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 Guacamole time, first meal at home

Guacamole time, first meal at home

by John Huston

We have all arrived back home and it’s an awesome feeling, as well as strange in many ways.

It’s good to be home and with my family! My wife and I have so much to talk about and to catch up on, but for now it’s just so nice to share the typical little experiences of day-to-day life with each other.

There’s quite a bit of recalibration that takes place when you arrive back home and encounter surroundings and routines that you know well, but haven’t thought about in three months.

The first time I used my computer it took me a few minutes to get the feel of the keyboard and mouse. Our family’s 40-pound, short-haired dog looked absolutely tiny compared to the team’s skijor dogs. Everything outside looks incredibly lush and green. After 65 days of having very little choice in diet, opening the fridge can be overwhelming at first.

My metabolism has slowed down and I feel like I get stuffed too easily now.

My goal is to take the re-entry slowly, once you jump back into the pool fully that wonderful post-expedition glow can vanish quickly. Already the ice of Ellesmere seems a long way away, so I aim to keep a good balance of work, play, and relaxation for the next few weeks.

 John will be speaking at a Chicago Voyagers fundraiser on June 20.

John will be speaking at a Chicago Voyagers fundraiser on June 20.

My first public presentation will take place at the Chicago Voyagers Annual Fundraiser next Thursday, June 20, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Northside Bar & Grill (1635 N. Damen Ave, Chicago). More information at: ChicagoVoyagers.org.

It’s going to be a fun evening that benefits for a great organization. Admission is $25 (which gets you appetizers and 1 drink). There is a raffle and silent auction, which will include some expedition goodies as well as lots of other items.

Chicago Voyagers empowers at-risk youth through outdoor experiential adventures that foster healthy relationships and responsible behavior. I work with them as an ambassador, visit school groups, and help out however I can. This summer I’ll join a few weekend excursions too.

More to come…

FINAL FLIGHTS

FINAL FLIGHTS

Ready for Summer

by John Huston

Hugh has reunited with his lovely family and the rest of us have departed Ottawa and are en route to ours. So the New Land 2013 team has parted ways for now.

We absolutely enjoyed our time together. The team vibe was totally awesome and we are super-thankful and appreciative of each other for that… we got along so well both socially and operationally.

Every day we laughed, joked around, ate well, solved problems, made decisions together, learned from each other, put up with each others’ idiosyncrasies, took care of each other, and worked to makes each others’ jobs easier. We had a few tough decisions and discussions to wade through out there, but that was expected, accepted, and never negative.

Yesterday afternoon Hugh’s family hosted a BBQ in his backyard for their friends and us. It was really fun to get together with the large Ottawa contingent that supported us in so many ways – from making us super-high calorie chocolate bars (630 kcal per 100 g), to helping locate the last few bits of equipment, to assisting with shuttling our massive pile of duffle bags all over the place.

The big feeling for us at the moment is the enjoyable mellow tiredness and detached mental slowness that comes at the end of a big expedition that exists parallel to the relatively noisy hubbub of normal day-to-day life. These past few days everything around us just seems to move faster than we are, it’s nice and relaxing in a way.

Kyle spent the last 48 hours backing up our over 50 hours of video and over 4000 photos onto various hard drives. Hats off to him for that and for deftly handling the filming duties – no easy task when it’s your first time on a polar trip and you are harnessed to a pulling machine named Axel. Kyle worked harder than any of us out there, was a quick study, and a pro behind the camera.

Shorts and t-shirts are a welcome change from our expedition garb, but we’re really not looking forward to the full heat of summer all that much, temperatures in the 60s and 70s (16° to 24° C) is plenty. Our bodies are calibrated to the cold, so hopefully spring stays around a bit longer.

More to come soon.

OFF THE ICE

OFF THE ICE

 Waiting for the Plane

Waiting for the Plane

by John Huston

After 65 days on the ice the New Land 2013 Expedition to Ellesmere Island has come to an end. This morning at 9:45 a.m. we boarded our charter DeHavilland Twin Otter bound for Resolute and are now at the hotel in Resolute.

We’d like to thank our primary sponsors Bergans of Norway, makers of technical outdoor clothing and equipment since 1908, and Devold, makers of wool long underwear and sweaters since 1853.

