A day of surprises

Hello everyone — David here. I am checking in from our overnight camp on the sea-ice, Committee Bay. It is a pleasant Monday evening. All in all, it was a good day. We did 22 kilometres. The temperature has risen, accompanied by wind out of the South, which comes as a great relief. About -15C or so, right now, and the three of us are sitting here comfortably outside the tent, without any gloves on. 

Gear Report — After a couple of dummy runs, we are checking out the firing mechanisms of the guns (we have to be sure they will work as intended if need be). We noticed that the cold has affected them. Richard, with his experience, is presently working on them and will bring them up to par. Frank continues to work on his boots. He calls his work ‘revolutionary’. Richard and I are thinking he’s going to get into the boot design business when he gets home.

On a more informative note — today was a day full of surprises. We encountered our first person in eight days; a young hunter named Brian, travelling solo, on snow-machine from Kugaaruk to Naujaat, to pick up his brother-in-law and then travel back.(Though the route we are now on is often travelled between the two communities, once you get closer to Naujaat, the trail Nunavummiut hunters tend to use is actually quite different from the North Pole River route (travel West, then North heading upriver) Arctic Return chose. A typical hunting trail that local hunters use to travel community to community heads directly due North from Naujaat, still coming out at the bottom of Committee Bay, to then head up the coast).

The wildlife drought ends —Shortly after Brian left we saw this black spec running on the ice. It was a wolverine. He was fairly near and directly downwind of us and curious. Skiing with a tailwind and all, our very first on this trip, we were sure he had picked up our scent. (Yes, the very first tailwind from the South after days of facing nothing but headwinds was appreciated). The wolverine was obviously excited too. He would run in zig zag patterns, then stop, then run this way and that, several times, assessing us I’m sure, before deciding to head back to land two kilometres away to where the wolverine den likely was.

(Known to be highly secretive, totally elusive and incredibly fierce, wolverines have been known to take down caribou. As anyone owning a trapline will tell you, the wolverine is without doubt, their worst enemy. For us to encounter one so closely today was indeed a bonus, though also highly strange, because once he was gone, we could find no trace of his tracks, or his ever having been here just ahead of us whatsoever. That was a wee bit spooky!  His on-ice shenanigans followed by his superb vanishing act, aptly explained why general folklore and some indigenous people will refer to the wolverine as, “the devil”.) 

A further sighting to report though heartily disputed by Richard and Frank… but no less true, was that I noticed a couple of fish out on the sea-ice today. Likely, they fell out of someone’s qamutik. The boys insist I was hallucinating, but I swear I saw them!!  Very definitely, this has been a most wonderful, event-filled day out here on the sea-ice. A great privilege to be here following in the footsteps of Rae. 

Our very best to everyone!

David, for Richard, Frank and the entire Arctic Return Team