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Date: 04.09.04
Position: 67º21'N 91º37'W, Nunavut, Canada
Weather Conditions: Clear, sunny and calm, -15F/-25C

Looking at what is ahead! Every morning we have a team meeting to go over the route and talking about the day in front of us.

We have made it to our cache, Mille has made a strong recovery, and today we are blessed with the most amazingly beautiful weather. As you may know, we found ourselves challenged by the extremes of the Arctic this past week, leaving us unable to send you the last update from the trail. But, more about that on Monday. For now - here is a bit about what took place leading up to this week…

Beautiful Nunavut!

Watch some great dogsledding.

It was a time with lots to celebrate! First of all, April 1st was Nunavut day. The territory of Nunavut officially came into existence April 1, 1999 so it was a proud fifth anniversary. Team Arctic Transect 2004 sends our warmest congratulations to all Nunavummiut!

Ice in one of its many formations out here. Even though we are living and traveling on the ice we do not often have an opportunity to see just how thick it is.

Secondly, we finally reached the long sought Quince River. As you may remember from last week's trail report, we moved at a snail's pace, wending our way across the tundra land through an arduous landscape of rocks, rocks, and more rocks in all sizes, shapes, and formations. We were desperately looking to make it to the Qouinch River, which we hoped would bring us easier travel. Thousands of years before us, the Inuit considered the rivers as not only a source of food, but as "highways" that make it easier to travel through difficult land; so do we. Less than two hours after leaving our "rest-day-camp," we battled our way through yet another nasty field of rocks and descended onto the river. We were all smiles, from ear to ear.

Paul and Aaron, pushing and pulling Paul and Eric's sled up an "ice hill" on the river.

Watch Aaron's wild ride over tricky ice and laugh along as he takes a tumble…

To our great relief this river did not disappoint us. Though it also seemed to have rock fields and challenges in store for us, we were thrilled to be traveling on patches of slick ice and somewhat level, flat river terrain. We really do mean "somewhat." Tricky boulders made for large air spaces underneath the ice, which would suddenly burst in an explosion of cracking noise as the heavy sleds slid across. In sections of the river we found ourselves in a maze of slippery ice moguls, formed by the forceful water continuing to flow underneath the new ice. It had formed in the fall; then froze solid later in the season. There was even an entire section of the river where we literally traveled "up-hill" for about a quarter-mile. But overall our daily travel simply accelerated, as the Polar Huskies went flying down the river ice, propelling our mileage from six to twenty-five miles a day!!!

We carry one gun on each sled, loaded with flares for wildlife protection.

Watch as Eric and Paul check the condition of our guns.

We do have one concern to now take into consideration. Though polar bears can be found throughout Nunavut, the likelihood of us meeting "The King of the Arctic" has been pretty limited so far. Now, as we approach the community of Pelly Bay, sitting on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, we are also approaching what we consider "polar bear country." We might be a hundred or more miles from the shore but the watershed and its rivers, upon which we travel, all lead out into the ocean - and polar bears consider them great travel corridors as well. At this time of the year, still being so far inland, our greatest concern is encountering a mother bear. The female bears often go "down-river" to dig into a bank and give birth to their young, then leave the den and head back "up-river" as they move out to the ocean and their food source - the seals - in March. It would have to be a "late-one" and the chance is very limited, but we are still alert and on watch!

Turning lemons to lemonade…Mille's skis went through the ice, so she decided to collect some ice chunks to make water for the night!

One team member that had a tough time staying alert this week was Mille. Shortly after leaving the community of Baker Lake, she became sick with the flu. Unfortunately it turned out that this was probably just the tip of the iceberg. "I did not seem to recover; actually it felt like I was getting worse everyday. I have had a tough time staying warm and have been feeling completely and utterly exhausted. I have been getting more and more short-breathed; at times somewhat disoriented. My legs have been in painful cramps most of the day as I am burning my fat resources instead of the glycogen storages. Much of this could be caused by dehydration, but I have really made a conscious effort to drink a lot during the day." Realizing we had to be pro-active, as Mille was obviously not getting better by the day, calls were made to our "Expedition Physician," Dr. Skip Hofstrand. Dr. Hofstrand diagnosed Mille to be hemoglobic - meaning she has too few red blood cells. Though it takes time, fortunately it is a condition we can handle out here on the trail. The Doctor's order was: lots of sleep, red meat, iron pills, and plenty hydration. So, Mille got on the water wagon!

Will chopping ice for water.

Watch Will chop and explain what he is looking for!

It is probably not what comes to your mind first, but it is of the greatest importance for us all to drink a lot out here to avoid dehydration. We are actually traveling in a desert environment - the polar desert - with extremely dry air. We have adapted the Inuit tradition of frequent "tea" breaks, although more often we drink an energy drink or some kind of lemonade. Being that it is cold, we do not necessarily feel thirst during the day, but each of us needs to drink about a gallon a day! That is why, making water is one of our most important tasks out here, and it takes a long time. Depending on what is available, we spend most of the night melting ice or snow to make six to eight liters of water.

Aaron puts snow in the pot that he takes from the vestibule where he put it when setting up the tent. We each drink a large thermos and a bottle of water during the day.

Have you ever thought about how much water you use in a day? When Will did research for his book, "Saving the Earth," he learned that the average American would use about 380 liters (100 gallons) a day!!!!! If you have a chance, try to record YOUR water usage and add it to Collaboration Zone 08. Water is a precious resource out here. Since it takes us so long to prepare, we do not use a lot of water on anything else…be it dishes, laundry, or even to wash ourselves.

Securing the tent for the night.

Watch Eric explain about snow flaps!

Listen to Aaron explain about ice screws.

Actually it is not just "liquid water" but water in all its forms - be it ice or snow - that is one of our most precious resources out here, just like it has always been to the Inuit. Obviously, it is hard to be dogsledding without snow or ice so our need for snow and ice might not always be quite as obvious. Though we do not build our "house-on-the-road" out of snow, making igloos like the Inuit would traditionally do, we still need ice or snow to secure our tents and anchor the dogs for the night.

Paul and Eric working to collect snow data for Environment Canada and NASA.

Watch how the collection is done.

Listen to Paul explain why this collection is so important!

The irony of ice and snow out here is that we are completely surrounded by it - loving it, but it is also what we have to struggle with. It can be minor, such as trying to keep it out of the tent (like trying to not bring sand inside if you are staying somewhere at a beach), to major issues such as bad ice when we travel (remember Paul and Aaron's sled fell through the ice earlier on in the trip) or being hindered by drifting and blowing snow during storms. Every day we pretty much talk snow, ice, snow, ice...all day long. And we find that we can never learn enough about it!

A true veteran of Arctic travels, this week's Polar Husky Superstar, Choko, is an eight-year-old, passionate dog with a strong pull.

All this talk about water - this week's Polar Husky Superstars are two "water dogs," Choko and Flicka. They simply love water! If you put a pail of water in front of them, they will not drink it in a normal fashion like most dogs. Instead they stick their entire head into the bucket, almost eating the water, and at best, splashing as much as possible. That is when they are at home in the Kennel. Out here you can put a bucket of water in front of them and they will not touch it! We do not water the dogs; instead they spend much of their resting time eating snow. Unlike humans - who loose more water than we gain if we eat snow - the dogs have a different system so they can stay hydrated this way. But just like us, they watch out for the yellow snow!

Polar Husky Superstar, Flicka.

This week's second Polar Husky Superstar, Flicka, is a true sweetheart - kind and gentle with a happy spirit roaring to go!

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