Inuvik, North West Territories, Arctic Canada.
Glenn Morris - expedition team leader.
We have just arrived at Inuvik, a small town north of the Arctic Circle. Inuvik lies on the mouth of Canada’s longest river, the Mackenzie and is the starting point for our journey. Vancouver is only a short flight away and it was here that we spent time buying the remaining food and equipment for the trip.
I have to admit I am beginning to have some doubts as to whether we will get such a vast amount of supplies into the kayaks, let alone paddle them 900 miles to Kugluktuk, which is to be our destination this year. We have been advised by our contact in Inuvik to take a box of mothballs to act as a bear repellent - we asked how many we would need for three months, there was a pregnant pause and then our contact replied: “I don’t know I’ve only been away for a weekend.” We bought two boxes!
In Vancouver we met Doug and Theresa. Doug Simpson is the designer and mastermind behind the Feathercraft folding kayaks that we will be using on our trip. We were able to spend time in the workshops seeing how the kayaks are made, so we are hoping if there is a problem with them, we’ll be able to fix it. In the evening we met for a meal and as the sun set behind the masts of the dozens of yachts in the Granville Island Marina we learnt from Doug that Canada is experiencing an economic boom as the tar sands of Alberta give up their oil to quench America’s insatiable desire for energy.
The oil is extracted from the tar sands using natural gas - a relatively clean fuel. I am no scientist, but I would be surprised if there was not a very high environmental price to pay for the oil of Alberta.
A short distance north west of Inuvik lies Herschel Island. This is the island where the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, completed the first navigation of the Northwest Passage here in 1906. Now, with warming temperatures, the houses of the Inuit inhabitants lean at crooked angles as they sink into the melting permafrost. For some, this is good news as it will be easier to drill for more oil.
I can’t help but wonder if houses in the UK were sinking into the ground and their occupants were on the verge of becoming homeless, would we still be so desperate to open even more oil fields and treat climate change with such complacency.
Glenn and Stephen with staff and students of Samuel Hearne Secondary School, Inuvik