Monday - 08 February 2016

Antiques dealer Jane Maufe becomes first woman to traverse the Arctic’s Northwest Passage

14 November 2012Written by Anna Brady

At 69 many people might be thinking of slowing down a little, choosing an easier life of custard tarts in front of a warm fire.

But not Jane Maufe. No, the Norfolk-based dealer instead decided to spend her summer holiday attempting to become the first woman to traverse the Northwest Passage.

She joined her good friend, the yachtsmanDavid Scott Cowper- the first man to sail solo round the world in both directions - on his motorboat Polar Bound on July 27 to achieve a feat that one of her relatives died attempting - her four-times great uncle was Arctic explorer Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin, who disappeared during his last expedition in 1846-7, while trying to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage.

Jane and David's aim was to attempt the first ever transit through the most northerly route of the Northwest Passage. It had never been done before, although in 1969 the supertanker Manhattan was used to test the feasibility of transporting oil across the Arctic from the north slope of Alaska.

Although Manhattan was strengthened at huge expense, she was unable to penetrate the ice in McClure Sound and had to divert through the Prince of Wales Strait, and it was decided that it would be unfeasible to use the Arctic for commercial transportation because of the ice.

However, Jane thought it was worth a shot: "Now, however, as you probably know, global warming is effecting the Arctic and the Antarctic, and David therefore thought that there was a chance to get through in the short summer season if a small 'lead' might develop."



Above: Antiques dealer Jane Maufea board the motorboat 'Polar Bound'.


They set off from Cumbria to fuel in Northern Ireland, leaving Portrush in early August, and their next port of call was Nome, Alaska. The trip proved successful and took 19 days, 19 hours and 20 minutes. It makes them the first people to traverse the whole passage, which officially starts on the 66 and a half degree parallel latitude, otherwise known as the Arctic Circle, at the Davis Strait and finishes at the Bering Strait.

Not content with that, they continued through the Unimak Pass into the North Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska and started traversing the inner passage en route to Vancouver, but decided to lay up the boat in Petersburg before attempting a return in the spring.

Far from rest up in the interim, Jane has embarked on another adventure, to west London this time where she will exhibit in the somewhat more temperate environs of the Winter Fine Art & Antiques Fair at Olympia from November 12-18.

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Written by

Anna Brady

Back to top