6th March 2005
Well we really sorted it. Called my friends at the RCMP - who got on to the Air
Force - and a kind man called Capt. Jack Simpson. He found two houses that are
used by RCMP and the Air Force to lodge persons for short periods and said we
could have them free. If you don't ask... So we called in the plane and met
Warren our 'eager' pilot. After explaining we'd be flying above the clouds - we
expressed our disappointment. No problem I can fly below the cloud if you like
- but it will be bumpy... Yes we said. We took off and in 10 seconds climbed to
our cruising altitude of 100 feet. LOW LEVEL!!! What a flight - the sensation
of flying 180 knots at this height is something else. Warren then said: I do
special requests too? Oh yes? said I - Well how about we follow the windy river
valley over there? Yep said Warren - A 2G tight turn and in no time we had
trees beyond and above the wing tips. This was flying. And when we ran out of
river we'd swoop over the hill at the end like a wild rollar coaster ride. It
went on. We circled Carribou and even a wolf. Awesome. Another time we saw over
1000 carribou migrating across a lake. Amazing. We landed well after dark... To
be presented with a 'welcome letter' from our RCMP/Air Force friends - a truck
at our disposal (Jacks' personal vehicle) - a list of restaurants to visit -
keys and map to our houses - WOW - and was the accomodation good? Oh yes. Later
we met Capt. Jack: Hey you guys, I looked for you on the radar. I never saw
your plane approach Yellowknife. How'd you get here? Oh we came in low level -
Low level, you must have been scraping the floor! We were. - Thank you Warren
and Jack for making our last day so fantastic! - Now enjoying hot showers, beer
and in no time we will be packing for home. Must dash for now. Arriving midday
at Heathrow on Tuesday. Northern hospitality has re-kindled our faith and hope
in human spirit - shown us how kind people can be - and the trust that can be
given. - Would you lend your personal truck to help a bunch of strangers...?
Thanks for supporting the Great Bear Lake Challenge - everyone.
5th March 2005
The GBL expedition is having difficulties locating accomodation in Yellowknife
right now. Apparently the town is fully booked up with Japanease tourists
hoping to glimpse the Northern Lights. (Good luck I say! - There seems to be a
whole lot of white out and cloud around this year!) So, if we cannot resolve
this, we will stay on in Deline another night and fly back tomorrow. Point of
interest today: A local man called John, took some of the team ice fishing.
Most interesting to watch; they drill two holes in the lake and then by drawing
a net between the holes under the ice, they catch about 30 herring overnight.
It's a tough exsistence, but essential and effective. We continually find the
people of Deline some of the most hospitable people we have ever met.
Everywhere they stop us in the stores or in the street to ask about our
journey. It's great people care so much. the population is around 550 people -
150 are of school age - one close community. This morning - if it wasn't enough
to give us use of their school - they even brought us breakfast! Another
benefit of the school, is how we can dry all our kit... Right now, some of the
team are down at the medical centre, treating a few minor frost-nips etc.
whilst others are being interviewed on CBC television for the main Canadian
news. The TV networks seem to have gone a real bundle on the story. whilst I
check out our next move. All is well. This has been a very safe, happy and
successful expedition. Fiona and I are absolutely impressed with everyone's
performance - a big well done to our team!!!
5th March 2005
The 'Grizzlies' have arrived at Deline (Fort
Franklin). The call was even shorter to-day as the cold is 'ferocious'. As yet
I do not know the conditions of yesterday's travel or time of arrival. What I
do know, is that North Wright Airways are sending a plane to pick them up at
15.30.hrs. Canadian time to take them to Yellowknife. They have done
fantastically well, finishing a day ahead of schedule, but unfortunately it
would seem that there is no accommodation for them until tomorrow night.
