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Saturday, 11 June 2011 12:53

Arriving in Pond Inlet

PittarakExpeditionsDistance traveled: 18.5 km
Position: N72 41'36.1 W 077 56'48.0

Day 85 - Position: Pond Inlet!

Warm winds and rain in the last two days have turned the snow covering the sea ice into an inch to a foot of water. Today, an intermittent fog and a steady drizzle continued to add to the existing water. Yesterday, we had given up skiing and were now on foot, as the slippery ice was difficult to negotiate with skis. As a consequence, we were exhausted and eager to get to Pond Inlet, our final destination. Winter was over; it was time to trade our skis for sandals and shorts.

After 85 days, we have traveled 3300 km by foot, ski and kite-ski. We encountered major challenges, namely rough ice, polar bear encounters and a long detour around the Gulf of Boothia, which made the final destination even more rewarding.

PICT0196By 9 PM, we arrived on the beach in front of town. Despite the cold winds and rain, a gathering of people met us on the beach to congratulate us and welcome us to Pond Inlet. It was nice to finally be here.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Friday, 10 June 2011 12:49

A tribute

GrowingupinIqaluit_smallDistance traveled
June 9th: 11.2 km
June 10th: 27.49 km

Location: N72 36'14.7 W078 25'01.5

As we skied across Eclipse Sound, the views of Bylot Island's tall peaks and glaciers faded in and out of the fog. Strong head winds blew the clouds our way; it was soon raining heavily, so we took shelter from the stormy weather.

In the tent, we gazed over our maps: Pond Inlet was only 45 km away. Since we crossed onto Baffin Island, we've been using an old set of maps, scribbled with notes, that have a dotted line marking an expedition route my parents, Matty McNair and Paul Landry, and two friends accomplished twenty-one years ago.

The team of four left Iqaluit on February 14th , 1990 with two dog teams, attempting to circumnavigate Baffin island, the worlds fifth largest island, along the traditional Inuit dog sledding routes. After my parents completed their saga, they settled in Iqaluit (Nunavut), and started a dog sledding adventure tourism company called NorthWinds.

As NorthWinds grew, my parents set out on longer expeditions, eventually guiding in some of the most remote polar locations, including to both the South and North Pole. Our house became an expedition base camp, with gear and new ideas constantly being tested.

It was there that Sarah and I were raised, our home looking over the Arctic Ocean. Having no television, we spent our time dogs sledding and camping, our parents patiently teaching us the skills to travel in the Arctic. I still tried to refuse to wear sunglasses, as I didn't think they were cool, and Sarah hated to wear a winter jacket to school (that wasn't cool either), but they persisted and obviously some knowledge has been passed down.

Eric

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Wednesday, 08 June 2011 08:53

The weatherman

image1aDistance traveled:
June 7th: 23.0 km
June 8th: 20.8 km
Distance from Pond Inlet (end): 55 km

Day 82 - Position: N72°30'44.9 W079°32'05

Every second day, we turn on our Iridium phone and wait for our new weather forecast to download. At times, these forecasts bring good news of future winds; the past couple of days, however, have read: winds less than 5 knots, from variable directions, with temperatures on the rise up to 0°C. And so we have steadily been skiing towards our final destination of Pond Inlet, hoping our next weather forecast will bring better news.

A couple years ago, while I was guiding in Antarctica, I met Mark De Keyser, who was forecasting weather for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. They spoke highly of his services, however I must admit I was skeptical about receiving weather forecasts on expedition. Shortly after, Eric and I headed to Mongolia to cross the the Gobi Desert by kite. Warned frequently about the fierce sand storms, we thought maybe it wasn't a bad idea to get weather updates.

I've since learnt the importance of these weather forecasts. Mark's advice on winds helped us plan our route and allowed us to be ready for the winds. The best example comes from when we were nearing Igloolik; after seven days of uncooperative head winds, a forecast finally came through calling for west winds, that would however only blow for 24 hours. Knowing this allowed us to plan for a long kite-skiing day, by only skiing four hours, then eating a big meal and sleeping for four hours. Sure enough, the winds picked up at 7 PM, as predicted. Rested and ready, we were able to kite the 154 km into Igloolik, getting there just as the winds died.

World Wide Weather 4 Expeditions, Mark's company, forecasts weather for all types of expeditions, including mountain, polar and sailing. Having just finished the Himalayas season, he is busy forecasting for Greenland expeditions and the first ever summer expedition to the north pole.

Thanks Mark for all your help and advise!

