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Monday, 18 April 2011 07:43

Looking for Brent

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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lookingforbrentDay 31

Distance traveled:
April 17th: 60.7 km
April 18th: 50.1 km

Location:
N 68°37'35.9 W 105°41'36.3

The hills were enveloped in a shroud of fine blowing snow, nothing to hamper our ability to navigate, but enough to make finding two other kiters in a large bay rather difficult. Friend, adventurer and Cambridge Bay resident Brent Bode, along with a teammate and his house dog, was headed in the opposite direction of us, making the treck from Cambridge Bay to Bathurst Inlet by kite. Judging by Brent's nightly position updates, we anticipated running into him in the vicinity of Elu inlet, a large body of water peppered with islands, not an ideal place to search for two kite skiers.

As I scanned the horizon, I gained an appreciation for the scale of the North; the bays seem endlessly deep, the peninsula is painfully long, creating a million good places to hide.

At one point, I spotted a red object nestled in the end of a bay; it was worth investigating. Sarah and I un-clipped from our pulks and ripped downwind. After ten minutes the object appeared only marginally larger, while our pulks had disappeared from sight. Ten more minutes confirmed that the object was a massive ship, as Sarah had predicted: a red hull with a multi-story white tower. What a large and expensive ship is doing frozen in the ice is anyone's guess. It would have been worth looking into, had our pulks not been so distant with the weather closing in.

We pitched camp in the center of the only narrow channel that lead to Elu inlet, hoping that Brent would have no choice but to pass through this direction. The next morning, we checked Brent's position, only to realize that he was 14km past us. He had probably passed overland instead of through the narrow strait. We thought of giving him chase, but the winds were not favorable for that, and he had probably already broken camp. Disappointed, we headed for Cambridge Bay, only 100km away.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Friday, 29 April 2011 08:08
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 10:08

Charging Electronics [Video]

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 10:10
Wednesday, 13 April 2011 10:04

Growing up in the North

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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Growing Up In The NorthAs we traveled along across the barren landscape, I realized how lucky I am to be witnessing this beautiful yet harsh environment, one that I have called home for the last 20 plus years.

Eric and I both grew up in Nunavut, when I was only four years old, our parents moved north to the town of Iqaluit to start up an adventure tourism business. From as far back as I can remember we had a team of dogs in our backyard. Without a TV, we spent our weekends outside, building snow forts, playing with puppies, or camping with our parents.

Our career however started when Eric was 11 years old, and I was 10. We decided that we were going camping, without the adults. The adults agreed and so our training begun; we were taught how to light stoves, use the radio and set up tents. Once our parents though we were ready, we camped on the back deck as a test of our abilities. The next weekend, map in hand we headed out on a two day hiking trip.

Fifteen years later, Eric and I have had the privilege to travel to the South Pole, Greenland, Ellesmere, Russia, Mongolia and myself to the North Pole. We currently work as polar guides and teach others what we have learned: the art of traveling in the arctic. Frequently, people ask me how they can get involved in expeditions and I think back to my childhood years. My answer is always the same: start by pitching a tent in your backyard.

Sarah McNair-Landry

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Friday, 29 April 2011 08:08
Saturday, 16 April 2011 09:59

Go fly a kite!

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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sarahliftoffDistance traveled:
April 15th: 53.6 km
April 16th: 114.9 km

Position: N68°06'53.9 W107°54'01.9

Most people have heard of kites; for many it brings back memories of childhood standing on a windy beach with a one line kite in hand. Our kites are a little more complex.

Equipped with a break, de-power, two emergency release and control bar, Ozone kites are easily maneuverable, allowing us to choose our direction of travel. We each carry four different size kites, each measured by their square meter size. For example yesterday in the high stormy winds, we flew our smallest 6 meter Access kites. Today however, in lighter winds, we launched our bigger and more powerful 13 meter Frenzy kites.

How are these kites designed and tested? We'll let the designer from Ozone explain.