 Hugh's View on Today's Flight

Hugh's View on Today's Flight

In total we skijored over 511 nautical miles, or roughly 608 street miles, on Ellesmere Island and Axel Heiberg Island. The ski conditions were totally awesome and the views were even better. To immerse ourselves in this land and travel through it at the beautiful pace set by sled dog and ski has been truly a special experience. We’ve fallen in love with our dogs and this landscape much in the same way that Otto Sverdrup and the men on the Second Fram Expedition did over 100 years ago.

Our wildlife encounters far exceeded our expectations. Here's the final numbers:

We'll spend the next week in Resolute and Iqaluit and further south in Ottawa packing up and cleaning up before flying home. So this blog will continue as before in the near term. The expedition is over, but we have tons of work to do. We have got to shuffle through all of our video and photos and lots of post-expedition processing and we have to put together the documentary film.

We'd also like to thank all of our generous sponsors and supporters. We’d like to thank the wonderful staff of the Eureka Weather Station, our home team staff and our families. Without your support this project wouldn’t be possible. So on behalf of Toby, Kyle, Hugh, Elle, Axel, Napu, Larry, and myself, thanks for following along, and we'll have some more blogs coming your way shortly.

FINAL FUN FACTS

FINAL FUN FACTS

 An Iceberg Off of Ellesmere Island

An Iceberg Off of Ellesmere Island

by John Huston

We have successfully crossed Eureka Sound and a few small cracks in the ice along the way and have now reached our final campsite of the expedition and our pickup flight is scheduled for sometime on Monday, weather pending.

So in honor of our last campsite and a little bit of celebration that's going on, we have another edition of the New Land 2013 Expedition Fun Facts, featuring Toby, Kyle, Hugh and myself and Elle the dog who is in the tent helping us celebrate at the moment. OK, after the facts there will be a few more blogs and you can follow us on the plane and then onward toward home. So Toby is going to start off the expedition facts session. Here you go, Toby.

Toby: Thank you.

  • So, the first fun fact is the number of cups of coffee that I’ve drunk during the trip and the total number is 147.
  • And the number of days that I have skied with Napu is 64 so that is almost all the days of the entire trip.
  • And my favorite section of the trip must be our way through Trold Fjord and the Trold Fjord passage. (And that was just Napu screaming in the background if you heard that).
  • My favorite thing to do while skiing is to look for wildlife. I do that constantly.
  • And my favorite springtime gear has been the Bergans Active Light Jacket and Devold Wool Mesh Top.
  • Now some of you might remember, I weighed in at 209 pounds at the airport in Ottawa before the trip after I successfully had gained a lot weight before the trip. My weight today at Eureka Weather Station was 186 pounds.
 Toby & Elle Relax in the Tent

Toby & Elle Relax in the Tent

John: Next up with his rendition of expedition facts is Kyle.

Kyle: Hello, my expedition facts

  • The number of gigabytes of memory I've used so far on this trip is one terabyte.
  • The number of books I've read on my Kindle is five.
  • The number of times I’ve fallen due to the overzealous Axel pulling me over is at least 15.
  • Lessons, two lessons, I’ve learned from polar travel:
  1. The first is to get really angry when you’re warming your hands by waving them around. That's the only way to do it sometimes.
  2. And the second lesson is that the devil is in details. Do the small things properly.
  • And the number of hours I've spent looking through the camera viewfinder so far is roughly 45.
  • And I can’t read John’s handwriting. Back to John.

John: OK, next up with his facts before we get to myself and then the dogs’ facts, is Hugh Dale-Harris. By the way, Hugh likes dogs.

Hugh: OK, let’s see here,

  • The number of times I've crooned, “Little Larry,” to Larry, at the start of each travel day, about 20 or more.
  • Walks on the land I’ve taken, at least 26.
  • Number of times I have rolled the tent neatly, at least 45.
  • Typical number of sleds pulled in the second half of the expedition that would be 3. Back to John.

John: Hugh is a real good sled puller and a good eater.

