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Polar Expedition Survival Training

Baffin Island, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic - March, 2009

  • I spent 10 days in Nunavut learning how to survive in polar environments. The training included skiing over rugged sea ice, dog sledding and numerous days of camping out with temperatures dipping down to -30, sometimes with a wind chill of -45! It was so cold that exposed skin began to freeze in seconds. Conducting the training was veteran polar explorer Matty McNair, who has travelled to both the North and South pole numerous times. Also on this training session was Paul Hubner and his son Ryan. Paul has already skied to both the North and South Poles and is intending to have Ryan join him next winter on a trek to the South Pole. If successful, Ryan would become the youngest person to ski to the South Pole.
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  • Remote Arctic travel can be very dangerous with such hazards as: frostbite, hypothermia, shifting sea ice, and polar bears. Large Polar Bear tracks had been spotted along the path that we took through Auyuittuq National Park.
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  • Many Thanks to Matty & Eric McNair and Paul & Ryan Hubner.
  • Arctic Dog Sledding - YouTube

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    Self portrait wearing traditional Innuit sunglasses made from caribou antler.

    Matty, Paul and Ryan, preparing the pulks for us to pull across the sea ice. each one weighed about 50 to 60 kg.

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    The sea ice near Iqaluit.

    Setting up camp on the ice as the sun sets.

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    Taking a quick break.

    Another day of skiing and pulling the pulks across rugged terrain.

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    Off we go again. The tidal range on Frobisher bay is around 40 feet, so the ice is constantly heaving and cracking.

    Imagine trying to ski across this type of landscape, pulling a heavy load in frigid temperatures.

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    Overflow. This is liquid water that flows up through cracks in the sea ice. I made the mistake of falling into some of it one night. My gloves froze solid and I had to scramble back to my tent to warm up.

    As tough as the training was, the views were quite spectacular.

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    A great display of the northern lights with Iqaluit in the background.

    One of our tents with a lit up sky. The temperature was about -20C.

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    Northern lights and a lit up tent reflected in the sea ice.

    More, fantastic northern lights. Probably the best display I've seen.

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    Ice crystals in the air create sun dogs in the sky in Iqaluit.

    We continued to the small town of Pangnirtung for the second half of the polar training... The dog sledding.

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    Getting the 2 teams of dogs all harnessed and ready to go.

    Camp at dusk on the fjord north of Pangnirtung.

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    Another great light show in Auyuittuq National Park.

    The northern lights were so bright that they lit up the snow with an eerie green hue.

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    Standing at the Arctic Circle.

    The mountain scenery in Auyuittuq National Park.

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    This was tough sledding. we had to run with the dogs, pushing and pulling the 1000 pound sleds up the frozen Weasel River over glare ice and huge boulders.

    Thor Peak looms in the distance.

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    Just past Thor Peak. It is the longest vertical cliff face in the world, over a kilometer of vertical drop!!

    The dogs, taking a well deserved rest.

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    Another day on the river and the scenery remains gorgeous. The clear skies however, make for very cold mornings of around -30C.

    On our last night, a wicked wind storm blew out the walls of my tent, ripping it and scattering all out equipment. We had to scramble to gather everything up in the middle of the night and retreat to an emergency shelter.

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    Eric surveying the damage caused by the windstorm to our campsite. The wind was still howling and visibility was sometimes near zero.

    One of the dogs waking up in the morning. The storm didn't seem to bother them at all. They just got up and shook themselves off.
    Arctic Blizzard - YouTube