Hello dear reader! It’s great to be back with another story for you. I haven’t posted much since we moved off our houseboat a year and a half ago – the adventures I’ve been on since that time have been very different – of the quiet, internal, personal exploration sort. (For instance I’m just completing my yoga teacher training course, which has been a life changing experience.) But today I’m here to tell you about a big trip the Spaniard, my husband Martin, is embarking upon.
Those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while may remember our kayaking trip to Baffin Island a few years ago. Our guide on that trip was David Reid, a fine fellow to spend time in the wilderness with. Well, as things go in the north, one adventure leads to another, and amazing opporunities present themselves. David subsequently invited Martin to join the Bear Witness expedition. This is a fully sponsored, self-supported ski trip to circumnavigate Bylot Island, a large mountainous island just north of Pond Inlet, off the northern trip of Baffin Island.
The expedition website is bearwitness.ca, from which one can read further details of the expedition:
In April 2017, an international team of explorers will circumnavigate Bylot Island, by ski. A historic, remote and uninhabited island in the Canadian High Arctic, the island lies at 73 degrees north, more than 700 kilometres above the Arctic Circle.
Marking and celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday, this ambitious journey will be a world first. The expedition will represent the largest island in the world ever to be circumnavigated on skis. This ambitious 500 km journey will take close to a month to complete. The expedition will include traveling through the eastern entrance of the fabled and historic Northwest Passage.
The entire Bear Witness Arctic Expedition will take place within the boundaries of the proposed Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area. Lancaster Sound is an incredibly rich Arctic ecosystem; polar bears, narwhals, bowhead and beluga whales, several species of seals, walrus and hundreds of thousands of sea birds call it home. At this time, the area remains unprotected.
The twin goals of the BearWitness Arctic Expedition are to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and bear witness to the changes taking place in the Arctic. The project will celebrate, document and interpret this remote and important part of the world. The expedition team will provide a (close to) real-time perspective and interpretation of this important and challenging environment.
The Bear Witness Arctic Expedition will look back 150 years and at the same time look forward 150 years. With the rich oral history of the Inuit, who have lived in the region for thousands of years, insight into what the sea ice, environment and climate was like almost 150 years ago, can be found.
The expedition will look forward and ask important questions. Given the changing Arctic climate and environment, will such a journey even be possible in the not so distant future? With sea ice conditions in certain areas becoming less predictable, the challenge is not so much whether the expedition can succeed now, but will it even be possible 50 years from now? The expedition will let Bylot Island tell the story – one that is rich, compelling and fascinating.
The expedition will be documented, photographed and filmed. With a comprehensive social media strategy in place and the intention to fully document the expedition for book and film components, the Bear Witness Arctic Expedition will reach an incredibly large audience. Canadians from coast to coast to coast and adventurers throughout the world will be able to follow along, experience and feel part of this celebratory and important journey.
The team of four, David (from Scotland, living in Canada), Martin (the Spaniard, living in Canada), Eric (from France) and Ingrid (from Germany, but living in Spain) have all arrived in Ottawa last night, and have a couple of days to do last-minute shopping and organizing. Nearly all the gear (I didn’t inquire about underwear!) for the expedition has been provided by some very generous sponsors. Martin was busy last night sorting through it all and he says it feels like Christmas. They will have everything they need for a month of traveling and camping in the high Arctic in winter.
The four team members, traveling on skis and pulling all their gear and food for the month, will be assisted by 3 locals – a team of sled dogs picked up from the Unuit community of Pond Inlet. The role of the dogs is to act as bear deterrents, and an early warning system, although they will likely pull a sled with their food on it too. I haven’t a photo of the actual dogs, but we did meet some when we were in Pond Inlet. They look like a wild bunch to me – they are not pets and aren’t treated as such – so it should prove interesting to have them along. Not perhaps easy. However the north part of Bylot Island has one of the highest densities of denning polar bears in the world, so bear encounters are expected. (And yet the Spaniard can’t quite understand my worry about him on this trip!)
The team flies to Pond Inlet on Monday, and will depart on their trip on Tuesday. While they are away, they will be uploading a daily post on the blog, found on the website, starting tomorrow. Join me in keeping track of the Spaniard on this adventure. I’ll be in the comfort of my cozy bed, with a good cup of coffee at my side, heart in my throat at times, trying to imagine the wonder and splendor and vastness of it all. And waiting for the Spaniard to come home again.