The 10 basic steps from a kite concept to reality:

  1. Identifying the design brief: We are continually researching new concepts and ideas to improve the Ozone range. Identifying a new design brief is a way for us to begin implementing these new ideas into the birth of a new project.
  2. Initial concept breakdown: Covering the basic requirements of the kite and the technical specifications of the design. E.g. aspect ratio, profiles, number of panels etc.
  3. Computer aided design and analysis of the design(s)
  4. Initial prototyping to confirm feasibility of new ideas and production techniques.
  5. Real flight testing of a completed prototype. This often can be time consuming due to the requirement of prototypes needing to be tested in varying conditions.
  6. Refinement of the design with the experience and characteristics learnt from the first prototype.
  7. Continual refinement, prototyping and testing is required until the design brief is met and or surpassed. I.e. the test team needs to be satisfied with all characteristics from production to flight.
  8. Final prototypes are then sent out to our expert riders around the world to test in all conditions for external opinions.
  9. External opinions collected, noted and acted upon when necessary.
  10. Implementing the finished design into the production schedule for all to enjoy!

For more information on Ozone kites visit: www.flyozone.com

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
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stormedoutDistance traveled:
April 13th: 123.5 km
April 14th: 16.8 km

Position: N 67°47'27.2 W 111°47'11.2

Day 27

It was three in the afternoon before we finally had our equipment packed and were out on the ice in front of Kugluktuk. We gave the town one last wave goodbye, launched our kites and sped off. Despite the late start, the conditions were fast. With the wind at our back, we kited until we could see moon-shadows.

Today, we got off to an early start, hoping to get to Cape Barrow. Unfortunately, after an hour of kiting, the winds increased to blizzard strength, forcing us to take shelter in our Hilleberg tent. The weather reminds us of the harsh landscape we are traveling through, that same landscape that more than a century ago men cursed as they searched for the famous Northwest Passage.

This search began in earnest when John Barrow, a man who would never himself travel the Arctic, was appointed Second Secretary to the Admiralty in 1804. After years of fighting, Britain was finally at peace, and without a war, naval officers found it difficult to achieve promotions. Barrow realized that an idle navy made for a poor navy. What better than to send them out exploring, claiming land and prestige for their home country.

The first of these expeditions was lead by John Ross in 1818, and was a disappointing start to the exploration of the Northwest Passage. Ross managed to get as far as Lancaster Sound (north of Baffin island, where we will finish our expedition) to be thwarted by a mountain range he named the Crocker Mountains, blocking Lancaster Sound.

William Edwin Parry, who served on Ross' expedition, was convinced that the Crocker Mountains were a myth and mounted his own expedition the following year. In an amazing feat, he sailed straight through Lancaster Sound and further westwards, proving that the Crocker Mountains were but a mirage. When Parry returned to England, he had mapped half the Northwest Passage. It would take nearly half a century for another ship to get as far in these arctic waters as he did.

At the same time, another explorer was trying his luck in western Canada: John Franklin was mounting the first of three expeditions, an overland expedition to map the Dease Strait. His route would take him to Lac De Gras, the headwaters of the Coppermine River. From there, he and his mismatched crew of voyageurs and Brits would canoe the river until they reached the Arctic Ocean, where present day Kugluktuk lies. They then paddled Canada's northern coast, mapping barely 800 km of new coastline. The expedition was far from successful: on the return journey, 11 of 20 crewmembers died in a bizarre tale of murder, starvation and possibly cannibalism. Franklin was rescued by a band of Native Americans, but the desperate measures he took to avoid starvation earned him the title of "the man who ate his boots".

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 09:58
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 09:52

Kugluktuk

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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KugluktukPosition: Kugluktuk (formerly know as Coppermine).

Four days behind schedule, with two broken sleds and having traveled 900 km so far, Kugluktuk was finally in sight. As we entered the hamlet, a gathering of locals met us on the ice, their curiosity aroused by our big green kites slicing through the air. Kugluktuk, which means “place of moving water”, is located at the mouth of the Coppermine River on the Arctic Ocean. We were warmly greeted into the community, and learned that we had arrived just in time for their spring festival, celebrating the return of the sun. That night, we joined the community for the opening ceremonies and a town feast.

The last two days were spent re-stocking on supplies and repairing gear. Yesterday, we took the time to present pictures and stories to the high school kids. We then invited them to join us down on the ice to try the sport of kite-skiing for themselves. A crowd of 50 plus students gathered around our trainer kite, eagerly waiting to take their turn to try it, as Eric unraveled one of his bigger kites to give a demo.

A big thanks to everyone in Kugluktuk for their help and friendliness.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Sunday, 10 April 2011 09:50

In sight of Kugluktuk

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Day 23

Distance traveled:
April 9th: 21.9 km
April 10th: 117.6 km

Location: N69 51'44.8 W 15 06'22.5

In the few moments after I hear Sarah's alarm ring, I can usually predict the quality of the day. This morning, the tent is flapping: that's a good start. I pull the neck warmer that kept my nose warm through the night off my face and look up at the tent ceiling. There is a fair amount of frost as it's been a cold night; it will probably be a cold day too. My side of the tent is flapping, meaning the winds must be out of the west. Down wind travel, that's a good sign. It's time to pack the sleeping bags, it's going to be a good day.

