John Rae’s achievements really hit home

Good evening. Richard and David reporting in, Tuesday night, the 23rd of April.

With yesterday’s breathtaking scenery still very much fixed in our minds, we woke this morning to a thick, lingering fog — a whiteout. We quickly came to the realization that it would be another challenging day’s journey westward across the Boothia Peninsula. 

Navigating was difficult, from the outset. We fought to keep our sense of direction. It was tricky, because we just could not see any of the features of the land that we were traversing. As the sun began to peek through behind us, we were soon to become reliant upon this meagre morsel of light, trying to keep the faint shadow it created to the front of us. As long as we were keeping the shadow in front and the sun behind, we knew with relative certainty that we were correctly travelling in a westerly direction in this utterly featureless surround. The conditions today, really brought home the challenges of navigation, here in the Arctic.

David and I wish to again extend our special thanks to RICS, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, who last year, in celebration of their 150th Anniversary, bestowed upon John Rae, the prestigious title of Honorary Chartered Surveyor, to acknowledge his outstanding survey work in the Arctic and to recognize what an extremely accomplished surveyor he in fact was. (see link below)

Now, in 2019, travelling under similar conditions (Rae experienced), seeing, for ourselves, just how harsh and physically demanding the Arctic can be this time of year, in terms of the toll it takes on your body —just trying to keep your fingers (and toes) warm and trying to stop your face from freezing — well, to do all that, as Rae and his men and Inuit did for extended periods back in 1854, all the while conducting surveying, very precise surveying at that; to effectively and precisely chart thousands of miles of Canadian Arctic coastline, is real testament to the tenacity, the dedication and the strength of this great man. So we’ve got a real appreciation of that today, and on the trip so far.

Later on in the day, the fog did thankfully lift and we could finally make out some features. The terrain leading to the western side of the peninsula, is very, very flat now. We anticipate, not tomorrow, but likely the day after, we will hit the sea. This is a very significant point for us, because it is there that we will make a turn, to head North by Northwest, across the sea-ice for a day or two, to again be on the peninsula,  which sets us up nicely for the final, two day push to make Point de la Guiche. 

We are feeling good!  Expedition life is grand. David’s in his sleeping bag, again. We’ve got the fly on the tent and the stove on, to build a bit of heat. We’re boiling up some water for our flasks too, so when we wake up in the morning, the food’s on quickly, breakfast and your coffee is ready quickly and down fast, so that we are … good to go. No dallying.

Tonight, at rest, there’s opportunity to reflect a bit more on our day. Creatures have been few, virtually none, save for a raven (again), but other than that, there is no wildlife to be seen. Our surroundings, in contrast to yesterday, are stark and very, very bleak. ‘Austere,’ David, has helpfully chimed in. A good description.

On the move, it’s been constant battle between getting our bodies too hot, (skiing hard and pulling our still heavy sleds up over mounds as we are), only to have to stop to take layers off to vent. The moment you stop, within two minutes, you’re suddenly chilled and you have to put all your layers back on again…get some hot fluid down..some nuts and raisins, some cheese…yes, cheese…the power food! Cheese, but no, WHINE, if you will. ‘Yes, we have cheese, but …no whining!’ This, from the gallery. Thank you, David.

Last item of note: We have an early rise planned for tomorrow. We hope to be able to connect via Sat phone with the President of RICS, at @0600hrs our time. It will be David that makes the call, then, I anticipate, he will wake me at my usual time of 0730hrs, to a very nice cup of hot coffee, my breakfast prepared, and my boot-liners freshly heated over the fire. Right, David? 

Expedition newsflash!  I, Richard Smith, for the sake of this expedition, have officially adopted Eastern Mountain Time, starting this very morning. (David, did say I’d come around).

Richard and David