Yellowknife is heaving ! What can everybody be up to I wonder? Are we missing
Michael describes their arrival as follows: 'As we set foot in Deline,
motorists stopped their cars and pedestrians walked up to us to find out what
we had been doing. They were absolutely gobsmacked. We were immediately invited
into their Community Centre, given sandwiches and hot drinks. Raymond, one of
the elders welcomed us into Deline and gave us the use of the school to dry out
our gear. In the evening, we joined the locals in a get together and were
officially welcomed into the community. Their hospitality was truly amazing!
The elders searched their records and could find no evidence of any one having
crossed Great Bear Lake on foot before, confirming my own belief.'
Mary - More news as soon as I receive it.
WELL DONE YOU GRIZZLIES! WE ARE ALL VERY PROUD OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENT.
4th March 2005
Report from Mike...
Position 65.13 123.00 Yesterday, we covered 11.9 nautical miles in 7 hours. The
day started again as a 'white-out', so navigation by compass yet again!
Conditions improved from time to time, so we saw the sun several times. It was
tough going because the snow on the ice is soft and about a foot thick. To
facilitate progress, it was decided to walk in a line, rather like a chain
gang. The leader had the task of flattening the snow to enable a smoother
passage for those following. As this was hard work, every 15 minutes the leader
went to the back of the line! This made a challenging schedule easier.
(A.A.Milne describes an expedition as a " long line of everybody", which
describes precisely what they were doing.) It also helps everyone keep
together. Fortunately, although it was windy, it was from behind. Even so, the
wind-chill factor reduced the temperature to minus 42deg.C, making the stops
for refreshment very chilling.
We are coming to the end of our trek - only 10.9 miles to Deline(Fort
Franklin), and we are determined to finish today (Friday - about midnight UK
time). Morale is as good as ever, - we have a fantastic team.
Watch this space for news of the final day's journey tomorrow.
3rd March 2005
Report from Mike...
Position 65.26.N 122.17 W. Yesterday, after pulling for seven hours, we covered
10.6 nautical miles, really hard going as we are nearer to land, and the snow
at a foot thick, caused the sledges to drag in-spite of their lighter loads.
Persistence was the order of the day in order to achieve our target. There was
no wind and once again the landscape was featureless, which made navigation
difficult without frequent references to the compass. After two hours however,
the horizon made an appearance and lifted our spirits. It felt cold at -35C
with wind-chill. We have now skied 83.9 nautical miles, and have 18.5 left. If
all goes well, we should reach Fort Franklin at approximately 7pm Canadian time
on Friday, 4th March. This morning we had a potentially dangerous situation. We
were burning our rubbish as usual when one of the bags exploded and burnt the
lower legs of Mark's wind suit. He suffered no ill effects and his legs are now
encased in duct-tape! All's well, but it goes to show that you can never be too
careful in this supremely hostile environment. Love to family and friends. xxx
2nd March 2005
We left George Islands and walked yet again in a whiteout for six and a half
hours, covering 11.4 nautical miles. The weather cleared briefly to give us a
glimpse of the Northern Lights, a pity that there was a thin layer of cloud,
but at least it was something. In spite of the good mileage, one or two had to
dig really deep to maintain progress. It's hard going when you have to rely
totally on compasses for direction, you can't see anything! We should complete
our trek by Friday evening local time. Present position 65. 26N. 122.17W.
When everyone has arrived at the intended campsite, duvet coats go on
immediately. Tent erection begins. The selected cook starts arranging the bags
inside whilst the tent is being erected. Sledges are strapped down and I remain
outside to check guy-ropes and that all is satisfactory. We then settle down to
have soup. This is followed by dinner and usually two hot drinks. The whole
process takes time as snow has to be melted to provide us with water. After the
meal we attend to any medical problems and check equipment. We have a natter,
write journals and read. Bedrolls are brought out and then it's time for sleep.
It's surprising how long the whole procedure takes, but we have very little
space for manoeuvre, and great care has to be taken around the stove. We are
usually settled by 10pm, and we rise at 6.30am.
