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Arctic Summer!


Gravel beaches were one of many signs of spring this week.
Date: 03.24.03
Position: 52.57N 82.25W
Weather Conditions: Rain storm earlier, now clear 32F/0C

Despite scorching heat, strong winds and a rain storm we dog sledded into the community of Attiwapiskat just a few hours ago. The last three days the Polar Huskies have covered more than 110 miles -- 40 of those just today! Let's just say they were very tired as we pulled into town - and so were we. We have truly been tested by Mother Nature and her weather hymns this week. Spring has definitely arrived. At times we have actually been wondering if maybe even summer came around!


Traveling across land, navigation was easy the last 15 miles as we headed towards four huge towers. The towers were satellites, part of a defense station build in the 60s by the US and Canadian Government and now left abandoned.
As you may remember on last week’s report day we were in the middle of a snowstorm. The following morning we woke up to an absolutely gorgeous day. High sun from a blue sky, minus 10F and a crisp hard surface - the Polar Huskies were cruising. This is what we consider perfect spring conditions. The sun melts the very top of the snow during the day; then it freezes hard at night and it makes for ideal travel, even when going across land like we were at that point, cutting the corner from Hudson Bay to James Bay.

Over the next couple of days it became a bit warmer and traveling in some deeper snow we could definitely see the snow soften on land. It is the land that warms up first and we had doubts that we could get to the coast fast enough to ensure we would not get bogged down in mushy conditions. So far, so good; everything seemed right on track as we finally arrived at the coastline of James Bay Wednesday afternoon. But with all the signs of spring it was clear we were not one day too early. We saw our first group of snow buntings - the first bird to arrive with the warmer temperatures. We ran into gravel patches on the beach and even saw frozen mussels!


A lake of melted surface water on top of the ice!
Thursday we took off right after our chat; planning for a half day of travel on the hard sea ice surface of James Bay. To our surprise we were navigating small pockets of open water. We were joking that we could save a lot of fuel and time by filling up our water bottles.

The locals in Peawanuck told us how James Bay, which is considered the most southern reach of the Arctic Ocean, slowly changes over to almost fresh water levels of salt. Even though it had definitely seemed to warm-up we were not worried since the nights were still cold. And after all, it was officially spring on Friday -- right!


Our camp in light of the bright, full moon.
That night there was even a full moon. Many years ago on one of our journeys, in the most northern reaches of Hudson Bay, an Inuit Elder taught us that with the full moon there often comes a dramatic shift in the weather. All in all we were expecting some nice, warm spring conditions after the 40 - 50 below zero weather we had just gone through. It was a cold night with a moon so bright we thought you could play cards outside in the middle of the night.

What a change we woke up to Friday morning! We were both cooking and broke out of our sleeping bags during the night. We found ourselves in a tropical rainforest that morning as the sun rose with amazing power and melted the frost on the inside of our outer tent wall -- making for a "spring shower" within the tent. Spring had arrived. Or was it summer? As it kept getting hotter and hotter during the day, we felt like somebody had seriously forgotten to set the thermostat. At lunch we recorded + 59 degrees Fahrenheit. That's insane! It was more than a 100 degree difference from the minus 56F we experienced less than 3 weeks earlier! The sun was simply unbelievably intense. The snow was like oatmeal mush. The dogs were miserably hot. We were drenched. That night we wrung out our clothing...


Paul watching a wolf in the distance through binoculars - while eating lunch at +59 Fahrenheit!!!
In some incredible way we managed to still cover 20 miles that day, but we had no doubt the dogs would not be able to continue like this. Quite frankly, neither could we. A quick decision was made to alter our schedule to get up at 4AM and travel in the early part of the day. The following day we were relieved beyond words to wake up to an overcast sky but regardless the thermometer still shot up, up, up to hit + 44F before the day’s work came to an end. The hard surface we had so looked forward to on the coast was long gone, leaving the dogs to plow their way through belly high, wet, mushy snow. It was miserable and very slow going. That night we knew we had to come up with a way to ease it for the dogs if we were looking to make it to Attawapiskat before running too low on dog food.

