Background by Glenn Morris, Team Leader
About the expedition
Phase one - June to September 2007
Phase two - July to September 2008
Phase three - February 2009
Background by Glenn Morris, team leader
After many trips and expeditions to the Arctic I have begun to feel that I owe something to a land and people that without exception have shown me kindness sheltered guided and fed me – all without expectation of anything in return. The Inuit are small in number and their voice on the world stage needs amplification. It is my intention through my own efforts to travel amongst them using environmentally friendly transport, talk to them and record their experiences and concerns in relation to their environment, lifestyles and changes that have taken place but most importantly how they view the future in relation to a changing climate.
Many “adventurers” now travel to the Arctic to indulge their egos, often by making solo, unsupported or first journeys. Rarely do these travellers acknowledge or pay tribute to the help given to them by the very people through whose land they travel and who guide and rescue them at the end of their brief time in the Arctic.
I spent many months living with the Inuit of North West Greenland and realised that they are experiencing very real and tangible changes to an environment that has up until now supported their culture and way of life. I interviewed a number of them and listened to their concerns over the changes in weather patterns, early ice break-up and progressively more dangerous hunting conditions, Here in the so-called western world we live in a state of staggering complacency our concerns and actions in relation to our environment and the future of our beautiful planet are at best insignificant gestures.
My time on earth is also insignificant but if in a small way I can help bring an understanding and indeed understand myself how mankind has become the instrument of its own demise then I will feel perhaps that I have climbed my own Everest or reached my own North Pole.
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About the expedition
The Arctic Voice Expedition 2007-08 is the first phase of a wider project that aims to bring to the United Kingdom a raised understanding of how our actions are affecting the Arctic and its people – the Inuit – through climate change. It is endorsed by the Royal Geographical Society and the International Polar Year scientific programme. The expedition itself consists of a kayaking journey following the route of the historic Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic in the summers of 2007 and 2008 and an overland journey by ski and dog sled in the winter/spring of 2008. The aim is to visit remote settlements and hunting camps and to meet residents of the Arctic to hear their story of a changing world.
The sea waters off the northern Canadian coast are usually frozen and only passable in the brief Arctic summer which is why the kayaking phase will take place over two years. The expedition is a formidable challenge and only a few people have ever made it through the vast archipelago of islands and waterways that make up the passage under their own power. However Arctic Voice is much more than the expedition. A central element is to forge links between the Inuit and the people of the UK by setting up partnerships between schools throughout the Arctic and schools in the UK. Schools along the route in Canada and further east in Greenland have been twinned with a partner school in the UK, so beginning a dialogue between the two communities. During the expedition the team will visit each school to promote these links.
For centuries the Inuit have welcomed and helped travellers to their land – we believe it is time to return the favour.
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The route - Phases one to three
During 2007 – 2008 the expedition team will travel 3000 miles by kayak and dog sled, through Canada’s Northwest Passage beginning in Inuvik on the vast Mackenzie Delta, ultimately to Iqaluit on Baffin Island. The details of the kayaking journey are given below. The overland phase is still in the planning stage and will be updated when it is finalised. The team are largely following the traditional route taken by Roald Amundsen, but since 1906 the settlements have moved further south. Therefore the overland phase will be altered to take account of this change and to fit in with the expedition aim of linking up schools.
June to September 2007
Kayaking Journey from Inuvik, North West Territories to Kugluktuk, Nunavut
Inuvik, meaning place of people, lies at the mouth of the vast Mackenzie River, named after the Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie who first navigated the river in 1789. From here the team will paddle out of the delta along the East Channel of the river until they reach open water. The region is known as the land of the Midnight Sun and during the summer journeys the team will paddle, eat and sleep in almost constant daylight.
They will make their way along the coast to the settlement of Tuktoyaktuk on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Tuk as it’s known locally means “resembling a caribou” and legend speaks of how a woman watched as caribou waded into the water and became petrified. For centuries the settlement has been used as a place to hunt caribou and beluga whales.
The team will kayak past huge Pingos, or ice hills, one of the natural wonders of the region. Formed when water under pressure in the ground freezes, the hills rise out of the tundra and can reach over 100 feet. For centuries the local Inuvialuit people have used the pingos as a landmark to navigate by and for spotting caribou on the tundra or whales offshore.
From Tuktoyaktuk the team travel over 500 miles before they reach Paulatuk. This will be the most difficult part of the journey; dangers include bears, ice and stretches of unforgiving coastline onto which there is no escape if the weather becomes stormy. On the way to Paulatuk the team will pass the Smoking Hills on the west shores of Franklin Bay – these hills cover underground fires that have been burning for centuries and were remarked upon by early explorers.
After a stay in Paulatuk they will begin the last 420-mile leg of the journey to Kugluktuk. The coastline here is less complex and the team hope this section will prove easier. Kugluktuk, formerly Coppermine, is the westernmost settlement of the Inuit territory of Nunavut. It means “Our land” in the Inuit language of Inuktitut and was created in 1999 after the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. The area is famous for its wildflowers and lichens that burst into life every June after the snow thaws.
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July to September 2008
Kayaking Journey from Kugluktuk to Gjoa Haven
In July 2008 the expedition team will resume the journey through the Northwest Passage, leaving from Kugluktuk on the mouth of the Coppermine River in Nunavut. It was at Kugluktuk in August 2007 that Stephen and Glenn ended the first phase of the journey and spent time working with the High School and the Jimmy Hikok Primary School before returning to the UK.
