Into the Arctic I - The journey so far (June 2009)
Read from the bottom up!
The warm-up June 26, 2009
Today was a good warm-up, after orientation from Park superintendent Monty Yank, and sorting gear again. Carl and I headed out for a six and a half hour hike behind camp, with a partial load on our backs. There was a lot of stop and go along the way. We were both feeling it pretty good after the hike. Looking at the map again made us realize we’d better alter our plan. That big loop we were planning on doing just got a whole lot smaller. No matter how much planning and research I do, it never quite matches up for the real thing. The scale of this land is so enormous and vast. But I’ve learned from past trips that plans are merely guidelines, and up here you have to be very flexible. Finally we had supper at eleven, and got to sleep. The real adventure begins tomorrow, when we head out and leave camp behind.
First day out June 25, 2009
Carl and I boarded the twin otter, the work horse of the North. With four others, Park Canada staff, and volunteers. We began the flight to Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island. It was a mesmerizing three hour flight over massive and beautiful landscapes, full of mountains, glaciers, and ice. This brought us to the Park’s camp at Tankory Fiord. As the plane lowered to land we spotted muskox, grazing on the hills, and later more on the ground not far from camp. Here, we stepped off to take in the awesome mountains that surround the camp, and the fresh arctic air. However, our destination was further yet. Another half hour later, we landed again, this time at the frozen Lake Hassen, ice still covering the entire lake at the end of June. Normally the ice would have been gone by now, but its presence and the lack of wind made for a tranquil silence. A small group of researchers are here from the UK and a few park staff. We sorted gear, we re-organized, and ran around with cameras for a while. What a place.
Polar Continental Shelf June 25, 2009
Word this morning from Tim at Polar Continental Shelf is that the flight is being put off until our gear arrives. No one goes into the field without their essential gear for safety. The PCS (Polar Continental Shelf) is the mother-ship up here, managing all flights in and out of the high arctic, and what a job that is. Researchers in remote camps, park staff, even artists once in a while, all separated by thousands of kilometers make for incredibly tough logistics, and even harder rescue operations if necessary. With a day in town to get climatized to the north, we headed into the settlement of Resolute Bay, to explore, do some filming, and chat with a few locals. Having this day off proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing me to absorb the new environment in a way I would have missed, had our gear been here on time. By the end of the day, the gear did actually make it in.
AND SO IT BEGINS… June 24, 2009
As planned, our flights from Ottawa to Resolute Bay seemed to have gone well. Watching the landscape change below, becoming ever more icy and cold, is quite the contrast from the summer heat that had started to move in. Watching my brother Carl experience the transformation for the first time was fun. Not that I’m an old hat or anything, but having done it before I had a good idea what to expect. So later, when our four sizable pieces of luggage never showed up in Resolute, I wasn’t completely surprised. That’s travel in the north at times. Planes get smaller the further you fly, and room often runs out. The problem is that the next flight out, the Twin Otter that is to take us into the park, is scheduled for the morning, and no other is supposed to go for two weeks! So we sit tight to see what unfolds. But it could be worse: I’m typing this from the comfort of the amazing Polar Continental Shelf facility, where we are being fed awesome food, and have a very comfortable bed. And we are meeting some interesting folks along the way. It’s been said many times; when you come up north, throw out your schedule!