May 14, 2008 — -- Explorer Will Steger and six young adventurers in their 20s have been traveling across the Canadian Arctic for the past six 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. Sigrid Ekran, a regular competitor in the Iditarod, joined Steger on this trip. This is her story.
Right now, we're heading up the coast of Axel Heiberg Island, and then we're heading down to Eureka and going home -– only 17 days left.
After competing in the Iditarod, there's less that's new. My lifestyle isn't too far from what we're doing here. I'm from Norway, but usually I live in a cabin in Alaska. I'm used to getting up, eating breakfast and going out and running dogs for about 10 hours a day or more.
There were some new things. I had never seen polar bears before this trip, and that was definitely a new adventure.
It was a new experience to be on sea ice earlier in the expedition. We're definitely running a different kind of sled than I use in the Iditarod. These are bigger and heavier. On a good day, two people on skis hold on to a sled, but because of the bad ice we've had for much of the trip, we ended up running a lot of the time and sometimes breaking skis.
The sleds are heavy, and it's hard to find a good route to get out of the rough ice. Sometimes we'd have to axe a route, and then we have one sled go and then another. We didn't move as fast as we wanted to and sometimes broke skis and damaged the sleds. We thought we were going to have a flatter, easier time out here. But now it's getting warmer and we're on land.
We have to eat a lot of food because we're traveling so much during the day. In the morning, we eat a lot of oatmeal with a stick of butter in every meal. It sounds gross, but out here it's totally normal. Then we have snacks on the trail: chocolate, snack bars and nuts, and some beef jerky. For dinner, we have freeze-dried food and spaghetti, again with a stick of butter. For dessert, it's hot chocolate.
We're not really getting sick of it. You're so hungry, you don't really care, but I don't think I'm going to eat oatmeal and spaghetti for a while when I get home.
This is the longest trip I've ever taken with a group. On these types of trips, it's always people problems that are the worst problems, but we're a really strong group. We're all friends, and that's very important when you're stuck out for two months.
It doesn't feel strange to be only one of two women out here. I'm not used to that many girls around anyway. We feel good; we're part of the group as much of the others. It's nice to have another girl around.
We have about 17 more days left. It's a little scary that it's ending now. It feels really short. I almost wish it was a little longer.