Having departed from Kugluktuk, the team will travel east into the Coronation Gulf and then south into Bathurst Inlet, a distance of 290 nautical miles. Bathurst Inlet is renowned for its beauty and variety of flora and fauna making it an ideal point to film and record wildlife. The team plan to stay in the settlement, meeting and talking to residents. The presence of the Bathurst Inlet Ecolodge will give a fascinating insight into the people who travel to the far north to experience nature in its raw state.
After leaving Bathurst Inlet the expedition will move north before turning east, south of the Kent Peninsula to Melville Sound and Elu Inlet. At the eastern end of Kent Peninsula the team will need to portage the kayaks across the narrow strip of land that links the peninsula to the mainland. The expedition will then move north for the final crossing of Cambridge Bay; a distance of 170 nautical miles.
Time and weather permitting it is hoped that two of the team will continue by kayak to Gjoa Haven. Given the changing weather and the onset of winter storms this may not prove achievable. In any event Glenn will travel onwards (by boat) to Gjoa Haven to establish links with schools in the town and following this work will return to the UK.
On arrival in Cambridge Bay the team will continue interviews and work with the schools and give presentations on the work of the project. Cambridge Bay is sited on the south side of Victoria Island.
During the journey the team will travel through some of the most remote parts of the world. It is likely that they will see musk ox, grizzly bears, arctic fox as well as a huge variety of birds and flowers. The majority of the coastline between Kugluktuk and the entrance to Bathurst Inlet is relatively straightforward but from then on navigation becomes more complex. Having left much flatter lands to the west, in the area near Tuktoyaktuk, the coastline becomes more rugged and mountainous with the land in the vicinity of Bathurst Inlet, according to the great Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen, looking much like Greenland.
Phase 2 will see the addition of four new team members. Alison Sigethy from the USA will join the expedition from Kugluktuk to Cambridge Bay. Alison is an extremely skilled kayaker who has a deep understanding and love of the Inuit culture and has competed in the Inuit Kayak Championships in Greenland with great success. Also joining the expedition from Kugluktuk to Cambridge Bay will be Richard Best from the UK. Richard, a veteran of Greenland kayaking and a skilled kayak maker will be constructing his own “skin on frame” kayak for the journey.
Between Bathurst Inlet and Cambridge Bay Lucinda Bell and Julie Urquhart will be filming the journey; having already carried out filming and recording work in Kugluktuk prior to linking up with the team in Bathurst Inlet. Lucinda has worked for the BBC and Channel 4 as a film producer and in preparation for the trip is undertaking training with Sea Kayak Cornwall under the expert eye of Jeff Allen. Julie, an experienced kayaker with Arctic and mountaineering experience will work with Lucinda. The project welcomes all four members on board.
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The winter journey
Following the successful kayak journeys in 2007 and 2008 from Inuvik to Cambridge Bay (with a further link to the community of Gjoa Haven), Glenn Morris will be beginning a 1,000 mile dog sledge journey with Simon Qamanirq from Iglulik. The team will leave Iglulik in the depths of the Arctic winter and travel across the Fury and Hecla Straight past the Siorarsuk Peninsula and up onto Baffin Island’s mountainous landmass. Following Admiralty Inlet on the west side of the Borden Peninsula, the team hope to arrive at Arctic Bay by the end of February.
During their stay in Arctic Bay, Glenn and Simon will visit the community where they will talk to elders about life and change in the settlement as well as giving a presentation to the Inuujaq School. The Arctic Bay school, run by Principal Tim Hoyt Will be linked to a secondary school in the UK as part of the Arctic Voice Project education initiative (see details on our schools page).
Early March will see the departure of the team as they make their way east across the mountainous northern tip of Baffin Island to Pond Inlet. Here the dogs and team will take a well-earned rest before the longer and more arduous journey south. Once again the team will meet and record interviews with the residents of the township and hopefully meet the students at the local Nasivvik and Ulaajuk schools.
In mid/late March the team will set off south from Pond Inlet through an area of frozen lakes, fjords and towering cliffs eventually emerging at Steensby Inlet for the final part of the expedition across the rough sea ice to Hall Beach on the north-eastern edge of the Melville Peninsula. When in Hall Beach the team will visit members within the community as well as meeting the students of the Arnaqjuaq School headed by principal Ron Arnold. The team will listen to the elders and add to their collection of interviews that will become a valuable resource for the students of the link schools in the UK.
Finally, the team will leave for the last part of the journey, northwest past the North Ooglit Islands and back to Iglulik. Links will be made between the Ataguttaaluk schools and their partner schools in the UK.
This journey would not be possible if not for Simon Qamanirq whose skills and expertise will be vital to enable the tam to fulfil its goals and to arrive safely at the various destinations.
The journey will involve travel over extremely difficult terrain including mountains and pressure ridges in the sea ice. For parts of the journey the heavy sledges will need manhauling and dragging to overcome obstacles. Temperature will be very low (possibly below -45C) and great care will be needed to avoid frostbite and cold weather survival skills will be essential. There will also be the ever present threat of polar bears to keep the team alert.
The team will maintain a blog during the journey which will allow schools, friends and those interested to watch the progress of the team, see pictures of the surroundings and (technology permitting) hear the voices of the Inuit. It will be possible to post comments on the Arctic Voice Blog via the website and the team welcome your thoughts on this journey.
Wish us luck!
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