The June/July issue of Men’s Journal is out, with their special spread on Canada for Adrenaline Junkies. Arctic Kingdom is listed for the #1 activity, Dive With Whales. The article states,
In summer, the Arctic sea is dotted with sun-sculpted icebergs and populated with monsters: beluga whales and narwhals, walrus, seals, Greenland sharks and polar bears. The best way to see the beasts is to don a wetsuit and dive right in: Whales, congregating along the floe edge, will swim beside you, eye to gigantic eye.
As the article goes on to note, the wildlife isn’t the only attraction. There’s the shocking blue of the ice, the water alive with microscopic creatures, and kayaking in sunlight at two AM, when “the sun casts long shadows and the glowing ice makes for a surreal experience.”
I have to admit a weakness for hot air balloon travel — there’s something so elegant, so magical about it, it really takes air travel away from mere utilitarian transport and into a realm of wonder.
Of course, up at the North Pole, this is more than just a balloon ride. Of his 3,130 km trip from Spitzbergen to Siberia, 65-year old French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne notes,
It was much harder than I imagined it to be. Yesterday I made contact with France and for a press conference, they asked me, if it took me five days. I would say I wouldn’t know. It was constant and non-stop… It was an extremely grueling voyage with sleep hours, well, that doesn’t exist- sleep hours, more like with some minutes of sleep. It was very very grueling.
Still, the video that balloon soaring over the snow is gorgeous. It reminds me of one of my favorite sets on our Flickr page, of a 2004 expedition utilizing a hot air balloon for filming!
This Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle featured a great article by Margo Pfeiff about her trip to Baffin Island for training in polar survival. I couldn’t help but giggle at her description of her first foray into Arctic waters:
Dangling my legs off a 6-foot-thick ice floe, I slide into slushy water. My “swimsuit” ain’t no polka-dotted bikini, but a screaming red one-piece waterproof number I’ve wrestled over a half-dozen layers, including an expedition down jacket and ski boots. Air rushes out around my neck as heavy-gauge nylon hugs me. Suddenly, I’m bobbing buoyantly up to my chin in the Arctic Ocean like a cherry in somebody’s piña colada.
As I hoist myself back onto the ice sheet, the saltwater on my suit flash-freezes and drifts to my feet as snow. I had come north to immerse myself in the Arctic, but hadn’t expected the experience to be quite so literal.
This rare patch of open water in the sea ice blanketing Frobisher Bay is a polynya kept open throughout winter by strong currents. The 29-degree seawater steams into the clear, minus-18 degree March air. I dog-paddle through clinking ice chunks as if I’m doing laps in a tumbler of scotch.
The sometime absurdity of negotiating Artcic waters aside, Pfeiff manages to capture how fun the Arctic can be, how unique and enjoyable trekking across sea ice and camping on a creaking ice-locked bay.
Pfeiff’s whole article is well worth a read. You can read it in its entirety on the San Francisco Chronicle’s webpage.
Got the itch to try it yourself? Check out our trips page for more information on our expeditions to Baffin Island and beyond.
Sled dogs on a 2006 expedition to Qaanaaq, Greenland
According to the International Federation for Sleddog Sports, the dog sledding tradition may stretch back “almost as long as the relationship between dogs and humans” in areas with predictable yearly snowfalls. As a dog person, I love that idea: Traveling along traditional Inuit hunting routes, we’ll be experiencing the old Arctic, following paths that have bound man and dog together for thousands of years.
The trip is also a photographer’s dream: Baffin Island is located along one of the richest marine areas in the Arctic Ocean. Though our routes and the wildlife we encounter will depend variables such as snow and ice conditions, we’re likely to travel along steep-walled fjords, along inland lakes and possibly even out to the floe edge, the border between ice and sea where marine animals congregate.
A pair of sled dogs near Lancaster Sound
Are you as excited as I am? Check out the expedition’s trip page for more information, including rates and a sample itinerary.
Harsh though it seems, the High Arctic teems with life. One of the things I love about this video is how much of that life is in evidence, from large mammals, including narwhal and beluga, to the clouds of plankton that swirl around the camera and divers. And check out the crazy undersea plant life that shows up at around 1:42!
This video also showcases the diving, photographic opportunities, and natural beauty that make Lancaster Sound one of our most popular destinations. Visit the trip page to find out how you can join the fun!