John: All right, facts for myself, John Huston,

  • Favorite section of the trip is Trold Fjord and overland crossing following it.
  • Total number cups of coffee I drank the whole time is four cups, all decaf.
  • Number of spices I typically add to meals is three to five, which will always include salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, and then some others sometimes.
  • Number of nicknames I give to my skijor companion Elle, that's unlimited. She gets a lot of different nicknames.
  • Number of days I say to myself, “Wow, I really love to ski,” is every single day, so that would be 66 or 65.
  • And what occupies my mind during travel days is route finding.
  • Then lastly is the maximum number of chocolate bars, 630 calories each, that I ate in one day was five, the record equaled by Mr. Kyle O’Donoghue.

John: OK, up next we have facts for our dogs, so I’ll just continue with Elle

  • Elle’s favorite morning routine, get let off the chain and jump in the tent to wake everybody up.
  • Her favorite thing to do while on the ski march is to follow rabbit tracks and fox tracks in random directions.

Next up we have Toby with Napu.

Toby: OK, so,

  • Napu’s favorite time to bellow in control of me is just before the dogs are getting fed and that is usually right when we pull into camp and we put them on their chains and they know exactly what is going to happen and Napu lets us all know that he wants to get fed right away.
  • And Napu is also hereby awarded the award for digging the most and the biggest holes in camp.

Kyle: All right, here are my main facts for Axel

  • His main role on this trip with me has been my assistant director of filmmaking as he loves to sit under the tripod when I get off to film.
  • The number of times he has stopped on first command, zero.

Hugh: OK, Larry,

  • # of times he's honked his horn per day, that’s what we call when he barks when we’re stopping & he wants to get going, 60.
  • Favorite thing to do at breaks, he loves to go and hang out with his sister Elle and John upfront.

John: OK, thanks everybody. So we’re enjoying our final days on the ice and we're looking forward to coming home soon. Thanks for listening.

PLAYOFF BEARDS

PLAYOFF BEARDS

Expedition beards.

by John Huston

In honor of the last few days of our wonderful trip here, we decided it’s time to share with you our wonderful, and not so wonderful, expedition beards, or lack of them in some cases.    

So, it also parallels the NHL playoffs, where players don’t cut their beards in hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. So we have with us our hats of our favorite NHL teams. So start with Toby. He is a Vancouver Canucks fan, sorry about that, Toby. And he has a nice fat beard though. He normally wears a beard, so you can see the confidence he has with the somewhat thicker version. The fun fact about Toby is he uses more toothpaste than anyone else on the expedition by far. Never had a cavity though. Next up is Hugh, who is from Ottawa, Ontario, and he is, of course, an Ottawa Senators fan. He normally has a beard as well, so he’s right at home with his current facial hair experience. And his is a little bit longer looking than Toby’s. The fun fact about Hugh is that dude can really put away the food. He can eat a ton.

And after Hugh we’ve got Kyle. Kyle is new to a lot of things, including growing beards, but he has a little measly mustache below his lip and above his lip. You can see that he’s not that happy about that fact and a little embarrassed with his facial hair in the photo you see. He’s wearing a Florida Panthers’ hat. He doesn’t know that hockey is even a sport, but he does know now because we told him that the Florida Panthers are the southern most hockey team in the NHL to correspond with his South African roots. And myself, I’m a Blackhawks fan. I have a nice bleached blonde goatee-looking thing on my face that Toby is proud of and I don’t know what it looks like because I don’t look in a mirror up here.

So, another side note with our beard-growing contest is that Otto Sverdrup is the king of the anvil-looking beard, and you can see that in the photo. So we wanted to see who could get closest to Otto. And without a doubt the winner in that contest is our dog Napu. Way to go on that, Napu.

Otto Sverdrup

Beard champion – Napu.

So we’re about to cross Eureka Sound headed towards Eureka Weather Station in a few days. We’re going to spend the next several days doing a lot of filming and wrapping up our project, spending a little time walking on the land, enjoying our final time out in this beautiful country before we had south. Thanks for listening, everybody.

