Pet Officer Snoopy and the North West Passage – The Full Story

Since I started blogging again I have been inundated with complaints from blogfans across the world. Enough of your self-satisfied tales of your lotus-eating in the Caribbean. What happened to Pet Officer Snoopy? Is he locked in the Arctic wastes like a latter day Franklin? Did he die in his attempt to transit the North West Passage? Tell us and tell us now.

For those new to the blog, Snoopy had found life after his Antarctic adventure indescribably dull and, completely unbeknownst to me, had managed to pack himself in a Jiffy bag and sent himself to Nuuk in West Greenland to join my sister Linda and bro-in-law John on their yacht Suilven to provide much needed assistance on their attempt on the NWP. Well, Snoopy DID return, but he was a broken soul. It was a painful, deeply personal homecoming for both Snoopy and me. Too personal to share with the world at that time. But with the healing passage of time, it is right that the full story now be told.

Suilven had made it to the mouth of the NWP and in the bitter cold, surrounded by ice and polar bears, had waited for the ice to clear the Bellot Strait, the gateway through which they had to pass. They waited and they waited. Mind you they weren’t alone. There was quite a gathering of like-minded adventurers in the bay in which they had anchored and rumour has it there was a fair amount of partying going on when they weren’t being battered by 50+knot storms. But the northern summer is exceedingly short. If you can’t get into the passage by mid-August, then there is a significant danger that you won’t be able to rush through to the other side before getting iced in for the winter. In a glass boat like Suilven that was a risk that couldn’t be taken, so mid-August and still no sign of the Bellot opening up John, along with most of the other yachts, made the wise decision to call it a day and head south down the coast of Newfoundland to lay the boat up for the winter there.

Linda had warned me that Snoopy had seemed out of sorts when they had decided to abort their attempt on the passage, and when Snoops returned to the leafy suburbs of South West London to the hero’s welcome he deserved, he stomped past the banners proclaiming “Welcome Home PO Snoopy – Polar Adventurer” with his tail between his legs, went into his kennel and slammed the door shut. He wouldn’t come out for three days, even for the bowls of Winalot Extra for Polar Dogs that I put out for him.

I heard him muttering inside “Bloody waste of time …. what’s the point … useless”. On the third day, the door of the kennel opened slowly and, weak with hunger, Snoopy crawled out with the immortal words “I’m just going outside, and I may be some time”.

“Enough!” I said. “Snoopy, pull yourself together”. He stopped in his tracks and looked pathetically up at me. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” I demanded.
“I want to die. Let me die” he said quietly. “No” I said, “not until you tell me why”.

Then it all came flooding out in a torrent.
“It’s like this Skip. You’ve taken me to the Arctic, across great oceans and down to the Antarctic. I’m the most celebrated and decorated Seadog in the world – but all I wanted to do was to prove to you that I could do something worthy without you. All I wanted was to make you proud of me. And I’ve failed. I’ve let myself down; I’ve let Mina2 down but, most of all Skip” and here he stifled a sob, “most of all Skip, I’ve let you down. I am unworthy of your love and respect and I want to end it all now”.

I was aghast. “Failed? Let me down? What on earth are you talking about Snoops?” I said. “You know what they say about failure?” “Yes”, said Snoopy “It’s better to have tried and failed then never to have tried at all” … but they also say “If at first you don’t succeed then try, try again”. I am 272 years old in dog years and I don’t think I have it left in me to try again. I have failed you in my final hour, and that’s it. I want to die”.

“Well, let me tell you something Pet Officer Snoopy” I said, sitting him on my lap, “and listen carefully. What you have achieved is remarkable. Failure is running away from challenges. You have never run away from any of the many challenges you have faced. No Seadog has done what you have done and I doubt if any Seadog ever will in the future. You are the Amundsen of Seadogs [Amundsen is a particular
hero of Snoopy]. I could not be more proud of you. Snoopy, you have my deepest respect and admiration, and I salute you”.

There was quite a long pause. “Do you really mean that Skip?”
“With all my heart, old friend” I said. Snoopy licked my hand, a tear rolled down his cheek and with a little sigh he fell into a deep peaceful sleep in my lap.


Tim Barker is a sailor and occasional adventurer. Since 2004, Mina2, his Oyster 485 yacht, and he (with the Downstairs Skipper and a wonderful bunch of friends) have sailed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Come join their adventures and read Tim's award winning blogs and journals from the comfort of your own computer screen.

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