Yellowknife-to-Baffin Island mushing expedition Epic Arctic trek targets global warming
- Epic Arctic trek targets global warming
Yellowknife-to-Baffin Island expedition is joined online by American
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Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Arctic explorer Will Steger, who made the first unsupported dogsled
expedition to the North Pole in the 1980s, now leads the longest known
traverse of Nunavut to raise awareness of climate change.
On the frozen barrenlands of the Northwest Territories, six people and
31 huskies are mushing eastwards today across one of the coldest, most
desolate places on Earth.
This year, in what is likely the last hurrah of his Arctic career,
Steger is leading a 4,800-kilometre trek across northern Canada from
Yellowknife to the eastern shore of Baffin Island -- the longest-known
traverse of Nunavut -- in the hope of raising awareness about the
impact of climate change in Arctic communities.
Accompanying Steger on Arctic Transect 2004 are a Canadian, Hugh
Dale-Harris, a teacher and outdoorsman from Thunder Bay, Ont., as well
as a Danish couple and two other Americans.
Over the next five months, the group intends to press eastwards to the
tiny Nunavut village of Baker Lake, then turn north to the Arctic
Ocean, head across the ice to Baffin Island and down the island's
mountainous Atlantic coast, hopefully reaching the Inuit hamlet of
Pangnirtung by June.
Despite their crushing isolation, the group's progress is being watched
by more than a million American schoolchildren, whose schools have
signed on as regular observers of the expedition. Arctic adventure is
not the lonely pursuit it once was, and the team will use satellite
connections to transmit weekly e-mail reports and digital photographs
of their journey onto the group's Web site, www.polarhusky.com.
During stopovers in five Arctic hamlets, they will also gather
testimonials from local people about the impact of a warming climate on
"Our project is an educational exploration," said Steger. "We want to
bring attention to the way climate change is affecting the Inuit. Once
we pass through these communities, we're hoping to show the rest of the
world that there is an environmental challenge that is affecting the
people of the North, and will eventually affect the South."
Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik issued similar sentiments during a
premiers' conference in 2002, warning his colleagues he could no longer
take his children swimming in the Baffin Island river he once
frequented as a child because its waters had become dangerously swollen
by melting glaciers.