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rocks

Besides from the small cluster of flowers that will soon come alive again to be colorfull, also notice the sharp rocks! That's what we are trying to avoid the most traveling on land by as the snow is melting away. They are not big boulders like in the beginning of the trip, but they are sharp!



Land Locked In The Fog


Date: June 6, 01
Position: 75.36 N 89.32 W
Weather Conditions: 12pm - partly cloudy, breeze from southwest, 3C/38F

A 120 miles to go! We have just reached the ocean again after a little more than 3 days crossing Devon Island. In short: we are thrilled to be off the land and back on ice.

Leaving from Griffin Inlet we had another day sledding north up the west coast of Devon Island heading for the John Brown Point where we had been told to begin our 25 miles crossing of Devon Island. We would have a bit of climbing to do, but then were to head down a long valley leading us back out on the ocean. We were hoping we could make it in a day. But about 7 miles before the point we crossed a snow mobile trail going due east straight towards land. We knew a group had left a week earlier from Resolute going to Grise Fiord - as far as we knew it was two Inuit guides on snow mobile leading a Japanese and a Canadian team of raicing dogs. In Resolute we had seen their trail heading up and over land instead of out on the ocean, but we decided not to use this trail since the ice is so much easier on us with the heavy sleds; Whereas it probably did not matter much for these guys with the Inuit snow mobiles breaking trail and carrying all weight on their tow sleds. We imagined they could have had a rough time going through the pressure ice though, with the rough ice easily banging up and crushing small lightweight sleds and it probably being very difficult for the raicing dogs to run in, with their fragile legs. We stopped at the trail, looked ahead of us and decided, "heck" we might have been really lucky here and have a trail the rest of the way! Running on shore Cola and Freja who was out in front leading Paul's team thought it was great! A trail full of dog smells...Then, all of a sudden it stopped. We looked around a bit..they were turning inland! We were still about 5 miles from the traditional route but maybe they knew of a short cut? We decided to follow. A near crash cliff, an exceptionally steep down hill, a lot of circling around and then turning due south later we had had enough. Something was up. Maybe these guys did not know any other route but was just trying to be smart!?

It was hard to believe though. We have a very deep respect for Inuit and their way of reading the land. But we just could not defend continuing this way. We were on the hill top above a lake which we could get on to get back out to the sea ice and continue the way we had originally planned. Time to make camp, we debated for a while, should we stay on the trail or turn around going down on the lake. We headed for the lake. Still baffled by the trail we had seen, we were curious though, so we set up the HF radio to try and see if we could have any luck reaching somebody in Grise Fiord that could let us know if these guys made it there and which route they followed!! A very nice guy picked up our call "Polar Husky Dogsled Team calling Grise Fiord, over". He immediately said he would run and get one of the Inuit guides who had arrived a few days earlier. 15 minutes later George was on the radio. "Yes, we made new route. Very good, though right in the beginning we did a bit of weaving around. I and my partner Stanley, will be heading back by snowmobile tomorrow night. You should take our trail". Paul and George spoke back and fourth a bit, while Paul was trying to figure out more about which way they actually went, but it is not so easy on a radio, especially since lots of other people are trying to talk together at the same time. We "hung up" but we still were not sure. We could probably save 30 miles going this way, there was a trail but we did not have much to go with if we lost the trail since we did not know it on the map! The weather was very grey and it was snowing a bit. On the other hand, in worst case George and Stanley were suppose to come through within 36 hours. It is difficult to break away from a trail.

fog

Look closely and you might just skim Paul's team in the fog less than 100 ft away!!

Next day we got up, put Aksel and Mille's team in front and headed up the trail. It was very low light and snowing so difficult to see the trail, but Aksel was doing good. A few miles further it got worse. Then it got really bad. None of us could see the trail anymore behind us or in front. The light was so low you could not even see the trail made by your own skis and pretty soon so much snow had fallen that the trail was only a whisper. Aksel did an incredible job, leading us 6 miles further. Some mysterious way he could follow it. Maybe he could smell the dogs that had been there earlier. The snow stopped and instead a heavy blanket of fog rolled in over us. We could see absolutely nothing, up or down. We were in a complete white out. There was no wind though so it was very quite. Just white. Aksel stopped. He looked back. He had lost the trail. We could not find it again, so we sat down for lunch and to debate what next.

cliffs

The enormous cliffs we avoided. The little dot on the right is Paul's team.

