Ellesmere Island: Will Steger and kids are off

Posted: Apr 03, 2008 10:05 pm EDT

(ThePoles.com) On March 30, veteran polar explorer Will Steger, age 63, and his team of 6, all between the ages 21-28, started on a 1400 mile international dogsled expedition across Ellesmere Island.

There they will follow in the footsteps of legendary polar explorers and will visit ice shelves that have collapsed due to global warming and those that are on the brink of collapse. Crossing fjords, mountain ranges, and sea ice, the Expedition Team will record the impact global warming has had on the northern coast of the third largest and northernmost island in the Canadian Arctic.

Joining Will (USA) are Eric McNair-Landry (Canada), Sarah McNair-Landry (Canada), Toby Thorliefsson (Norway), Sigrid Ekran (Norway) and Sam Branson (UK), as well as Ben Horton (USA) who will join them at the end of the month.

Fan system vs. tandem system

Toby reports about training with the dogs in Iqaluit, Sarah, Eric and I have trained the dogs during the daytime and worked on expedition gear and equipment in the evenings. For me who had not ran dogs using the fan system it has been important to get used to this system that varies from the tandem system used in the south or as seen in the Iditarod by Sigrid.

The tandem is great in the boreal forests of Norway and Minnesota where it is important that the dogs do not get tangled up in trees or other obstacles. On the sea ice, however, the fan system where each dog has its own line attached to our sleds is great. In the rough ice the dogs running on the fan can avoid dangerous obstacles and if one dog gets its line caught it can easily be released by the dog driver that sits in the front of the sled.

My lead dog is named Bylaw and he has already become a great friend.

Resolute Bay

The team and their 30 dogs arrived March 28, at about 11.30 pm at Resolute Bay were it took them 5 hours to unload the plane and sort out the dogs and gear. They had dinner at 4 am and went to bed. Temperature at Resolute was 35°C and Will expects a cold first two weeks.

First full day

Sam reports: Wow it's great to be on the trail. Months of preparation and training. Days full of organizing and emails and now we are here; it is quiet. Nothing to organize, just the things we have to do to get through the day safely and with the most amount of miles under our belt."

"Today travelling started off slow and I wasn t sure how we were going to fair on the trip. Slowly we made our way through the rough sea ice to the flatter ice we gained some momentum. We took turns skiing in front, giving the dogs something to run towards."

"It was pretty cold on the face today. You have to be really careful. My nose had turned white before someone pointed it out to me. Being covered up causes frost to attach itself to everything. Everyone had large icicle balls imbedded in their eyelashes, hair and masks. It makes for a great picture.

700 lb sleds

Another great day on the ice, reports Eric, as we start to eat through our food and the dogs start to eat through theirs the sleds become lighter and we gain momentum. Currently we are still laiden with supplies for the next 17 days, about 700 lb per sled, making forward travel slow but still manageable.

They planned for 2 resupplies.

Day 4 of the expedition
Position: N 74,59.501 W 093,24.430
Wind: blowing snow, NNW
Distance travelled: 28.1 km/17 mi

Will Steger, age 63, USA, is a formidable voice calling for understanding and the preservation of the Arctic, and the Earth. Best known for his legendary polar exploration, Steger has travelled tens of thousands of miles by kayak and dogsled over 40 years, leading teams on some of the most significant polar expeditions in history. But what distinguishes Will Steger is his tireless conviction to take his eyewitness accounts and experiences from these explorations and share them with others, in order to better themselves and the environment.

Sigrid Ekran, Age 28, Norway
Born in Norway, Sigrid is completing her MA in Northern Studies from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She placed 20th in the 2007 Iditarod, receiving such notable awards including Rookie of the Year and Best Female Musher; in the same year she received 4th place in the Klondike 300 race.

Thorleif Tobias Thorleifsson (Toby), Age 28, Norway
Toby has spent the better part of his education dividing his time between Norway and Canada. Toby spent two years as a student at United World College of the Atlantic, followed by a year-long tenure as a conscript in the Norwegian Navy.

Eric McNair-Landry, Age 23, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada
Eric spent most of his childhood in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Nunavut where he was raised in a family of adventurers. Eric graduated with a degree in engineering from Acadia University and is considering continuing in architecture.

Sarah McNair-Landry, Age 21, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada
No stranger to cold weather, Sarah grew up in Iqaluit from age three. Shortly after turning 17 she went on her first extended expedition, crossing the Greenland ice cap with her parents and older brother Eric.

Sam Branson Age 21, Great Britain,
Sam had his first taste of an Arctic expedition in 2007 when he joined Will Steger for the Baffin Island Expedition. Sam took quite the liking to all things Arctic and at age 22 is one of the youngest members of the Ellesmere Island Expedition team.

Ben Horton, Age 24, United States
Recipient of the National Geographic Societys first Young Explorer award for research he recently completed on Cocos Island involving shark poachers, Ben is a budding photographer and adventurer.

Biographies courtesy of the Expedition website.


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My lead dog is named Bylaw and he has already become a great friend, says Toby.
On the sea ice the fan system where each dog has its own line attached to our sleds is great. In the rough ice the dogs running on the fan can avoid dangerous obstacles and if one dog gets its line caught it can easily be released by the dog driver that sits in the front of the sled.
Veteran Will Steger (63) is leading six youngsters between ages 21-28 on a 1400 km journey across Ellesmere Island on a dogsled expedition. Crossing fjords, mountain ranges, and sea ice, the Expedition Team will record the impact global warming has had on the northern coast of the third largest and northernmost island in the Canadian Arctic. Images courtesy of globalwarming101.com (click to enlarge)

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