Rough Ice: Bad for Sledders, Fun for Dogs

Explorer Will Steger and six young adventurers in their 20s have been traveling across the Canadian Arctic for the past five weeks, following in the footsteps of other polar explorers. As they journey across the ice, the team's goal is to chronicle the effects of climate change on the area. Toby Thorleifsson joined Steger on this trip. This is his story.

The past 18 days have been rough. There have been 50 mph prevailing winds from the northwest. In order to get through some pretty rough ice, we've been traveling on wind drifts. Basically, the wind blows snow in a certain direction and creates bridges of snow. We use those to get over the ice.

Right now we're in a fjord near Axel Heiberg Island; it maybe in the most remote area of North America.

This morning, we woke up and the wind was gone. Today, we'll get to take off our face masks. It's also warmer. It's probably about minus 15 degrees Celsius. The sun makes it warmer, too. It's warming the tent right now. You get out of the the wind, and it's actually quite comfortable.

I'm in charge of breakfast. I just finished making oatmeal. We get up at 6 a.m. We drink coffee. At 7 a.m., I make breakfast. We get out of the tent at 8 a.m., and we travel from 9 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. We're usually not in the tent until 8 p.m. and dinner is at about 10, and then that's it. That's pretty much the routine.

During the day, we're on skis the whole time, unless there's rough ice. Then we're running or walking behind the sleds, and it's really tiring. Skis are actually a luxury when we can wear them. Today it looks like a ski day, which makes us really happy.

Right now we're getting 24 hours sunlight. For some, that makes it harder to sleep, but I'm so tired when I go to bed, it doesn't really matter. I do think the constant sun helps with your energy level. It makes it a lot easier to get up and get going.

The dogs are doing really well. We have incredible dogs. It's hard at the beginning of the trip to "explain" to them that now we have 60 days to go.

Once they get used to it, they understand we're probably going to be in this ice for a long time. They know what's expected of them. When it gets close to camp time, they get excited and start running faster because they know they'll get to eat soon. They get into the same routine that we're in.

All the dogs are in such a good mood. They actually get excited by rough ice because it's much more entertaining for them.

This morning they were having a really good time because there's no wind. Instead of being curled up, they're laid out flat. So they're sunbathing, basically.

So far, I think the polar bear encounters were pretty amazing, but we did a stretch of 10 days when we didn't see anything. Then, a few days ago, we got the first look of Axel Heiberg Island. It is incredibly beautiful. It's so pristine. The remote location of this wilderness makes this the most incredible thing I've seen in my life. So the last four days I've been grateful to travel and see this country.

The island has high mountain peaks and there is also some vegetation, which really surprised me.

I do miss home, but not terribly much. I talked to Sam [Branson] about this. In the last week, if we look back at our journals we've started to write about what we're going to do when we get back home. I'm used to traveling, and it's good to be away for certain amounts of time so you can cherish what you have. It's a good sign if you miss home.

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