Daily Expedition Data
Date: 5/29/13, Day 60
Location: 80°01'N, 87°54'W
Traveled: 6.5 hours, 11.6 miles
Temperatures: 22°F am, 35°F pm

FOSSIL FOREST

FOSSIL FOREST

Kyle checks out a stump

by John Huston

Hi, everybody, from the first outdoor picnic dinner of the New Land 2013 expedition. We had an outdoor picnic breakfast this morning as well and that’s a sign that spring is fully in gear.

A lot of sunshine, and as you know we’ve been traveling at nighttime and sleeping during the daytime. We have some cooler weather for the dogs and for us. We’re camped on a beautiful wide braided river valley that is close to this fossil forest that we’ve been talking about. And we’ve been visiting that over the past 36 hours. It’s been a really cool experience.

Here are some facts about the forest, according to Wikipedia:

  • It’s dated to 40 to 50 million years old.
  • It was first investigated in 1985.
  • Wikipedia says that at the time the polar climate was warm, but winters were still continuously dark for three months long.
  • As a tree fell, the fine sediment in which the forest grew protected the plant. Instead of turning into petrified stone fossils, they were ultimately mummified by the cold dry Arctic climate, and only recently exposed by erosion.

The forest is a large area. It sits on the hillside of several kind of muddy, dirty-looking mountains that are mostly covered by snow as we’re seeing them. And as you’ll see in the photos, what the forest consists of right now is basically charred-looking tree stumps that look very, very similar to charred wood as you could find at home.

Fossil tree stump

But it’s really cool to think about the forest and the whole different ecosystem that was here 40 million years ago. I guess the trees have been identified as kind of early, or dawn, redwoods mixed in with some pine and some spruce and other species. The redwoods back then could grow up to 30 meters or over 100 feet tall. It’s a really special place, totally different era, 40 million years ago. I’m sure it was beautiful and we have beautiful views here. The government of Nunavut is planning to protect this area and turn it into a park.

So it’s kind of been a side trip, and we’re headed to Eureka. It will take us about four short days to get there and the expedition will finish up on Day 66, which will be June 4th. More to come soon, and thanks for listening.

Daily Expedition Data
Date: 5/27/13, Day 58
Location: 79°56'N, 88°55'W
Traveled: 3.5 hours, 5.4 miles
Temperatures: 32°F am, 32°F pm

TOBY AND NAPU

TOBY AND NAPU

 Napu

Napu

by Tobias Thorleifsson

Hello, this is Toby calling in. It is today the 56th day of our expedition, and we had a very good day from over 14 nautical miles down Flat Sound. And we are now in the next couple of days going to broach these very interesting 14 million years old fossilized forests, excuse me, petrified forests on Axel Heiberg Island.

It’s an overland trip and we are very hopeful that there is going to be enough snow for us to make it in there. But today I want talk about my nearest colleague on this trip.

 Toby, Day 56

Toby, Day 56

Ever since the start I have been skijoring with Napu and Napu is a big, big dog. He is the oldest dog on the team, he’s seven years old, and he is also a very strong dog. In the first few weeks Elle was in heat and Napu had nothing else on his mind but to get to Elle. So this obviously created a bit of discussion between me and him and also a few arguments about, “Back,” as he would thrust forward at any given moment in order to get to her. But throughout the expedition he has become a very good friend and he’s a very loving and caring dog. He’s not the greatest intellectual, I’ll admit, but he’s always, always there and works hard every single day.

All the Inuit dogs are really aware at all times about the directions they want to go. Napu wants to pull, but he’s not always sure in what direction that is going to be, which has led to some comical situations where you’ve got to go, most of the time, left of where everyone else is going. So we always say on trip, there is the main trail and then there is Napu’s trail. I have to follow Napu’s trail, and that’s OK. I’m really looking forward to working with Napu on the next little while here towards the end and I’m sure he’s looking forward to the summer of rest in Iqaluit when he gets home in not too long. And I have to say, not only am I proud of Napu, but I’m also happy to say that John’s beard is continuing to grow and those who are waiting for him in Chicago have something to look forward to. OK, that’s all from me now, over and out, Toby.

Daily Expedition Data
Date: 5/26/13, Day 57
Location: 79°59'N, 88°30'W
Traveled: 7.25 hours, 7 miles
Temperatures: 20°F am, 34°F pm