1st March 2005
We have had fantastic skiing to-day, but no views as once again it's a
whiteout. The team is strong and we manage to keep together which really helps
progress. After six and a half hours of travelling, we covered 11.5 nautical
miles and reached the George Islands. It was a bit like landing on Mars; we
moved off the lake through pressure ridges and there we were on land, bits of
twigs sticking up through the snow, a solitary radio mast and nothing else! We
pulled our sledges up to the top of the hill and were treated to a wonderful
sunset. Maybe we could plug in a television here now that we have an aerial.
Major event to night was Natasha burning her pants as she was drying out her
clothes. Morale is excellent and in spite of one or two hiccups, we are
enjoying our new experience.
Report from Michael...
Michael reports position as 126.96.36.199. 45 nautical miles to go. Temperature
-24 with wind-chill relatively mild, but it is yet another whiteout.
28th February 2005
To-day much milder than yesterday, positively tropical at -10 (-18 with
wind-chill). The snow was reasonably smooth and we skied a record 12 nautical
miles. For those of you who are interested, 1 nautical mile = 1.151 statute
miles. We are therefore ahead of schedule by 2 n. miles which means that we
have a reasonable chance of making camp at George Islands to-morrow night.
These two small islands are halfway down the Keith Arm. Visibility is good and
Grizzly Bear Mountain can be seen to the south of us. Lots of love to family
Skiing up the Keith Arm makes us realise the size of this lake. It's about
twice the width of the English Channel in places and this arm is only one of
four! We are able to see the land as it is at an approximate height of 2000
feet. This morning, Monday 28th of February, our position is 65.42.-121.38. the
wind is from the east. Total mileage is 50.4 n. miles, (58 statute miles). Just
27th February 2005
Hello all you supporters,
Michael reports that yesterday, Saturday,26th February was tough going. Wind
was force 4 but fortunately behind them, however the temperatureof -28C became
-50 with the windchill. They were surprised to encounter a large pressure ridge
at the northerly edge of the Keith Arm, but as Michael points out this lake is
huge and the underlying currents must be strong. There were lots of booms and
cracks as they progressed which Janet found unnerving, but this movement within
the ice itself is a natural phenomenon in Arctic conditions. Inspite of
everything good progress was made and in six and a half hours another 10.9
nautical miles were chalked up. This morning, Sunday, position reads 65.51.
121.20. It's rather cloudy but once again our fabulous team are ready to rock
and roll. By to-night if all goes according to plan, they will be more or less
at the halfway point. Incredible when you think that four members of this team
are totally new to this type of trek.
Mary and Roger
26th February 2005
phone message from Jo...
We walked for six and a half hours and covered 10.3 nautical miles in whiteout
conditions, really good progress. Part way through the morning there was quite
an alarming incident; lots of noise as the ice cracked and moved around us; we
were aware of gurgling sounds as water churned. We managed to negotiate our
way, but must admit it was an amazing experience. Mark was listening to his
walkman and singing, completely unaware of what was happening! Temperature -14C
but down to-22C with wind-chill. This morning it's much colder, -30C (-40with
wind-chill) but the sun is shining and we can actually see land about four
miles away at Etacho Point. Our present position is 66.0 121. 05. The views in
this clear weather are beautiful. It's 08.15 and we are ready to move. Love to
our families and friends.
25th February 2005
Sat phone message from Mark...
Beautiful sunrise! Walked 10.2 nautical miles in six and a half hours, a
cracking pace and bang on schedule. Position 66.09 120. 51. All coping well
with tent life and dehydrated meals, except one person who shall be nameless
who managed to confuse Horlicks with Ready Brek. Scenery much like Antactica,
but obviously flat; after all we are walking on water! This morning,
25.02.2005, it is whiteout, and there is an accumulation of about 10cms of
snow, far from ideal, but we are about to move and see how we cope. Good
spirits prevail. Love to everyone.
24th February 2005
phone message from Janet...