Looking on the map it was clear it would be to dangerous to continue. We were on a high point of land and straight ahead the direction we were to go where some cliffs leading down into a river. Reading the map it looked like it could be some pretty steep stuff which we would definately need to be able to see to pass. So, we set camp. It was okay though. This way we could give the dogs half a day off and maybe try the radio again to see if George and Stanley were still coming and if we could get some more information on their route. We got George on the radio again. "Ohh. Don't go anywhere. It is not good ahead. We will be there soon. We leave in an hour". We still tried to get more info from George since we wanted to get going sooner than when they would be in the neighborhood, but George was very hesitant. He really just wanted us to stay put until they came and we could see there trail. "Please stay put if weather is not better. Much safer. Not good ahead" he said. Finally, we decided okay we would wait - it would probably save us some work it sounded like, and the dogs could do with another half a day of rest. The plan was for George and Stanley to be by our camp (they knew where we were use our map position) between 2 and 4 the next morning. If they were not there at 6 we should try for them on the radio.

Waking up the next morning it was still not great light, but better. We got up and got ready, now just waiting for our snow mobilers. At 3.45 am Timber started barking. At 4 am George and Stanley pulled up on their snow mobiles. We had water boiling, and we went in the tent for some tea and route talk!

route

Paul, George and Stanley sitting in the tent, going over our route ahead.

It had been very difficult travel for them, basically 14 hours of driving in the blind but following the map on their GPS. After a couple of hours of tea, stories and route showing George and Stanley climbed their machines again - and we our dogsleds and headed into the white. They had told us NOT to use their new trail but to follow what they showed us on the map. They also told us they saw a polar bear pretty close to camp!!!! (So much for us thinking we were bear safe for a couple of days while on Devon Island)! As a matter of fact they had seen several bears that morning; one in the close vicinity of camp, and several out on the bay towards which we were heading. That is not such a big surprise though since its name is "Bear Bay"!

An hour later the fog lifted a bit. The visibility was still very poor but now we could at least see what was around us, dirt, rocks, lichens and the grassy spots. It was "hot", plus temperatures with sticky snow, grabbing the sled runners making it hard to glide even our own skis. But it was much better than what we had feared most: no snow. We were just thrilled there was enough snow cover for us to travel. And the dogs did great after their rest pulling us 12 miles further over land.

mobiles

George and Stanley are getting ready to take off again. The small sled on top of one of their tow sleds is a raicing sled - about 5 ft, 40-50 lbs.

Yesterday we woke up full of enthusiasm. The sky was pretty clear, much better visibility, and it looked like a good day where we could cover some ground. But - as we were hooked up and ready to go the fog rolled in!! Aksel didn't care, he just started moving forward. It was still better than earlier even though we could not see the trail ahead - only Aksel could - we could at least see that we where on it, when looking down in front of the sled. Within an hour we dropped down a large slope and all of a sudden the fog lifted. It turned out, we were not in fog but in the clouds! It was gourgeous, breathtaking and strikingly scary because now we could really see the cliffs we avoided. They were HUGE! We would not have made it. Within a few minutes later we were stunned again. Ahead on a hilltop was a large group of 12 Musk ox -9 adults and 3 little calves. We stopped to get some great video footage. Unfortunally they were still a little to far away to get any great pictures with our cameras since we don't have very big lenses. At the same time just on the other side of the sleds a jaeger landed and sat to watch us, as we were watching musk ox. Neither of us, have ever seen a jaeger before, and we both think they are quite incredible. It was strange to watch this bird knowing it just flew 20 some thousand miles from Antarctica and now was sitting here looking at us! That was all the entertainment for the day.
geese

Out of the white circling Milles team a few times before heading off were two snow geese - That's a sure sign of Summer.

We climbed back up into the highland and the rest of the day, as Paul said " was like staring on a white sheet of paper". It is odd. Since there is no wind it is like being in a vacuum of white. But no doubt, Summer is right around the corner. And so is Grise Fiord. It is a strange sensation as we are getting this close to what has been our goal for so long. We are enjoying every last moment we can and keeping in mind that we still have to cross Jones Sound ahead. Once we get on the other side - which if all is well we hope will be in a few days - we are supposed to be met by Eric, Jeremy from Lotus, and a camera crew from National Geographic Channel News team who are traveling with us the last day into Grise Fiord ( We are not sure when it is to be aired but keep an eye on the website and it will be posted - if you do not receive their channel go to their website and check out how to request it!). Once in Grise Fiord their is a small celebration ..and of course our last Sametime Chat session with all of you! Enter through any of the Collaboration Zones Talk to you then...

NOTE: The final report with the Polar Husky Awards, Collaboration Zone winners (COMING SOON!) and expedition stats will be posted soon after the June 11th arrival date.

muskox

Sorry we could not get a better close-up! But here is 9 adult musk ox and 3 calves all in a circle to protect each other once the dogs got noisy enough.



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