Of the old… and the new

In one long day, we have concluded Simpson Lake: an historically significant body of water lying roughly East to West this region of the Arctic; a lake that  is mentioned numerous times in the journals that recorded Rae’s travels. A good day for Arctic Return.

It’s been very cold. Richard’s thermometer isn’t even registering. Best guess is that it has been around 30 BELOW ZERO (Centigrade) during the day, not counting wind effect. What that means for us, exposed to the elements as we are, is that in order to keep warm, we have to work much harder —exert energy at a higher rate. The conundrum in that, is we want the heat yes, but we also do not want to sweat too much … we need to keep our clothes as dry as possible in these conditions…all of which calls for a compromise between exerting enough energy to stay warm, but needing to stop every hour, hour and a half to hydrate and fuel up on food —all of it, adding up to a bit of a balancing act.

This morning, it took Richard and I, about an hour to get all the feeling back in our hands. We are both a wee bit frostbitten. Nothing serious. So that’s good. We know all too well, that to maintain our warmth we must keep going, which we did today, to good effect.  

While en route our minds are constantly going too. You do a lot of thinking, talk to your mate sometimes, but often, you are in conversation with your own mind. Our journey continues to spark many thoughts, emotions and the occasional, self-prescribed epiphany.

It was in Michael Palin’s recently published book, Erebus, he is quoted as saying, (and I do paraphrase here) that further to his background research for the book, he found that the threads of the Franklin and Rae stories, were intertwined. After having completed his research, Palin, spoke too, about his appreciation and respect for Rae.

In similar fashion perhaps, I think both Richard and I can, to some degree relate, given the conditions and land we are travelling through. Rae too, would have faced some of same challenges we face (albeit 165 years ago) and while it is very obvious to us that some things are different, have changed over time…we also know that some never do. 

To bring home that point, we’ve met a fair number of Inuit along the way, and (just as in Rae’s time) they are very willing to stop and chat, to impart advice and wisdom. Inuit, being on the land and of this land…they are the land.

Richard and I look upon them (very much) as travelling companions. They are, to the one, social and so very free to stop, say hello, shake hands and share a quick cup of tea, or hot chocolate (whatever we have on at the time, atop of the sled) only to then, with a wave and a smile casually drive off on their snowmobiles when it was time for us to be off too.

That Richard and I… in 2019, travelling on skis with heavy sleds in tow as we are, (to pay tribute and bring notice to Rae’s achievements), should meet and socialize with Inuit here (just as he did 165 years ago), now, in the modern era of the North; to  have our friendly interactions end with them casually zooming off on their snowmobiles, shows that we and they  live in a modern time still very much solidly based on the old…but also in a time that poignantly reflects the new.

Earlier this evening Richard and I were pouring over maps, talking logistics, and all about the coming days. We feel now, that in one way at least, we are on ‘the final stretch’. It’s been… er…20 days…21 days…uh…22 days now, and our sleds are logically getting lighter, so it follows that psychologically that estimation must be true too.

We have news. No! They do not feel any lighter! 

Again, as must do, we continue to spend some of our downtime tonight, performing essential maintenance to our feet and hands, in  preparation for the next day’s push. It will be another cold night, with tomorrow calling for a day of -30C (estimated) and a wind out of the West, that should have windchill temperatures feeling more like -35C, give or take.

So it is, as it has been for the last 22 days (we think, as we are not always entirely sure about days at times), that we again give a sincere and proud nod to Rae’s historic journey. Tomorrow it is then. Richard and I put our heads down and press on.