Trail Dispatch – White Out

whiteout_01_Sm.jpgCoordinates: 69.54.283 N, 68.03.190 W
Distance Traveled: 22.6 mi/ km
Temperature: 10 °F/ -12 °C
Wind: 10-30 MPH/ 16-48 KPH
Cloud Cover: Low clouds with blowing snow and limited visibility
Sunrise: 3:49 a.m.
Sunset: 7:20 p.m.

We woke early to the sound of dogs barking. It was 6 a.m. and Simon and Lukie were already feeding their dogs and packing their sleds. Usually we wait until 8 a.m. to pack up, but the weather looked ominous with low cloud cover and blowing snow. Visibility was limited to a 1/2 mile with whiteness surrounding us on all sides. Somewhat reluctantly we left our warm sleeping bags and got ready for the day.


Shortly after leaving our small island campsite, we were swallowed entirely by a white out. No sky. No ground. No view in any direction except white. It was almost like we were floating through a white cloud. We could make out the sled behind us and a little less clearly the sled behind it. Beyond that moved the fuzzy dot of the 4th sled in the near distance. With an hour we lost sight of them altogether.

Stopping by a rocky shoreline that emerged out of the fog, we waited for the team to regroup. Theo pointed to a distinct pile of rocks on the rise above the ice. “Kayak stands”, he announced. A closer examination revealed two carefully piled mounds about 3 feet off the group. These, Tho explained, were used to lift the kayaks off the ground where they were safe from dogs and the rising tide. Judging by their hieght and distance from water he estimated they were about 500 years old.

whiteout_02_Sm.jpg Kayaks have been a traditional mode of transportation in the Arctic since the early ancestors of the Inuit came across the Bering Land Bridge. Usually made from light-weight seal skins and bone frames (or whatever other materials could be found), the kayaks were light weight and built for one person, usually a hunter. The umiak, a cousin to the kayak, was also used in this region. A wider, open boat, the umiak was designed to carry families and possessions during the season of travel. It was traditionally made of walrus skin, a heavier and more durable material, as the boat was often dragged over land and ice.

We could have used an umiak today as the fog was thick enough to swim through. By the time we made camp at 4:00, the wind had picked up considerably. Our tents billowed like kites as we staked them to the ground with our ice screws. An hour later we are in a full blown ground blizzard, with fine snow particles finding their way into every zipper. Fortuntly the temperatures are mild and the travel conditions fast. We made good time today and will likely arrive in Clyde River earlier than anticipated. Provided the storm lets up…

Hunkered down for the evening,


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