IELTS Reading Topic 2

Conquest of Northwest Passage

(Read the passage given below)

One of the greatest sailing adventures of the past 25 years was the conquest of the Northwest Passage, powered by sail, human muscle, and determination. In 100 days, over three summers (1986-88), Canadians Jeff MacInnis and Mike Beedell accomplished the first wind-powered crossing of the Northwest Passage.

In Jeff MacInnis’s words…Our third season. We weave our way through the labyrinth of ice, and in the distance we hear an unmistakable sound. A mighty bowhead whale is nearby, and its rhythmic breaths fill us with awe. Finally, we see it relaxed on the surface, its blowhole quivering like a volcanic cone, but it senses our presence and quickly sounds. We are very disappointed. We had only good intentions—to revel in its beautiful immensity and to feel its power. Mike thinks how foolish it would be for this mighty beast to put any faith in us. After all, we are members of the species that had almost sent the bowhead into extinction with our greed for whale oil and bone. It is estimated that as many as 38,000 bowheads were killed off eastern Baffin Island in the 1800s; today there are only about 200 left.

The fascinating and sometimes terrifying wildlife keeps us entertained during our explorations. Bearded harp and ring seals greet us daily. The profusion of bird life is awesome; at times we see and smell hundreds of thousands of thick billed murres clinging to their Cliffside nests. Our charts show that we are on the edge of a huge shoal where the frigid ocean currents up swell and mix nutrients that provide a feast for the food chain. At times, these animals scare the living daylights out of us. They have a knack of sneaking up behind us and then shooting out of the water and belly flopping for maximum noise and splash. A horrendous splash coming from behind has a heart-stopping effect in polar bear country.

We have many encounters with the ‘Lords of the Arctic,’ but we are always cautious, observant, and ever so respectful that we are in their domain. In some regions the land is totally devoid of life, while in others the pulse of life takes our breath away. Such is the paradox of the Arctic; it’s wastelands flow into oasis’ that are found nowhere else on the face of the earth. Many times we find ancient signs of Inuit people who lived here, superbly attuned to the land. We feel great respect for them; this landscape is a challenge at every moment.

We face a 35 mile open water passage across Prince Regent Inlet on Baffin Island that will take us to our ultimate goal – Pond Inlet on Baffin Bay. The breakers look huge from the water’s edge. Leaning into the hulls, like bobsledders at the starting gate, we push as hard as we can down the gravel beach to the sea. We catch the water and keep pushing until we have plunged waist deep, then drag ourselves aboard. Immediately, we begin paddling with every ounce of effort. Inch by agonizing inch, perception moves offshore. Sweat pours off our bodies. Ahead of us, looming gray-white through the fog, we see a massive iceberg riding the current like the ghost of a battleship. There is no wind to fill our sails and steady the boat, and the chaotic motion soon brings seasickness. Slowly the wind begins to build. Prince Regent Inlet now looks ominous with wind and waves. The frigid ocean hits us square in the face and chills us to the bone.

We were on the fine edge. Everything that we had learned in the Arctic over the last 90 days was now being tested. We funneled all that knowledge, skill, teamwork, and spirit into this momentous crossing. If we went over in these seas we could not get the boat back up. Suddenly the wind speed plummeted to zero as quickly as it had begun. Now we were being pushed by the convulsing waves toward sheer 2,000 foot cliffs. Two paddles were our only power. Sailing past glacier capped mountains, we approached the end of our journey. At 05:08 in the morning of our hundredth day, speeding into Baffin Bay, the spray from our twin hulls makes rainbows in the sun as we complete the first sail powered voyage through the Northwest Passage.

We have journeyed through these waters on their terms, moved by the wind, waves and current. The environment has always been in control of our destiny; we have only tried to respond in the best possible way. We’ve been awake for nearly 23 hours, but we cannot sleep. The joy and excitement was too great. Our Hobie Cat rests on the rocky beach, the wind whistling in her rigging, her bright yellow hulls radiant in the morning sunlight. She embodies the watchword for survival in the Arctic-adaptability.

Q. Based on your understanding of the above passage, answer any five of the questions given below by choosing the most appropriate option:

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IELTS Reading Quiz Set 2

IELTS Multiple Choice Questions - Powered By Cosmo Consultants

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1 / 6

Which was the sailors’ final goal to reach?

2 / 6

In how many days was the first sail powered voyage through Northwest Passage completed?

3 / 6

‘We were on the fine edge’ refers to:

4 / 6

The author’s sailing vessel is named:

5 / 6

‘Lords of the Arctic,’ (Para 4) refers to the:

6 / 6

The passage is about the:

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