We brought out the satellite phone, called our friend Dominique in Peawanuck who then called his friend Victor in Attawapiskat. Dominique asked Victor to drive his snowmobile out to us and at least make a snowmobile track for the lead dogs to follow, easing conditions for the dogs as much as possible. Then a wind kicked up from the north. Never have we been so happy to see cool northern winds which made for much better travel the next day by which time we had also turned way out on the sea ice for harder surface. When Victor met us we knew we would be able to push it to Attawapiskat the following day. Unless of course, as Paul jokingly put it, "We could get a snowstorm." We did not. We got worse!


After the rainstorm it cleared up. Totally drenched Mille shows off our fancy rain gear - black plastic bags!
Monday was to be a big day with 40 miles to cover. Just ahead was Ekwan Point and from that point Victor said there would be a hard packed trail because the local Attawapiskat people have cabins they snowmobile out to along this section of the coastline. Overnight the wind had shifted to the east and the sky was overcast. It was looking good -- so far. Mille did think Paul had finally lost it when he woke up that morning telling her he could smell spring in the air! About an hour later he came in from his bathroom visit with a grim look on his face and stated that he was thinking it was rain he could smell...Rain? No way. Though looking outside Mille did have to admit that it looked rather dark to the south, the direction we would be traveling. But hey, that was probably snow. It would fit with the fact that the wind had been blowing slightly from the east all night - whicht normally means some kind of "storm" plus the barometer had been "falling" indicating the same. Little did we know what was to come.

We hitched the dogs, the trail was hard; the pace high. We were on our way to town! Paul handed Mille a black plastic bag to use as "rain cover" just in case but Mille was dreaming of a juicy burger, salad, coffee, pancakes mm, mm, mmm. Then the sled started going off the trail an awful lot. That's often how you realize the wind has picked as you are running alongside the sled daydreaming. Reality quickly hit hard as we soon found ourselves in the eye of a rainstorm. The wind whipped at us at a steady 20 MPH and the rain came pouring down. This was now beyond miserable. The wind would push the sleds sideways so hard that we were riding the left side jerking it to keep it on trail. We were attempting to help the dogs. Amazingly they worked hard to keep up the high pace; fighting their way into the wind and rain as if they knew we must not have any other option since we are still going, so they might as well make it happen. They did!

Four hours later the winds had pushed the storm to our north and at the end of the day we found ourselves mushing the last miles into Attawapiskat in a beautiful sunset. We were drenched. Mille could, "hear the water in my mukluks." The dogs were drenched. Our load on the sled was drenched. But hey, it was a beautiful night. We ran through town like it was nobody's business - the dogs being real pros - down to the river where we staked out the dogs, sat down ... tired.


A tired expedition team just arrived as the sun sets over Attawapiskat.
With about 1700 people living here Attiwapiskat is a big town. Down on the river we asked some of the locals if this weather is normal for this time of the year. They said no - that it seems early and more extreme than normal. How about in your neck of the woods - has spring arrived yet? How is weather where you are? Make sure to visit the Phenology Zone this week and enter YOUR observations. To share your thoughts about global warming, climate change and YOUR weather visit this week's discussion boards.
Now we will spent the next couple of days exploring town, giving the dogs a break and drying out! We are very proud of the dogs and their terrific team effort today. With a magnificent performance they really pulled through as a team this last week. Despite the crazy weather, they continued to run, be happy and pull hard. They are in excellent shape and have all settled into the groove of traveling. They truly showcase how to work as a team: persevere when things get tough and live each day with strength and conviction.

Buttra on the left and Khan on the right earn this weeks title of Polar Husky Superstars for their terrific team work throughout the expedition.
This week’s Polar Husky Superstars Khan and Buttra have been excellent running mates throughout the entire expedition. Khan is an extremely affectionate dog but is a tough cookie that likes to pull hard and can be rough on his running mates if he thinks they are in his way!

