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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
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 09:06

A Tour of Our Home [Video]

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 09:03

Packing Light [Video]

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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Last modified on Wednesday, 06 April 2011 09:08
Monday, 04 April 2011 08:53

Back on home turf

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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welcometonunavutDistance traveled:
April 3rd: 34.7 km
April 4th: 22.2 km

Position: N69°33'19 W120°40'43

I turned my GPS on and waited for it to pick up a signal from the satellites overhead; I read out our position, and Eric located us on our map. We had still half a kilometer to go. We pushed on, skiing along the ice foot, to one side a gradually increasing slope, to the other rubble ice heaved up on the shores. After half an hour I checked the GPS a second time, before announcing that we had arrived back on home turf. We had just crossed the border that divides the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Eric gave me a high five in celebration.

When our parents first moved to Iqaluit in 1990, Nunavut did not exist yet. The Northwest Territories encompassed the entire Arctic region to the east of the Yukon. I still remember the ceremonies on April 1st, 1999, when the Northwest Territories split into two territories, and Nunavut was born. Nunavut means "our land" in Inuktituk, and it gave the Inuit their own territory. My home town of Iqaluit became the new capital, and I've since witnessed the population more than double. A flag was created, a parliament built, and our first premier elected. Only a couple days ago, on April 1st, Nunavut celebrated it's eleventh birthday.

Tomorrow we will spend our first day traveling in Nunavut!

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 09:46
Saturday, 02 April 2011 08:47

Valuable knowledge

Written by Eric McNair-Landry
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outpostDistance traveled:
April 1st: 10.9 km
April 2nd: 86.5 km

Position: N69°48'28.0 W121°56'25.6

Before leaving Paulatuk, we paid a visit to the grocery store. We stocked up with some extra rations, more camping fuel and some spare rope. However, the most valuable commodity was simply sound advice from the locals gathered in front of the town's Northern Store. People sat outside and drank coffee, smoked, chatted and generally enjoyed the day. Many made remarks as to how windy this year had been; February specifically had far more blizzards than previous years. They attribute the extraordinary amount of rubble ice in Amundsen Gulf and the snow ridges that make kiting more difficult to these storms. A few of the elders were able to look over our maps and show us the traditional trails they use and areas where we would be likely to encounter rubble ice or polar bears. This knowledge was precious, as details such as the ice and snow conditions cannot be obtained from a map.

The local residents' last piece of advice was to pay George a visit; a hunter living in an outpost camp some 30 km from town who often traveled the route to Kugluktuk.

Unfortunately, the hunter was out for the day, which should not have caught us by surprise: it was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for hunting. His dogs happily welcomed us though, after they got over their fear of our kites. We quickly ate a snack in their presence and headed for the hills while the winds were still good. Following the advice received, we cut across Haircro Point, as the trail had little gradient, ample snow and would most likely avoid the bad ice on Amundsen Gulf. That piece of advice alone probably saved us several days of work; the overland trail was easily kiteable, and, as predicted, Amundsen Gulf was filled with rubble ice. Had we tried to go around the point, we would have become stuck in the ice and been forced to ski several days.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Thursday, 31 March 2011 08:34

No sleep till Paulatuk

Written by Sarah McNair-Landry
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Town of PaulatukDistance traveled:
March 30th: 26.4 km
March 31th: 78.2 km

Position: Paulatuk

To make it to our final destination of Pond Inlet, we have to average a distance of 42 km per day, equivalent to a daily marathon. While this is easy with wind, the air hung motionless again yesterday. It was going to be another day of skiing, our fifth in a row. My thighs were sore, and my feet already ached at the thought.

While we have been skiing respectable distances, it never has amounted to a marathon per day; we are slowly slipping behind schedule. The difficulty with kite skiing expeditions is that though we can cover vast distances when there is wind, we haul our pulks at a snail's pace when there are none. Having a couple kite expeditions under my belt, I don't worry as much about being behind schedule, but I am nevertheless eager for wind.

Today, we woke to the pleasant sound of the tent softly flapping; a quick peek outside confirmed the winds were blowing from a desired direction. The community of Paulatuk, our first since the beginning of the expedition, was 78km away, and we were determined to reach it before the winds died or the sun set. The day consisted of zig zagging around lakes and hills and down onto a bay littered with snow drifts and sastrugi, till finally, by 9pm, we spotted the town lights in the distance.

The small hamlet of Paulatuk is perched on the coastline of Letty Harbour. Founded in the 20's, it was named "place of coal". A trading post was set up in the hamlet, and later in the 50's a Distant Early Warning station was build around 100km away, providing further employment.

Only accessible by plane, or boat during the summer, it is home to just over 300 people. But for such a small town, it has everything you'de need: an airport, police station, health center, canteen, school, grocergy store, hotel, and most importantly showers and a cup of coffee.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 April 2011 08:45
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