Mission accomplished…heading home

L-R: Marvin Atqittuq, Richard Smith, David Reid and Jacob Atqittuq, at Point de la Guiche. ©Arctic Return


We still cannot get used to sleeping in a bed! 

Unfortunately the day arrived. It was time for us to leave Gjoa Haven. Ready and packed early, we had some time, so decided to take a walk across the frozen harbour to visit the plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of Gjoa Haven, and the historic sailing voyage of Roald Amundsen and the Gjoa (1903-1906).

The name Gjoa Haven is derived from the Norwegian, Gjøahavn, meaning the place was ’safe haven’ to Amundsen’s ship, Gjoa;  a very apt description attributable to the sheltered nature of the harbour situated here. We were struck once more by the historical significance of where we now stood and it’s tie-in to the Arctic Return project. Amundsen gave recognition to John Rae’s discovery of 1854— Rae having correctly identified the missing link to a navigable route (Rae Strait) through the long sought-after Northwest Passage; a link that Amundsen would indeed follow, to become the first to sail successfully through, some five decades later.

After lunch, it was off to the airport, to board our flight to Yellowknife. We were routed through Kugaaruk, and Taloyoak. Both are Inuit settlements, very similar in size to Gjoa Haven, with populations ranging between 1,000 to 1,200 people. The afternoon’s weather was crisp and clear… perfect for viewing broad sections of our expedition’s route, including the Simpson Lakes and Pelly Bay, from the air.

Richard was yet again taken aback by the sheer vastness of the western Canadian Arctic, as we flew over miles upon miles of wilderness. Most noticeable was the sharp demarkation of land features below as we reached the ‘tree line’ that so clearly delineated where the northern barrens that had been our home for over a month, were left behind.

The flights gave time too, to reflect more upon our adventure and the journey we’d completed, giving rise to thoughts about our team mates, Garry Tutte and Frank Wolf. Their commitment to the expedition and their continued involvement every step of the way, albeit from afar, as it turned out—continued to give impetus, encouragement and support for us to press on over every (hard-won) kilometre, during very cold, often difficult days. 

But now this phase of the Arctic Return Project, is over. After a brief transfer of flights at Yellowknife’s airport, we continued South to Edmonton, Alberta — our minds still awhirl with fond memories of our Arctic trip in the footsteps of Rae…and many thoughts of our friends and families, long missed.  

Richard and David