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Tuesday, 17 May 2011 08:59

Of plans and routes

mapsandrouteDistance traveled:
May 16th: 48.1 km
May 17th: 25.2 km

Position: N67°03'20.6 W086°59'09.3

Yesterday, the rough ice in Committee Bay kept us land bound, so we kite-skied south, following the trail toward the town of Repulse Bay. There was alarmingly little snow covering the sandy and rocky coastline; the snow had often melted on either side of the trail. Spring melt is definitely on its way.

This morning, we huddled over the maps with our GPS in hand, reviewing the available information. We had two options ahead: we could continue to detour south-east overland pushing inland towards flat kiteable terrain, or we could attempt to ski the next few days through the rough ice of Committee Bay.

Although the Committee Bay route was much shorter, heading inland, provided the winds were good, would allow us to travel bigger distances with our kites.

We had recently received a weather update calling for north-west winds tomorrow, and clear windless weather for today.

And so we decided that sometimes, you have to head south to go north, so we packed our kiting gear away, got out our shorts and ipods out and hauled through the day and into the night. With any luck, there will be winds tomorrow and we can kite overland.


[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Sunday, 15 May 2011 07:20

A pristine North?

DumpsiteDistance traveled:
May 14th: To the airport and back
May 15th: 132.5 km

Position: N67°35'31.2 W087°52'25.5

We walked down the main street of town, past the hotel, then the church; were given some more route advice by a couple friendly guys hanging out in front of the local co-op store; then continued on towards the airport to check if our resupply of food, and most importantly our maps, had arrived. Still no luck. Hopefully they'll arrive on the next flight.

As we walked back, I admired the location of the town, perched on the ocean by the mouth of a river, with a beautiful backdrop of rocky hills. Surprisingly, we have yet to see the town dump, which was probably hidden behind a hill, during our walks.

Many think of the North as pristine and clean; however, the dump sites in most communities in Nunavut stick up like a sore thumb. As we skied into Taloyoak a couple weeks ago, the first sign of town was a cloud of ravens circling their landfill. Back in Cambridge Bay, while a friend was giving us a tour of town (which, of course, included the dump), we watched two men throw out bags of good quality winter jackets and snow pants. We stopped and picked up the clothing, filling the back of our friend's pick up truck - it wouldn't be hard to find people who would need winter jackets. This kind of wasteful behaviour happens regularly in all the communities, earning the dumps in the North the nickname "Canadian Tire", after the chain of hardware stores.

And what happens to the trash? Most communities pile it up and light it on fire, burning plastics outside at low temperatures just beside the town.

But how can we blame the small towns, when Iqaluit, both the capital of Nunavut and my home town, sets no better example. Although we have now stopped burning our garbage, we pile it up into a mountain of trash that is now several times higher than the fences that surround the dump. Located on an island with high cost of shipping, most supplies arrive in town by boat or plane, and never leave, adding to our landfill site.

The problem first came to my attention a couple of years back when my brother, some friends and myself started to build a cabin; the goal was to use only recycled materials, most of which found at the dump. As you can imagine, we got to know that dump site pretty well, and I started to wonder, is there no better option? Was recycling or compost a feasible option for the city? Thanks to ONF (the french division of National Film Board of Canada), I launched myself into a two year project researching, writing and directing a film on the topic, featuring both the construction of our cabin, and one man's struggle to run a compost project in town.

See it for your self:


[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Friday, 13 May 2011 07:16

Arrived in Kugaaruk

headingoutcampingDistance traveled:
May 12th: 88.9 km
May 13th: 30.2 km

Position: N68°31'34.9 W089°50'09.3

We kite-skied into Kugaaruk, once known as Pelly Bay. As we packed our kites away, we were welcomed by several hunters on snowmachines who had come to see who was traveling through their bay. We arrived on Friday, and as we walked into town, we saw many people busy packing their sleds with skins and other camping equipment, getting ready to head out on the land for a hunting or camping excursion. The word was out that we had arrived in town, and people on the streets offered us advice on the route ahead.

The winter weather is breaking and the spring is coming, along with long daylight hours. Soon the annual caribou migration will happen, bringing the herds up from mainland North America through the Boothia Peninsula. Besides caribou, the people here hunt seals, muskox, and polar bear, all important staples in their diet.

We are also anxious to get back to the land; while the warmer weather makes traveling more pleasurable, the onset of spring determines the end date of our expedition. We can't kite without snow. However, for the time being, we are delayed, waiting for a resupply of food to arrive by air. We have been keeping busy asking the locals for advice on the route ahead, what the ice conditions are like in Committee Bay and what overland options we can use to travel to our next stop, the community of Igloolik.


[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 10:03

Navigating [Video]

This new Team Pittarak video will show you how the we know which way to go (except when running away from all those polar bears, that is...).

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 09:51

The many routes of the Northwest Passage

Distance traveled:
May 10th: 34.8 km
May 11th: 16.5 km


Position: N69°23'58.4 W091°30'30.7

The winds and terrain have been unfavorable to kiting the last couple days, so we ski south into head winds towards the small hamlet of Kugaaruk.

Although we have deviated from our original route, forced south because of bad ice and open water, we are still following one of the many Northwest Passage routes.

Though it is usually referred to as "The" Northwest Passage, there are several navigable routes that connect the Arctic Ocean to the Beaufort Sea. A century ago, the ice forced Amundsen south of Victoria Island, a route which took him three years to complete. But now, through a combination of climate change, melting the multi-year ice that used to block the passages even in the summer, and better ice breaker ships, more routes have become navigable. The widest and deepest heads north of Victoria Island. We are now following the most southerly route that passes south of Baffin Island through the Fury and Hecla strait, which lies by the community of Igloolik.

The various routes can be seen on the following map, along with some interesting information on the ice.


As a side note, Trude Wohlleben, a friend and advisor of Pittarak who works with the Canadian Ice Service, had this to say about the choices Team Pittarak were facing:

"There are some pretty significant leads that opened up between the coast and the pack ice where Sarah and Eric are, as a result of those north-northwesterly winds last week. The main advice I can offer is to look for a section of coast that runs parallel to the prevailing wind directions (which gets funnelled up/down the Gulf of Boothia, so it tends to come from the north-northwest or south-southeast). Sections of the coast that are parallel to the winds will have shear zones but smaller shore leads. Sections of the coast that are perpendicular to the wind, on the other hand, will tend to have larger shore leads when offshore winds occur. Where they are now, it looks like the coast is facing kind of southeastwards, perpendicular to the wind direction of that big storm last week, so as a result there is a pretty wide lead.

Also, while the pack ice itself looks similar to what Sarah crossed last year on the way to the North Pole, the ice floes in the Gulf of Boothia will be smaller than those in the Arctic Ocean, and not as thick. The leads and fractures in between will also be slower to freeze. Once they are on the pack, they should just push hard and get to the other side as quickly as possible. Again, aim for a section of coast that appears to run parallel to the main wind directions, so they don't risk running into another wide lead on the other side.

****And finally ... if the ice in the Gulf of Boothia looks too dangerous, Sarah and Eric should recall that Fury and Hecla Strait is an alternate route of the Northwest Passage. So if they went south along the coastal fast ice to Pelly Bay (Kugaruk) and then rounded Committee Bay over to Igloolik and Hall Beach (instead of heading northeast to Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet) they would STILL be doing one of the recognised routes of the Northwest Passage. Overall, that may be the safer option.****"

Image reference: NASA
Statistics reference: Canadian Ice Service 1968-2010 Ice Chart Data

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

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