Trail Dispatch – A Conversation with Theo…

theo_snowcutting.jpgCoordinates: 64.17.312 N, 67.58.146 W
Distance Traveled:
20 mi/ 32 km
Temperature: -18 °F/ -28 °C –
Wind: Variable, 12-28 MPH / 20-45 KPH
Cloud Cover: Clear skies
Sunrise: 6:47 a.m.
Sunset: 4:42 p.m.

If you’ve ever spent a full day outside under a clear blue Arctic sky, you know it is like no other place on earth. Nothing around for miles but frozen tundra. The horizon framed by the gentle sloping of white hills on all sides. Today was an ideal day for travel. We made great time, covering 20 miles in six and a half hours. It is Day 4 on trail and the team is starting to get to know each other better. While lunch time provides a little bit of time for conversation, evenings are better for extended visits in small groups. I decided to take my laptop into Theo and Will’s tent to get to know the Inuit Team Leader (and my expedition mate for the next several months) a little better.


Abby: So Theo, tell me a little bit about where you grew up and what your childhood was like…

Theo: I was born in an igloo and lived with my family for the first six years of my life until I was sent away to a Catholic boarding school down south. I spent seven years at this school. When I came out, it was my brother Emile, who brought me back to the land. I lived with him and his family at an outpost camp on the land. We camped in a sod house the first year, with a caribou skin and moss ceiling. After that we moved into a cabin. After the outpost life, in 1979, I graduated from high school. I was probably the only person in Iglulik that graduated that year. I started living in various Arctic villages, Arctic Bay, Qikitarjuaq, and Iqaluit, doing work that related to the outdoors. I have worked in renewable resources management, with the Hunters and Trappers Association and Fish and Game.

Abby: How did you meet Will?

Theo: I had heard about Will many years before I met him. My brother Emile gave him dogs for his expeditions in ’86 and ’89. They provided the bloodlines for his ‘Polar Husky’ breed. I met him in person in 2004 when he came through Iglulik with the Arctic Transect expedition. We have kept in touch since then and finalized this expedition last spring.

TSL_lunch.jpgAbby: What inspired you to join this expedition?

Theo: I have a concern about the environment changing too fast for our youth to adapt. The ice is not forming like it used to. Therefore, what we teach our youth is not relevant to the world in which they live. And there are new dangers…the stream 100 meters west of where we are camped right now is a good example. There is open water. We’ve never had this before during this time of year so we don’t know how to teach our youth how to avoid them. That’s why I came along here. For my concern for the environment and for our youth. Our culture has changed totally.

Abby: What are your goals for this trip?

Theo: My goals are to tell the world what’s really happening here in the North. What we’ve noticed about the changes that are happening in the North, it doesn’t effect the North alone. In the long run it effects the whole world…the climate, the ecosystems, everything. Looking at what we saw today – we saw that there hasn’t been caribou tracks for a long time. Usually you look out your window in Iqaluit and you see them. Now numbers are down. Underneath the new snow, today, we noticed there was ice. That effects the terrestrial animals. Caribou and rabbit, not as numerous. No Ptarmigan whatsoever. The ice hides all the food (lichen and moss). Therefore they have to move elsewhere where there is no ice cover.

Do you want some Bannock ? Lukie’s wife, Marie, baked it.

Abby: I’d love some!

Abby Fenton, signing out


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