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Monday, 06 June 2011 08:35

Capturing the moment

facebookDay 80 - Position: N72°14'56.5 W080°21'43.97

We are currently 100 km from our final destination; with the right direction of wind we could be there in a day. The winds however are lacking, which is of little concern, the scenery is spectacular and we have reduced the hours we ski so that we have more time to capture film and images. The warm spring weather along with the long hours of sunset light make this time of year ideal for taking pictures.

Arctic photographer, friend, and previous expedition member Curtis Jones gives some great tips that will hopefully inspire you to get outside and take some pictures.

Eric

Cold Weather Photography

Taking photographs in the cold can be uncomfortable and challenging, but also very rewarding and, if done right, not at all unpleasant. Here are a few simple tips to help make those bone chilling photo missions well worth the effort.

facebook-1Be Prepared

Having the wrong or inappropriate clothing can have serious consequences, and it is not something you want to worry about after you got outside and began taking photos, especially in cold weather environments. Try to wear light breathable layers close to the body and build warmer insulating layers on top of that. Wear a final wind blocking waterproof layer (jacket and pants) and try to carry a puffy down or synthetic jacket to slip over everything if staying out in the cold for extended periods. I like to wear a thin wind-stop glove to shield from the cold as I manipulate the camera and cover up with a bigger warm mitt when not needing the use of nimble finger movements. Staying warm also means being well hydrated (think warm insulated thermos of hot chocolate) and well fed (bring along some high calorie snacks).

Camera

Try to keep your camera and lenses well protected while you travel and between photographs: bumpy sled or snowmobile rides can wreak havoc on the inner workings of your digital camera. Use a well padded camera bag designed specifically to house a camera and equipment or, even better for longer trips, a molded plastic all-weather case. Carry extra batteries close to your body to keep them warm and fully charged. Batteries will lose power fast in the cold, so try to conserve power when not taking a photo. Try turning off your LCD display and cycle cold batteries with warm ones. Even what appear to be dead batteries can often be warmed up and used for 10 or 15 more shots. Lithium batteries perform better in the cold than other types.

Avoid breathing directly on your camera, the warm air will fog or freeze onto your lenses and viewfinder. If this happens use a soft cloth to wipe the surface clear again. Using a UV or polarizing filter on your lens will help protect the surface and also make cleaning snow or moisture much easier.

Shooting

Most northern climates tend to have shorter days during winter and thus less daylight to shoot in. The light however is quite often very pure and clear with the sun hanging lower in the sky. Try taking photos from a side-lighted position to take advantage of the light adding drama and depth to your shots. Measuring exposure from light reflected from snow or ice will cause photos to be darker than expected. Try, if possible, to take light readings form medium grey surfaces or over expose the cameras suggested reading by 1 or 1.5 stops.

Returning Indoors

To avoid condensation, place your camera and equipment in your camera case or a plastic bag before entering a warm house, tent, or vehicle. Allow the camera to gradually warm up to the temperature of the room for about 2 hours before removing it. If the camera or lens has visible moisture on its surface, allow it to evaporate before using the camera again. Grab a hot bowl of soup and relax.

[Link: curtisjonesphoto.com]

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

Saturday, 04 June 2011 07:24

In search of snow

lookingforsnowJune 4th, Day 78

Distance traveled:
June 3rd: 73.6 km
June 4th: 7.9 km

Position: N71°55'38.9 W080°49.35.7

The blizzard outside died down, and the sun made an appearance. We were rested and ready to make some miles. The temperatures have been increasing, hovering between 0°C and -5°C, and, as a consequence, the snow is rapidly disappearing. Our strategy is to cross Baffin Island as quickly as possible, before the snow completely melts away and the rivers start to flow, slowing our progress. The last 150 km of our route into Pond Inlet will be on thick sea ice, which melts out much later in the year.

We stuck to the snow covered valleys, kite skiing when the terrain allowed. Overflow water on the rivers was abundant, forcing us to zigzag across the landscape in search of snow. We made one last steep climb before dropping into a narrow gully, with high rocky cliffs blocking the winds. Exhausted, we could hardly stay awake while we waited for our dinner to cook.

This morning, the smell of spring was in the air and migratory birds could be heard chirping outside our tent. We strapped on our ski's and started our decent, the snow conditions continuously deteriorating as we got closer to the ocean. We hopped from one snow patch to the next, hauling our sleds over the tundra and rocks in between. It was a relief when Milne Inlet came into view. Soon after, the weather socked in and rain pelted down on us. There is nothing more miserable than skiing through rain in the Arctic at 5 AM; it was time to take shelter in our tent and enjoy a hot bowl of soup while we waited for the weather to clear.

Sarah

[Via Pittarak: Northwest Passage Expedition]

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