Saturday, 1 January 2011

Kayaking in the High Arctic

Attended a VERY interesting talk and slide show over at Ron Frenette/Alistair Dempster's Canoe Shop in Georgetown on wednesday evening. The guest was Xander Oldaker, a native of georgetown, who is a professional kayaking guide, licensed ship's captain and veteran trip leader in Canada’s High Arctic, the North Atlantic, the Bahamas and South America. He does this for Explorers' Corner.

We met in the upper loft area of the shop, dubbed the Explorer's Refuge. There was a small audience, but  attentive, as Xander described the logistics of guiding groups on the shore of Ellesmere Island: just getting there is arduous, as the closest canadian settlement that can be reached by commercial flights is Resolute on Cornwallis Island. After that they fly in Twin otter aircraft, loaded to the maximum, landing at a strip that is part of a RCMP camp in the Kane Basin, Buchanan Bay, latitude 80 degrees North. There establishing base camp in a pair of wooden shacks (that they use to store the kayaks as it isn't feasible to take the boats back and forth); then paddling a area of roughly 100 km over 13 days.

Interesting facts:
Ellesmere island has the most northerly canadian settlement, Grise Fjord, which must be populated so that Canada can lay claim to the land.

The climate is so arid, that remains, both animal and human, (there were photos of whalebones, musk ox skulls, human skulls) stay in perfect condition for hundreds of years

The boats are plastic.

Has only had two capsizes. They don't wear drysuits ( there were shots of kayaks being pushed/pulled over ice floes...)

They manage 2 trips per season, July to August, which is as long as the arctic summer lasts

Lots of wildlife..

Flying in can be dicey: they are sometimes rerouted because of weather to Eureka or Alert AFBs....

All in all, a worthwhile evening.

Looking forward to the next one.


1 comment:

  1. Was actually posted by Scott, but the log in gives malcolm the credit for the post.