HD video at amazon.com
Theobald was awarded a regional Emmy™ in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Documentaries - Topical by the Academy of Arts and Sciences on November 9th for his film The Other Side of the Ice. Enjoy the video trailer below: