Race Against Mother Nature: Arctic Great Escape

Aug 21, 2012 11:47am
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Credit: Eric Coomes

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when they said there was a crack in the ice, but there was a slight air of panic about it because this was ice we needed to cross in order to make it back to land.

We were in the Arctic off the coast of Canada, about a five-hour snowmobile ride northeast of a tiny town called Pond Inlet. Just to give you some perspective on how remote Pond Inlet is, there is a one-room airport, which must have been about 1,000-square feet max, not including the dirt runway.

Now that you have that image, we were four hours (by snowmobile) away in an even more remote area on the Arctic Ocean, sleeping in tents. The only thing that separated us from the 1,000 feet of water was about three to four feet of frozen ice.

I had just gone to bed (in a place where at this time of year in never gets dark) when “Nightline” producer Alex Waterfield tells me we are going to have to leave first thing in the morning because there is a crack in the ice separating us from our return to Pond Inlet.

“Great,”  I said, with heavy sarcasm.

But keep in mind, he said “crack.”

When I picture a crack, I envision a crack in an egg or a crack in the sidewalk. A crack, by definition, is not necessarily something I would panic about. Panic would be saved for much larger words like gap or chasm or breach. But I digress. So we wake up the next morning, pack up the camp and head out in a caravan of makeshift boats on sleds being pulled by snowmobiles.

PHOTOS: Tracking the Elusive Narwhal

What does give me pause is all the water I see along the way. What was seemingly frozen ice just a few days prior on my journey to the campsite, appears to have melted significantly in just a short time. At times I wondered if we would be better off being pulled by sea-doos instead of ski-doos.

I must admit, as a person who really doesn’t get concerned in dangerous situations (i.e. going into the path of a hurricane, or sleeping on the frozen Arctic when the only thing protecting us from becoming a tasty treat for a polar bear is a scruffy little dog named Ferdinand, or say riding along in a New York City cab) I started to think about the potential awful outcomes of getting stranded in the middle of the Arctic, miles too far from civilization for a scream or even a flare for the matter would do much good.

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Credit: Eric Coomes

 

So four hours into our trip, we arrive at the “crack.” Believe me to use the word “chasm” even would have been an understatement. This is a full on lake.

I took one look and thought surely they would need to bring a large boat to help us across. But there was no boat. Not so much as a life vest even. Just our trusty snowmobiles, a bit of rope and a whole lot of prayer.

The snowmobiles somehow managed to jump the “crack.” They went first. Then we threw them our rope. They then tied the rope to the back of their snowmobile, which was already on the other side of the “crack.” I held on for dear life and thought about the misfortune that if things went terribly wrong, there would be videotape of how things ended so tragically for me.

But our Inuit guides know exactly what they are doing. This was, by far, not their first rodeo. Aside from the back end of our makeshift wooden boat on skis dipping in the Arctic Ocean a little longer and deeper than I would have imagined, we made it. An answered prayer.

Watch Linsey’s full journey HERE:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

 

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