The winds continued to strengthen throughout the day, as we cut over the flat, undulating landscape. By mid afternoon, a modest blizzard had picked up, sending ice crystals high into the air, creating amazing sundogs. The wind chill easily reached –40C, however the sun beamed through the blowing snow and provided some warmth. Breaks were short and, as a consequence, we made great mileage. When the winds finally died we were in sight of Kugluktuk, the town lights shimmering in the dusk light. We called it a day. Kugluktuk and hot showers can wait till tomorrow.

Eric

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Friday, 08 April 2011 09:47

So, what is fair trade?

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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camino100gDistance traveled:
April 7th: 23.9 km
April 8th: 18.9 km

Position: N68°50'49.4 W117°02'59.1

For the last two days the winds have turned against us: headwinds. Each morning we lace up our boots for another day of cross-country skiing. While working hard in these cold climates, it's important to keep hydrated and fed, and so we stop every hour and a half to take a quick break. We quickly and hungrily open up our snack bags and recharge on a variety of high calorie foods such as nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and chocolate. My favorite snack of all is Camino's peanut butter snack bar. Proudly displayed on the wrapper are both the certified organic and the fair trade logo. Why is this important and what does fair trade actually mean? We will let the producers of our Camino chocolate explain:

For the Camino team, fair trade is one of the cornerstones of our business. The one thing that is important to get is that fair trade means a respectful way of doing business, a human way of doing business. What does this mean? For example, in Canada, we are protected by labor laws that ensure we are paid a minimum price for the work we do. There aren't any such laws on the International scene that control this. So, national initiatives, such as Transfair in Canada, work under the umbrella of a larger International organization that promotes fairness in trade worldwide. When a product is identified as fair trade certified, it means that each farmer that has harvested an ingredient used in the final product was paid a fair price for his or her work. In addition, a fair trade premium is paid to the farmers. The end result is that once impoverished communities, most often in Southern countries, progressively become vibrant as the money they make is reinvested in sustainable community development projects. As a consumer, you can look for labels that indicate that a product is fair trade and you can decide to purchase an item based on your values and contribute to changing the world, little by little. Read up on how fair trade ensures more than just a fair price on our website.

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 09:42

The Strait of Anian

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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oldshipDistance traveled:
April 5th: 20.7 km
April 6th: 103 km

Position: N69°00'52 W117°58'29

We woke up to the sound of wind violently flapping our tent; minutes later, we confirmed our suspicion: a powerful gale from the west was sweeping snow along the ground. The winds were strong but manageable. However, the lack of visibility caused by low clouds convinced us to stay in the tent a while longer and wait till the winds or the visibility improved.

Once under way, the travel was fantastic; we were being swept down wind, watching terrain fly by. The kind of satisfaction we could not get while cross county skiing like yesterday.

We ended our day near an old washed up ship, its paint peeling and hull its slowly rusting as the years pass by. The name on the bow read Netelouk, although it was difficult to make out. The newspapers found in the ship's cabin were printed in 1966. It is evidence that the Northwest Passage can be a harsh environment.

Roughly five hundred years ago, Asia-Europe trade was blooming, despite the obvious difficulty of transportation routes. Goods could be shipped over land or by sea around the Cape of Good Hope. Neither route was pleasant, both were time consuming and risky. Why, if the earth was round, not take the shorter route and go west, to get to the east? With a large northern chunk of the North American map undiscovered it seemed feasible that a sea passage could exist, possibly emanating from Hudson Bay, leading west. At the time, this fabled sea route was named the Strait of Anian.

This fable was laid to rest when, in 1772, Samuel Hearne traveled over land from Hudson Bay to Copermine River, a remarkable 5,800 km return voyage, without finding a passage. For the hopeful, however, these findings were not a deterrent: after all, a passage could still exist in the northern unexplored area west of Baffin Island. This passage was later dubbed the Northwest Passage by the British, and would take more than a century to be successfully navigated. During that time, a battery of expeditions would depart Europe in search of the passage; many would die, a few would become heroes, several would eat their boots to make it home alive.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 09:46
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 09:09

Sending updates from the field [Video]

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
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