Our arrival in Tuktoyaktuk to our departure is less than 24 hours. We rejig the Arctic Joule to work better with our daily routine and resupply on essentials for the next leg of the journey (Hazelnut Coffee Mate being at the top of the list). As with all things, it takes some time to get things right and the journey from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, with all its unexpected delays, proved perfect at flushing things out.

Paul rowing small

The temperature in Tuk is -1C and there’s a strong Northeasterly wind blowing in the morning. Locals tell us it should be 15-20C at this time of year. “The bugs should be bouncing off your head” explained Eilleen who came down to the beach to visit with us.

Strange weather has defined the year we are told. It’s been colder than usual and the ice has been very slow in going out. Climate change critics may quickly point this out as a damning argument but the reality of climate change is not reflected in specific anomaly but rather in overall trend.

The locals in Tuktoyaktuk describe an Arctic that is in profound change. We are told the summer is longer on both ends by at least two weeks. “They shot a grizzly bear at the north end of Banks Island,” explained Billy, a local elder “They saw a wolverine too”.

It would appear many species are making their way further north and the residents are noticing. “Killer whales have been spotted in the channel,” continued Billy, “beavers are damming our rivers, hurting the white fish.”

The words of an elder cuts through the rhetoric of climate skeptics like a scalpel through skin. They know because the live it.

We head out of Tuk in the evening. The temperature is still cool but the winds are light and the sea gentle. The landscape is low lying in this region, the sky being the scenic canvas. This evening’s display is an arcing sweep of white cotton ball dabs on a baby blue background. Strokes of light, etched seemingly from a from a dry brush sweep radially across the canvas, the source of radiance somewhere beyond the frame.

We move well for 20 hours, pushing against a light northeasterly but riding tidal currents to our advantage. We receive a stern warning from our weather router stating unequivocally: “Unwise to move ahead, you are ready for your route but your route is not ready for you.” We immediately tuck into the lee of a sandy spit and access our options.

It would appear that the sea ices not far from us and could be pushed down upon us with these northerly winds. But we need to move as close to the ice edge as possible since we move so slowly and need to be ready to jump when it breaks up. We will maintain forward movement but with heightened caution.

The winds build as we muse on our dilemma and before long we’re hunkering down in high winds again. The sun is now replaced with an icy fog and there’s nothing to do but wait.

Sunday brings high cloud and lighter winds and a renewed sense of vigour in the team. We’ll move forward, with a sharp eye for ice.

- Kevin