My home town’s newspaper, Burghauser Anzeiger, has published an article about the Expedition

My Bavarian home town’s newspaper, Burghauser Anzeiger, has published an article about the expedition and about me taking part in it. Very good of them. I really can’t thank the newspaper’s editor, Ms Richter, enough for taking the time to meet me for a chat ten days ago, when I visited Burghausen, and for writing this lovely article. The below translation has been done by myself. The copyright for this article (in the original language or any translation) is with PNP/Burghauser Anzeiger. Any requests to use all or part of it should be directed at PNP/Burghauser Anzeiger or via me (I am happy to forward requests).




1,950 kilometers in ten weeks or less: Stefan Hacker is part of a

unique expedition. Greatest danger: polar bear attacks.

by Johanna Richter


“I was surprised that I was selected.” Surprised and overwhelmed. It has been Stefan Hacker’s lifelong dream to do something that no one had done before and that would be a real challenge. This dream is now coming true. From 15 July he will take part in an expedition that will attempt to row through the Northwest Passage for the first time, over a distance of 3,900 kilometers. The Passage is a total of 5,780 kilometers long. It connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, North of the American mainland.

Stefan Hacker was born and grew up in Burghausen. His parents still live in Bruckner Street. After primary school he attended Aventinus High School here. He then did his military service with the Bavarian mountain troops, studied International Relations, and lived in various countries. He ended up in London, where he’s now been living for 18 years. In their day jobs, he and his wife Ellison provide consultancy services to banks through their own firm.

He joined the team last minute

It was his father, Helmut Hacker, who infected the now 49-year-old with his love of adventure. For many years, his father went on whitewater kayaking trips. Even at his advanced age of 86, he still paddles long distances. Stefan Hacker, in turn, shares his love for sports with his wife Ellison. They go on hiking and climbing trips together. Stefan is also an ultra-runner and long-distance swimmer. “I like to check out different activities,” he says. On his stand-up paddleboard, he paddled from the source of the Thames all the way to London. He was also once planning to prepare for a trans-Atlantic row.

For a long time, he had been following the 73-year-old extreme athlete Art Huseonica from the U.S. on social media. This is how he found out that Art was going to join the Northwest Passage Expedition. When Hacker saw the message, that a participant had dropped out and that a place on the team had become available, he applied. “Four weeks ago, I found out that I was going to be part of the team.” He will spend six to ten weeks together with three other team-members on a custom-made rowing boat. The expedition leader will decide ad-hoc and on location, when precisely the team will set off to sea. “How long it takes depends on the weather conditions along the way. We’re assuming it won’t take a whole ten weeks,” says Hacker.

[Stefan Hacker won’t have much time to prepare properly for the adventure.

However, he does have a little bit of rowing experience, including on the ocean.]

The latest change has now also been incorporated into their plans for the most part. Initially the plan had been that there would always be two people rowing, one person keeping an eye on the sea, and two persons resting. On extremely short notice, the fifth man had to withdraw due to urgent family matters. So now it will just be the four remaining team-members, who will go on the expedition. They will have to anchor overnight, Hacker points out.

To move the expedition to a later date is not an option. Even in a perfect world, there’s only ever a tiny window of time while the Northwest Passage can be crossed. Outside that time window, the storms are going to be too violent and the weather conditions too extreme.

This window of time only opened very recently. For a long time, only icebreakers made it through the Passage. Expeditions like the one by Sir John Franklin in the 19th century ended in disaster. It is due to climate change and the melting ice, that the Passage is now open for rowing boats. At the same time, technology involved in ocean rowing has improved a lot, Mr Hacker says. This means that a lot of things thought impossible in this sport, have now become possible. While in other disciplines there are no longer that many mountains to climb, that many challenges to face, ocean rowing still has some big firsts left to do.

The expedition, led by Scotsman Leven Brown, consists of two stages, with the two entry and the two exit points all located in Canada. The first leg, last year, involved a team of eight rowing from Pond Inlet to Cambridge Bay, and lasted seven weeks. This year’s four men strong team wants to complete the 1,950 kilometer long stage from Cambridge Bay to Herschel Island.

It won’t be easy. There is a long list of risks. The biggest one is probably the risk to be attacked and eaten by a polar bear, explains Hacker. “They are extremely good swimmers.” If an animal comes too close, it is important to make noise and fire warning shots with the rifles the team carries with them. Only in extreme emergencies will there be a risk of harm to any members of this vulnerable species, the Burghausen native assures us. Whoever is assigned the task of being the lookout, will be constantly monitoring the ice and the sea for any animals that might be approaching as well as for ice.

[The name of the boat, with which the expedition team-

members will cross the Northwest Passage, is Hermione.]

In thick fog with minimal visibility (a common scenario), this can be a real challenge. Other difficulties include waves, currents, storms, extreme sleep deprivation, the cold, and the fact that you are virtually unable to get up and move for up to ten weeks. The participants have to consume 12,000 calories a day. All provisions are carried on the boat. To sleep, you go into small, narrow cabins. If something happens, the Canadian Coast Guard would need three days to get to the rowers.

The expedition team-members are not just about breaking records, they are also committed to the fight against climate change. Together with New York University, they conduct research and collect data. “We want to draw attention to the problem.” Hacker is also hoping for donations – to finance the costs of the expedition – he needs to raise £25,000 – and to support three charities: the English sea rescue service, a local foundation from his neighbourhood, and Cancer Research UK. To raise further funds after the completion of the journey, Hacker is planning to write a book about his experience.

Up to 12 layers of clothing on top of each other

Until Stefan Hacker hops onto an airplane on 10 July, he intends to focus on getting the news of the expedition out there and to raise funds from sponsors. He will also still need to purchase a few bits from the kit list. Much of the required gear is already covered through each team-member’s share in the expedition. However, due to the adverse weather conditions, up to 12 layers of clothing will have to be worn by the expedition participants. At first, he also thought he’d devise an intricate training plan, but this is no longer the case. “I just do what I always do.” Long runs, climbing, hiking, rowing on the rowing machine. And waiting for the day when his dream comes true.

Further information:

Berkeley Square Barbarian

Northwest Passage Expedition



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  1. The stuff of legends! It’s great to read that you are about to make a beautiful, longstanding dream come true. That the team is also turning this extreme adventure into a contribution on the issue climate change, and collaborating with scientists for the sake of the environment, is commendable. To you and your whole team, we wish a great success!!! Go, go, go!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Manuel and Roberto. Really appreciate all your support. Can’t wait to set off to sea, possibly as soon as next week. 🙂

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