(By Eric McNair-Landry and Dixie Dansercoer)
Here was our idea: a circular, katabatic-generated, merry-go-round, coriolis-facilitated glacial roundabout that would allow us to start and end at the same location on the Greenland ice cap.
After a very difficult start in early April with one storm after the other, we finally put our kites in 6th gear when we reached the west coast and found our starting point on Day 55.
Dixie: Eric, how much fun do you derive from thinking up new adventures like Greenland ICE and to what extent can you practically use this experience in life or future exploits?
Eric: Dreaming up an expedition is incredibly fun, especially as a team where the unrestrained process of brainstorming can bloom in full grandeur. But eventually the revery has undergo a distilling process to transform it into a reality. Painful sacrifices are implemented to make the original dream realistic given constraints such as time, budget and physical ability/skill.
This process is not unique to expeditions; it is used in any field that benefits from cultivating imaginative problem solving, and I would say this discipline has been distilled to an art. I have learned a great deal about this process in university while studying design.
Dixie: Was Greenland ICE what you expected from it?
Eric: The expedition fulfilled several of my expectations: southern Greenland was the most difficult part of the expedition, the month of April was cold and stormy, the sastrugi were more mild than Antarctica.
However, there were several unexpected shortcomings; we were unable to obtain our 5000 km goal, and I would have loved to visit Dye 3.
Dixie: What new insights with regard to expedition kite skiing have you gleaned from this expedition?
Eric: On this expedition I had the privilege of learning from a polar veteran, and trying out a new range of equipment. The main revelation was Ozone’s new product, the Chrono, a kite that took the world by surprise when it dominated the winter kite racing scene. For us the kite represented a breakthrough in light wind sailing, and in tacking upwind.
Dixie: Given the current trend, kiting expeditions are unlikely to surpass hulling expeditions in popularity. Do you believe there is an explanation for this?
Eric: Generally kiting expeditions require more skill than hulling expeditions; its easier to learn to ski pulling a sled than it is to kite ski. Kite skiing is also a difficult sport to guide, and is generally characterized by a low client to guide ratio, making it more expensive to join a kiting expedition than a skiing expedition.
Dixie: Do you think the plateau circumnavigation route will ever become Greenland nevertheless a standard route?
Eric: I doubt that it will, given the routes length, and the inability to complete the route solo. I’m sure several people will attempt it, but I doubt it will gain the popularity of the South to North Greenland route.
Eric: Dixie, in 1995, you and Alain did a reconnaissance trip in Greenland, where you sailed (east to west) west to east using kites, at a time when the sport of kiting was still quite young. How did that expedition differ from the Greenland ICE expedition; what insights have you gained that you wish you had had in 1995?
Dixie: It was definitely another era when we literally stitched our kites together and even sewed in zippers in them to make the kites smaller when more wind popped up. It was a step up from the parachutes that only pulled you downwind however. At the time, though, the sudden realization that these kites offered such a huge potential gave us the fullest trust that we could integrally cross Antarctica in 1997-98.
That trust in further development of the kites have led us to using increasingly performant kites temporarily ending with the Ozone Chronos during the Greenland Ice Expedition. I just think that is wonderful to be part of those steps towards more and more efficiency.
Eric: On the last two expeditions, Greenland ICE and Antarctic ICE you chose to team up with younger team members. Why have you made this choice, and how do you think it affects the efficacy of a team?
Dixie: I just need to stay forever young and therefore want young guns as co-expeditioners.... Just kidding of course. I love every stage of life and soon enough I will enjoy reading polar literature to the grandkids!
On a more serious note, I have always believed in added value and parallel missions to just the one challenge of pursuing our own dreams, be it pioneering a new route or developing new techniques to advance more smartly. In that respect I know that complicity of generations has so much to offer in the way of potential to get more things done. Clearly that means accepting certain hurdles that are characteristic to belonging to the x, y, z generation or somewhere in between.
Just by adopting an attitude of willingness to understand and accommodate differences in working methods and opinions, it is wildly surprising to see how much we can compliment each other.
Eric: Often teams train in Greenland for more dramatic expeditions in Antarctica, however you did the opposite; tackling a more challenging trip in Antarctica with Sam Deltour, then heading to Greenland for a similar route. Why this chain of events?
Dixie: Ha, I never thought of it this way. I guess I first looked at scientific maps of wind models with data spread over a over a couple of decennia and by chance they showed Antarctica instead of Greenland and that is where the dream was born and I guess from that moment on, I tend to not stray from that one very strong point of focus; the idea of using the katabatic winds together with the Coriolis effect (turning of the globe) was a real teaser because it meant that we could maybe start and arrive at the same point.
After more than 5000 km in Antarctica, but not being able to close the circular route, I thought that Greenland might be the place to give it a second try.
Eric: In the next five years where do you see your career taking you?
Dixie: I do not really have a 5 year plan neatly laid out but after 22 years of polar expeditions, I know the weight and the impact of each one of them. There are more things in life that I want to invest my energy in soon, but there is one more expedition in the planning together with Alain Hubert in 2016: from the North Pole to Franz Josef Land.
In the meantime Polar Circles has laid out a well-structured multi-level guiding program (www.polarexperience.eu) and as corporate facilitators we have www.polaroffsites.com. On the home front, we are still knee-deep with kids, young adults and other attachments hanging off of us, parents needing attention and a garden that loves to be caressed. There are plenty of people that need our attention and I want to make time for that. Spending more and more time in Oceanside, Oregon is also high on the list.
Greenland ICE expedition: On Day 55, June 3, 2014, Dixie Dansercoer (52) and Eric McNair-Landry (30) completed a 4044.9 km circumnavigation of Greenland at Greenspeed Ridge (coordinates N 65º 48 22, W 38º 37 11). Both of them are veterans on the Polar fields, in particular with using kites and Nasa wings.
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