We’ve all brought reading material for our journey and good thing too with the forced layovers we’ve been experiencing. Three books of most interest doing the rounds in the cabin are Pierre Berton’s Arctic tome: “The Arctic Grail: the quest for the North West passage and the North Pole 1818-1909″, Bruce Macdonald’s “North Star of Herschel Island” and Barry Lopez’s modern masterpiece of Arctic observation “Arctic Dreams”.

The one concept we’ve gleaned from these books, defined by the simple statement put forward by Lopez, is “to travel in the arctic is to wait”.

Arctic Joule 3

Historical expeditions through the Northwest Passage were always defined by long episodes of waiting, waiting for weather, waiting for ice, waiting for the passage to let them through. Our expedition is no different. And so we wait.

The limiting factor for us – so far anyhow – is not the ice choking the route ahead but rather the wind strafing it. For a vessel under sail or motor the winds hampering us now would be of little consequence. But for our human powered row boat strong easterlies and north easterlies stymy us, claw at our speed, gnaw at our souls.

If I think back to the toughest moments of my expeditions of past, they always seem to revolve around a forced holdup: tent bound just a stone throw from the South Pole, running out of food, running out of time; storm bound on the edge of Bering Sea ice, needing to cross it, it ready to break up; flooded out on a running expedition across South America, almost finished and no route through. All episodes frustrating, all episodes out of our control.

The Arctic takes the concept of the forced wait to an altogether different level, however. You know when a culture and a people have a specific word to describe a specific action, it bears heavily on their life. Southerners have no word like the Inuit word Quinuituq. ‘Deep patience’ is something the Inuit understand, is something they live and now we, as Arctic travellers, are coming to terms with too.  – Paul

Frank walking to shore
Photo:  Frank walking the shore line