2 weeks ago
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Day 1 - a sacrificial start
I just knew the start of TSS2010 was going to be hard. Travelling as a censor, finishing the school year, quitting my job and accepting a new position, submitting my MA project and taking the exam, packing our house down and preparing to move to Qaanaaq ... As it turned out I had little time for anything to do with the expedition. Unfortunately it took a seriously distant second place to everything else I had to achieve before the 25th of June, 2010. I was unprepared, out of shape, stressed and suddenly very alone and homeless to boot. Perhaps the only good thing about Jane, my wife, leaving on holiday and us handing in the keys to our house was the fact that I was forced to leave if only to find somewhere to sleep.
On the morning of the 25th we were still cleaning the house before it was inspected by the housing company we rented it from. By midnight I was ready to leave, and Lars Poort found me by the harbour waiting to launch as a family of several people and just as many boats celebrated their ten-year-old son's first seal that he had shot himself while his uncle butchered it in the water by the slipway. The expedition started with me and my Folbot Kodiak folding kayak bathed in blood, a fitting tribute to Sedna for a safe journey. The only problem was, it wasn't my offering. I wondered if that would count for or against me in the coming weeks at sea?
As intended, I only paddled as far as Stor Øen that first night/morning of the 26th of June. I believe that long journeys should start slowly as I once read that nomads in the desert start by travelling just a mile or so the first day so that they do not have far to return should they have forgotten something. Sentimental crap or desert wisdom, you decide, but I was very pleased to arrive at my first camp after only 8km on the water. I could still see the island of Uummannaq, my home for four very interesting years of my life, but I was very focused on the journey ahead of me and chose to look south as a rule. The landing was annoying as I fought with the tide, a sloped piece of rock and an overweight paddler and payload. It could only get easier.
I often make life more difficult for myself when paddling as I insist on pulling the kayak high up away from the water. If an iceberg calves in the immediate or even far distance it can send a huge wave crashing repeatedly onto the shore and surrounding coastline. I didn't want to have to stop the expedition because of a stupid mistake - more about that later - and certainly not on the first night. I had spent the past few days going over my safety plan and route with Jakob and Taatsiaq from Uummannaq Police, and I was going to do everything to ensure a safe trip. I think it was "big sister" Eva that suggested I should have a safe, and uneventful - as in no dangerous events - trip. I had promised many people to do just that.
Of course, I could still screw up royally!
I am fond of knives. Ever since my canoeing days, poring through Bill Mason's brilliant Path of the Paddle and Song of the Paddle books and films, I have appreciated a good knife when out in the wilds. My current knife of choice when in camp is a Gerber "Big Rock Camp Knife". It is a solid piece of metal and feels good in the hand. Having fastidiously sharpened everything that needed sharpening during the little preparation I did before the start, I seemed to have forgotten to sharpen my wits. Washing the dishes that very first night/morning I cleaned the Gerber and sliced a rather impressive chunk out of my index finger while doing so. It bled well, so well that I needed something quick to soak up the blood. Nearing the tent on the way back from the stream with my bloody hand I saw the mini Greenland flag I had brought along for the expedition. Wrapping my hand tightly in the flag I contemplated my expedition start. The bloody start had continued and now, at least, I had shed some of my own blood in the hope that Sedna, Goddess of the Sea, might keep an eye on me.
She needn't wait too long, were my thoughts before crawling into my sleeping bag in the early hours of the morning.