Suzuki Powers the World’s First Open Boat Expedition Around the Arctic

An expedition powered by two Suzuki DF140 4-stroke engines and led by a Danish explorer has become the first ever to successfully travel all the way around the Arctic Ocean by open boat. Polar Passage 2000 has made history by recently completing the 26,000km journey over eight summers. 

The team of four explorers travelled in the modern Eskimo way by speedboat, living with indigenous people en route and recording the ‘positive Arctic’ that still exists – the national culture and the natural primeval landscapes. They also witnessed the effects of climate change first hand, reporting that the Northwest and Northeast Passages are both ice-free for the first time in 100,000 years. 

The success of the expedition is testimony to the strong spirit of adventure and endurance of the team, assisted in their venture by Suzuki’s outboard technology, the latest safety and navigational equipment and logistical support from the Adventure Club in Moscow. The high performance Suzuki DF140 4-stroke engines proved vital to the success of the expedition, as expedition leader Anders Bilgram states, “Without the development of Suzuki’s 4-stroke engines we would never have been able to go all the way around the Arctic – especially because of the very long distances in Siberia.” He adds, “The 4-stroke engines were reliable and extremely efficient in fuel consumption, saving us 35-40% on fuel.”

The ice-cold open boat adventure led Bilgram, an experienced open boat explorer and engineer, and his team to live alongside the indigenous people, experiencing true Arctic conditions. Bilgram says, “The expedition marks 1000 years for the indigenous people living, hunting and surviving in a place many call home and others call a ‘hell of ice’. Travelling by open boat we won the respect of these people and met the true Arctic hospitality in Siberia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and in Norway.”

The twin Suzuki DF140 engines powered the POCA 600, a 6 metre open boat that is also used by the Danish Police at sea, through the toughest conditions of the Arctic Seas. The advanced acceleration and top end speed of the DF140 engines meant the team could wait for the most favourable weather conditions to undertake each leg of the journey. The 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust system, computer controlled fuel injection and self adjusting oil-bathed timing chain helped to power the boat through icy seas, uncompromised by temperature and rough conditions.

“Of course it’s not possible to travel like this without dangerous moments. We had a few, mainly because of bad weather. In Russia we had to go into the life-raft when we were surprised by a storm 650km from the nearest village, without cover and on open sea. A dry cargo ship “Captain Bogatyrev” was discovered nearby and came to our aid. We also had close encounters with polar bears, but that was not dangerous”, explains Bilgram. 

“Once you have been in Greenland, or anywhere else in the Arctic, you most certainly will be compelled to return”, concludes Bilgram, thinking already about his next endeavour and the Suzuki engines to take him there.

Upon hearing of the successful completion of the expedition, Greg Haines , Managing director for Haines Suzuki Marine Australia and NZ commented, “This is an inspiring achievement in the spirit of true adventure and I warmly congratulate the expedition team.  It is amazing to think of the contrasting conditions, in comparison to Australia and New Zealand, that these outboards face around the world.  This is an ultimate endurance test for man and machine and it shows why our engines are regarded as the world’s best.” 

The Route
Copenhagen – North Jutland – Norway – Shetland Islands – Faroe Islands – Iceland – Greenland – Baffin Island, Canada – Bering Strait – Chukotka, Russia – Tiksy, Russia – Denmark (boat sent back for repair) – Norway – Naryan-Mar, Russia – Dikson – Tiksy, Russia.

The Expedition Team
Anders Bilgram – expedition leader, is an engineer and member of the Adventurers’ Club of Denmark. He led the Danish Northwest Passage Expedition in the late 1990’s, boating 3000 kilometres from Thule, Greenland to Coppermine, Canada. 

Frederik S. Lynge – second in command, is a police officer from Greenland. He was responsible for visually documenting the entire expedition.

Ole Jorgen Hammeken a Greenlandic adventurer who has travelled both by boat and dog sledge in most parts of northern Greenland and has climbed the northern most mountain in the world – close to Cape Moris Jesup, Peary Land in northern Greenland. 

Sergey Epishkin – a specialist in Siberian matters who has worked extensively with Danish scientists and acted as interpreter on the expedition as well as being responsible for all contact with Russian authorities. 

The Engines
2 x Suzuki DF140 4-stroke
Multi-point Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection
Maximum output: 103kW/84.6kW/3.5kW
Cylinders: In-line 4
Displacement: 2044cm3 (124.7 cu. in.)
Shaft length: L: 508mm (20 in.)
X: 635mm (25 in.)

The Boat
POCA 600 – 6 metre long, open boat. Built in Denmark.
Speed: 50km/hour
Fuel tank capacity: 220 litres
Total boat weight: 4 tonnes

Other Equipment
Satellite communication, navigational equipment, ebirp safety device