Just one year old, this was Buttra's first expedition. He is still very much a puppy, playful and looking to have some fun. At times he can even be a bit cocky but Buttra simply admires Khan's every move and tries hard to copy his act - Khan is definitely his idol. Khan, on the other hand, seems to enjoy and appreciate the submissive affection, acting much like a big brother. A perfect team!


See you next year!
Attiwapiskat will be the end of our 2003 online classroom journey. And what a journey it has been this year, eh'! Mentally it has been a challenging trip. We have had to stay very flexible in our planning, taking it day by day; making an effort to stay positive and fired up. It has truly been an adventure: Polar bear cubs, Bigfoot, blistering cold, deep-deep snow, maniac polar husky speed, winter road nightmares; scorching heat. As always we have learned a ton and made many new, great friends along the way. The people of Nishnawbe Aski Nation have been terrific, very helpful and great hosts of Pimagihowin 2002-03. We have truly appreciated warm welcomes into their communities as well as great hospitality along this year’s trail.

In a few days we will hitch the teams again and make the last 170 miles of our journey to our pick-up point in Moosonee. Here we will load the dogs, sleds, gear and ourselves onto the train that will take us to Crochane where the dog truck will be waiting to take us the last stretch back to Base Camp in Grand Marais for the summer. When we finally depart from Nishnawbi Aski Nation, we will have countless memories and impressions with us always.


Mille jamming to the end!
Completing Pimagihowin 2003 has taken the help and support of many people and organizations. We would like to extend our special thanks to all of the schools who participating in this year's program. Thanks for participating in the Lotus Sametime chats and collaboration forums. You have all made learning an adventure. Our sincere gratitude goes to Connectria, Lotus and the rest of our sponsors, friends and family for your support along the way. Finally, thank you to the all the Native residents who let us travel on their land.

Meegwitch - Thank you! We can't wait to join with you all again next year!!


The true stars of Pimagihowin 2003 are of course the mighty Polar Huskies. Once again they have successfully completed a grand adventure, having set thousands of paw-prints in the snow from Shammatawa to Attawapiskat. The Polar Huskies on this expedition made this journey possible by performing with great stamina and strong spirit. What makes these dogs so forceful and able to succeed is without doubt their ability to work together as a unit. Remember, it is all about TEAMWORK. So, they all deserve to be "Polar Husky Star of the Year".

However, the following Superstars deserve a little extra attention for a job well done!

VIP: Aksel
Aksel ran in lead of the lead team almost throughout the entire expedition, and did it with his own COOL style.

VIP: Freja
Leading the second team Freja gained great confidence by the day. Taking over the lead dog position in the lead team in tough conditions for the past 3 days, she simply performed beyond any expectations!

Best Upcoming Leader: Nazca
Moving up from point position to lead the second team, Nazca grew with the job showing high spirits and good speed.

Rookie of the Year: Tucker
This rookie was no nonsense. Always ready to go; barking spiritedly with a tough attitude, Tucker pulled HARD every single minute!

Steadiest Puller: Timber
What else can we say... Timber just loves to pull all day long (and night if we'd let him). Every time the team stops he makes it clear that HE just wants to keep going.

Most Improved: Flicka
Soft natured Flicka became a tough cookie on this expedition, running every mile in the front team and loving it!

Strongest Pull: Spank
Even though Spank is getting up in age his incredible pulling technique, raw power and mental strength still make for the top dog position; digging deep and MOVING that sled when it really takes some muscle.


Communities Visited: Shammatawa, Fort Severn, Peawanuck, Attawapiskat

Number of Days on the Trail: 36

Total Mileage: 632 miles

Longest Day of Travel: 40 miles

Shortest Day of Travel: 11 miles

Coldest Temperature: - 56 F

Warmest Temperature: + 59 F

Storm Days: 4

Number of Breakfast Sausage eaten: 116

Number of Candy Bars/ Energy Bars Eaten: 128

Amount of Dog-food Carried: 1810 lbs.

Rolls of Toilet Paper Used: 6

Number of Broken Ski Bindings: 5 (all by Mille!!!)


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