September 7, 2007

Meat-strewn ship remains as “Wild Vikings” deported

Motley crew expelled from Canada after ill-fated voyage through Northwest Passage

JOHN THOMPSON

A gang of modern-day Vikings were deported from Canada last Saturday, after police stopped their vessel in Cambridge Bay for failing to declare their visit to Canadian authorities.

The self-described Wild Vikings had embarked on a journey through the Northwest Passage aboard their small sailing boat, the Beserk II, which flew a black flag and had sharks' teeth painted on its bow.

The ship remains anchored near Cambridge Bay, and according to a radio report, has old socks and pieces of meat dangling from its lines. But the crew of five, who were arrested Aug. 24 and promptly thrown into the community's RCMP lock-up until their immigration hearing last week, are gone.

Immigration authorities escorted the three Norwegians and two U.S. crew members, many of whom sport large beards and tattoos, on to a plane to Edmonton, then Toronto, and then back to their native countries.

So ends the rowdy odyssey of the crew, who declared on their web site their wish to "turn the time back to the old days when men were men," and "pick up the old Norsemen traditions opposed to today's so-called ‘civilized' and artificial way of living."

One promotional video shows the men wearing plastic viking helmets while sailing through sea ice, cuddling up to walrus and drinking large quantities of rum.

But the crew did not receive an easy ride upon entering Canada, beginning with a visit to Halifax earlier this year. The crew log describes RCMP officers storming their ship and arresting the mechanic and cook, and temporarily seizing several firearms.

One arrested man was deported, while the other left the country before his immigration hearing.

The crew's web site describes the deported man, ship mechanic Rune Ohlsgaard, also known as "Super," as an active member of the Hell's Angels in Oslo - "but is now preparing his own Hell's sailors department."

Both men reunited with the Beserk II when it visited Greenland. When the vessel visited Cambridge Bay, Captain Jarle Andhoy tried to hide Ohlsgaard by dropping the deported man off on shore near the community to evade police.

Apparently Ohlsgaard eventually wandered into Cambridge Bay, tired and hungry, to find his fellow crew members under arrest.

All men were ordered to leave Canada because their ship failed to register upon entry to the country. As well, two of the crew, Fredrik Juell and Jeffrey Kane, have "extensive criminal records," said Chris Kealey with the Canadian Border Services Agency.

While the deportation of the crew appears to spell the end of the viking journey, Kealey has heard the captain has plans to send another crew to retrieve the Beserk II and continue sailing the Northwest Passage.

The captain defended his decision to not contact Canadian authorities before entering the country by playing up the controversy of whether the Northwest Passage is internal Canadian waters, or international waters, as the United States and many other countries claim.

Despite the ship's visits in Cambridge Bay, and before then, Gjoa Haven, Andhoy told CBC radio he felt no need to register with Canadian authorities, because "we are not here to visit Canada. We are here to do a transit to the Pacific," he said.

"We're sailing the Northwest Passage and as far as I'm concerned the Northwest Passage is international."

Captain Andhoy also boasts to have sailed the furthest north by sailboat during his recent journey.

Andhoy claims to have been inspired by the Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup, who overwintered several times off southern Ellesmere Island in his ship, the Fram.

Sverdrup named many of the bays and fiords in the area, including what is now the community of Grise Fiord. Its name means "pig fiord in Norwegian" - so-called because of noisy walrus in the area that reminded Sverdrup of the sound of swine.