This is it! All preparations complete. We boarded the Otter and had a most
amazing flight to our starting point at Cape Macdonnel. Nathan the newsman
accompanied us to film the beginning of our trek. Everyone was excited and
eager to move. Conditions good, only a few inches of snow on the ice in
comparison to two metres on Great Slave Lake. We managed to walk for five hours
covering seven miles. This morning it's relatively warm -7C. Position 66. 17 N.
120. 36W. Wind from the east blowing at eleven knots. All well and in good
23rd February 2005
Team have just landed at Cape MacDonnel. It's very
windy and they are starting the trek immediately. Call very brief. Hopefully,
more news of conditions tomorrow.
22nd February 2005
Tash says we are all rather excited now - the girls
have sung many a song from Grease so sure sign we are in high spirits! Busy day
with packing sledges, sorting kit, counting out chocolate bars and salami
rations, practising putting up the tents and Fi and I meeting the RCMP - Royal
Canadian Mounted Police who assured us the Bears would all be in hibernation!
Dropped off the sledges at Air Tindi and saw the twin otter plane which will
fly us to GBL tomorrow; we were also interviewed by Canadian TV in all our
polar gear, so an eventful day and we haven't even left yet! Weather mild at
minus 15 - hopefully will stay like that but doubtful... Setting off very early
tomorrow morning for flight to our starting point - last night in a comfy bed
for a while...so Over and Out!
|Monday 21st February 2005
Having been fired from The Bramley newspaper, it's a
privilege to relay a few words. Temperature
touched - 30C, so training was serious. Took two sledges across Great Slave
Lake for a couple of hours and the depth of snow was a big challenge adding
much drag - although we found no signs of overflow water thankfully. The good
news is, that spirits were high and everyone coped. Saw a Parhelion with sun
dogs on the return journey - a rainbow halo around the sun created by tiny snow
particles - awesome. The highlight
of the day was Sirion P getting a golden-shower from Spot the B + B dog - from
the overhead balcony. Final preparations tomorrow - then we're ready to rock
|Monday 21st February 2005
Weather cold and clear with a temperature of minus
29C. All team members have been skiing on Great Slave Lake to test the ice
conditions. This has been difficult because the snow covering is two metres
deep, whereas before it was only 5cms.
Today they are going to spreadout across the lake to
get a better idea of conditions. Mike is going to contact the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police to find out if the situation at Great Bear Lake is any
different. Despite the unforeseen circumstances, everyone is happy and well.
|Sunday 20th February
All arrived safe and sound and in fine spirits - and
most important no bags missing. - Always the big concern with trips like this!
It seems several people remember our Great Slave trip of 03 which is nice.
We all walked into town to a restaurant called
'Bullocks.' Great fresh fish and a few team bonding beers - the girls all had
empty legs... We learned conditions are far from ideal this year. Apparently
the Great Slave Lake is nothing like so well frozen this as normal - only two
to three feet - last time it was eight feet thick! Yes global warming is here
too. - Anyway matters have been compounded by unusually deep snow - which has
the effect of pushing the ice below the water level in places - causing big
over flows of water running underneath the snow (but on top of the main
This doesn't mean we are in any particular danger of
falling completely through the ice or anything, but it does mean there are
numerous hidden pools of water under the snow which could seriously bog us
down. So, tomorrow we are going to make more enquiries about it and see how
much of a challenge to our plans it all is and whether Great Bear Lake is
likely to be in the same state. Apparently such conditions have not been seen
quite like this in 15 years. Polar trips are always a challenge... Lets' see
what tomorrow brings...
|Saturday 19th February
||Michael and Fiona with six team members left
Heathrow today for Calgary, where they will stay overnight. Tomorrow they will
fly to Yellowknife arriving approximately 09 42 local time. Here they will
finalise their preparations for the trek across Great Bear Lake. We spoke to
them at Heathrow as they were checking in their baggage. All are well and in