Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Further and Farthest North!

A time will come in later years when the Ocean will unloose the bands of things, when the immeasurable earth will lie open, when seafarers will discover new countries, and Thule will no longer be the extreme point among the lands.     SENECA, from the Introduction of "Farthest North" by Fridtjof Nansen, 1897

It's no secret I am a bit of a fan of Nansen.  Hell, even my dog is called Nansen!  But while tidying up the house recently I rediscovered Nansen's book Farthest North and I was immediately reminded of our own coming adventures.  Adventures bookmarking the TSS2010 expedition.

Jane and I thought that Uummannaq was pretty damn far North but in May I'll be travelling further North to Upernavik and then on to Kullorsuaq in connection with the oral examinations in Geography and English. 

Kullorsuaq is located just below the start of the diagonal line to the right of the text: Baffin Bay.

This will be Further North but Farthest North will be when Jane and I move to Qaanaaq ready to start the new school year at Avanersuup Atuarfia

Yep, 2010 is gonna be busy!

You can read more about Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalamar Johanson's catamaran kayak on Thomas Armstrong's fantastic blog, 70.8%.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Arctic Crossing - inspiration

Two quotes from a great book that sounds oh so familiar when reading it here in Greenland.

"With a soaking wet rear end, I wonder how  to define the Northwest Passage.  Although five different water routes pass through Canada’s northern islands, most are locked in sea ice year-round.  I have chosen the most southern and ice-free passage, hugging the warm and silted roof of North America.  As I begin paddling out into the ocean, I decide to impose only two conditions for continuing each day: I have to be able to handle being alone psychologically, and I have to be safe."

"The message I got was that this trip would kill you if you didn’t take your time and listen to Inuit. There’s no margin for error as a soloist."   

Jonathan Waterman, "Arctic Crossing"

Monday, April 5, 2010

No heroics

This is in many ways a personal journey.  In preparing for it I imagine I am going on an extended summer kayak holiday, like I have done with Jane, and alone, the past three summers.  I want to keep it simple and I want to keep it safe.

Just like last year I will be leaving a detailed plan of my route and personal information with the local police and agreeing with Lars, in Denmark, as to how I keep in touch, and how he will update the different web pages that enable friends, family and interested folk to follow the expedition.

Is "expedition" the correct word for this journey?  I believe it is in that I will be exploring the culture of the Greenlandic people living in Uummannaq fjord, and, not least, exploring my own self and discovering who I really am when completely alone.

Just how alone will I be?  This aspect of the journey seems to be an interesting topic of speculation amongst several people I know.  I will be alone in the fact that I am paddling and camping by myself.  I am responsible for my own safety and my own actions.  Is it risky to paddle alone?  Sure it is.  But it is a calculated risk.  I have considered the pros and cons of travelling alone and I believe it is a risk worth taking, one that I would not even consider were it not that I felt I had the skills and experience necessary to safely complete the journey.  Thus the mental preparation is just as important as the physical and logistical.  I have to know I can do this.  

The concerns and interest of others are important especially as they give me good reason to evaluate my plan again and again.  However, if I can process the questions raised and then give qualified answers that justify my continued argument for going ahead with my plans then I am confident I can do so.  Again, I would not undertake this journey if I did not think I could do so safely.  I believe that one should not enter a wilderness area without the skills to get safely out of it again - without help.  

I have been paddling canoes and kayaks in remote areas for many years now.  I started as a teenager paddling unfinished canoe shells made by Pyranha on the Bridgewater Canal near my home in Preston Brook, England, UK.  I dreamed of paddling wilder waters while I negotiated grumpy fishermen casting their long lines from the banks of the canal.  Uummannaq is a long way from the Bridgewater Canal in almost every way.  Thankfully I have put a lot of river, lake and sea miles under my hull since then.

There are of course unseen events that may play a role in my journey and these are to be expected.  The trick is to adapt to the unpredictable and change one's plan accordingly in order to be safe.  If the weather kicks up and I am at sea then I will take the shortest and/or safest route back to land depending upon the conditions.  If I am stuck in camp for a few days because of the weather then so be it.  If I cannot reach a settlement because of the ice conditions or sheer size and concentration of icebergs then I will not force it.  Large open crossings will be attempted when I am well-rested and the conditions are favourable.  You get the picture.

However, it is local knowledge that is my not so secret weapon in this endeavour.  I am meeting with local hunters and people who sail the waters regularly to ask their advice, plot strong tides and tricky areas on my map, and, not least, hear their stories and adventures from decades of sailing in Uummannaq fjord.  I may see these same hunters, fishermen and tourist boat skippers as I paddle.  In fact I count on it.  With 24hour sunlight it would be surprising not to meet someone fishing at 4am on a Thursday morning! 

The bottom line is that after all my preparation, choice of equipment, drying of food, gathering of knowledge, training, you name it, if the unexpected happens then I deal with it in that moment and react accordingly.  

No heroics.

Just keep paddlin'.

Oh yeah, and enjoy every damn minute of it! :O)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bert's Atcama Crossing 2010

Better late than never - my post that is, not Bert's finishing position.  I have followed Bert's preparation for the Atacama Crossing 2010 with great interest.  Dealing with pre-challenge knee injuries and an earthquake prior to the start of the race can't have been easy.  Bert just took it all in his stride and got down to the business of running.  You can read all about it on Bert's web page Inuksuk.

As Bert continues to be a great source of inspiration and support for me in my coming adventures, I just wanted to take the time to encourage you to head on over to Inuksuk and follow his exciting career in the world of adventure and human endeavour.