When Bill Houghton and Brian Simpson salvaged a speedboat of 1920s vintage from Lake Conneaut, Crawford, County, Pennsylania, they had no idea of the impact it would have on thousands of people in the Keystone State. The divers and Linesville Volunteer Fire Department personnel were greeted by cheers from hundreds of spectators who had gathered on the beach. The engine was an experimental design developed by the boat’s namesake, Liberty Engines of Pittsburg. After two years of restoration, the boat was launched in 1987 and circled the lake at 70 MPH. When it’s not in parades or on display at the annual Antique Wooden Classic Boat Show, the boat remains in the Conneaut Lake Area Historical Society Museum.
Ellsworth Boyd, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, pursues an avocation of diving and writing.
You never cease to amaze me with your excellent articles, your knowledge of wrecks, far and wide, your skill at speaking, and your association with the greats of the diving world! Foundation provided some of the funding back in the 1980’s helped make the project successful. I think the main challenge of any expedition, beyond exploring deeply, is to return home with vessel and crew in one piece.
That said, having the reserve strength of metal in the hull gives your NWP crew the confidence to take the risks an ice passage can require.
2) If you were to go again – what would you seek out to make the experience better for you a second time? Again, I was one of several crew, so did not have access to the boat’s overall expedition expenses.
By my estimation, we motored or motor-sailed some 70% of the time, and we refueled in Nuuk (Arctic Tern began her attempt from Newfoundland), Upernavik, Arctic Bay, Cambridge Bay and Tuk.
Other expenses were nominal: no marina fees, no expensive dinners in restaurants and bars, both of which are in short supply in the arctic, etc. Many Pennsylvanians rallied around the restoration of Liberty the Second, one of the fastest boats of the roaring 20s.
The 450-hp, V-8 injection model was built in WWI as a replacement in Jenny trainer airplanes, but test flights proved the engine to be too heavy and powerful for aircraft. He has published articles and photo's in every major dive magazine in the US., Canada, and half a dozen foreign countries.


I remember as a child standing on the hill of the gone Oakland beach hotel watching it pulled from the lake. I’d never been to the high latitude north before this year and went there specifically to learn the weather, pilotage, and endurance challenges associated with my own upcoming attempt.
So, I have nothing but respect for the skippers who, after spending weeks on the NWP, decided the risks were too great to continue. Arctic Tern was swept off her anchor by heavy ice at Fury Beach and punched through ice plugs in Bellot, Depot and Levesque. Given the distances and fickle winds, a sail-only passage was not an option and carrying large fuel supplies, 1000 liters, added greatly to our ability to efficiently get through. Lets see if you can move beyond a crewman (what goes on around you) and become a captain in training (how are things made to happen)… 30 vessels departed ports intending a NWP but only 9 vessels completed the voyage of which two were commercial ships so the remaining 7 were small craft yachts.
More than 15,000 people gathered at Lake Conneaut in the summer of 1987 to see its rebirth. An authority on shipwrecks, Ellsworth has received thousands of letters and e-mails from divers throughout the world who responded to his Wreck Facts column in Sport Diver Magazine.
I just got lucky to land a crew spot with Les and Ali on Arctic Tern, who brought a tough boat and an anchor locker full of experience to the problem. We go to rugged places to see life in the raw and to choose for ourselves how to solve their problems. One boat’s crew we knew turned back because they didn’t have daily access to Environment Canada Ice Reports. Success at the NWP in 2014 required waiting, almost endlessly, for the right moments and aggressively taking the opportunities when they came.
Les and Ali had the advantage of significant high latitude experience and the lessons from their 2013 attempt, making them, in my book, the best bet in the 2014 field.
We had good food, fresh bread, a heated cabin, arctic streams to drink from, heavy ground tackle, a solid boat, a strong engine, a big gun, two inflatable dinghies, good companions, access to weather and ice reports, and the ability to communicate with home. Next, why does someone answer questions purposely backwards unless to tell a story or for an obvious reason – guess I missed that point. Only two others exist today, one at Smithsonian Institute and the other at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
When he's not writing, or diving, Ellsworth appears as a featured speaker at maritime symposiums in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Ft.


It is the talk, about shipwrecks, that I gave at the Clive Cussler Collectors Society convention banquet on October 6.
Deciding to retreat from the arctic is no cakewalk given late season weather in Baffin and Davis and can be an adventure in itself. Cloud Nine, Fiona, Saint Brenden, Belzebub, Dodo, Gitana, just to name a few made in glass. I got to learn from Les here, who pushed Arctic Tern to the edge of the pack (from Graham to Port Leopold then to Fury and Fort Ross, for example) so that when ice did shift we were in position to take advantage of it. We knew this and did it on purpose because early ice charts showed considerable clearing in Pond and further on. Overall prices for grocery store items appeared to be twice that of “normal” stateside and fresh vegetables often appeared way past “sell by” dates. And finally, based on your answers do you think you are prepared for your “Figure-8-Voyage which involves high latitude Arctic voyaging? The point is when you challenge the NW Passage are you only attempting to complete the Passage between Arctic Circles or is there much more… on a personal level – was it luck or was it preparation? Divers found the boat’s engine devoid of rust after more than six decades underwater. While in Nome I met Roland, who manages the yard where you will haul out on your way south, if such is your choice. Other boats with Iridium technology got better, prettier pictures (at sometimes much greater cost), but our snippets were plenty to allow us to make the decisions we needed.
He went through the NWP in a wooden Bristol Channel Cutter in 2009, demonstrating again that pretty much any boat can do pretty much anything. This turned out not to be, and so we got to fully explore Devon and Arctic Bay in exchange for Greenland north of Upernavik.
Was used on an inflatable 10' boat but we would go out a maximum 2-3 times a year and has not been used in the last 3 years.



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