Thursday, March 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #119: Axel Heiberg



Log #1: March 10, 2011
Location: 79°26′N 090°46′W

There’s not much up here; so little in fact, that I was starting to doubt the validity of this excursion. The thought had occurred to me, and not for the first time, that we might have been mislead.

I flew into Toronto almost three months ago and met up with my team at the Royal York. We spent a day gearing up with deep Arctic equipment: clothing, tents, sleeping gear, non-perishable food. We collect the rest en-route, but we needed to ensure the base supplies. We spent a week in the city drinking and doing some light site seeing. I figured it was okay to let the team blow off some steam because it could be the last chance they had for quite some time. Six angry men is not an efficient team, and I needed each of them, and their specialties, to be prepared. Against my better judgment, I have also added two women to the team, a geologist and a doctor. I am hoping that professionalism will overrule any potential friction between the different members: call me old fashioned, but on an excursion such as this, men and women often mix like oil and water.

On our last day in Toronto, I spoke briefly with our expedition’s benefactor (he says hello) and he directed me to a contact who would meet us in a place called Cochrane and take us the rest of the way from there. He also said that he had secured the McGill Arctic Research Station, which would act as our base of operations.

We took a chartered flight from Toronto to a place called North Bay, then transferred over to two smaller planes that got us to Cochrane where we met our contact at Ducks On The Roof, a rundown sports bar. The following day, we traveled to Moosonee by train. From there we flew to Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, then on to Repulse Bay where we refueled before continuing to Pond Inlet at the Northern tip of Baffin Island.

A plodding boat ride eventually landed us in Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island where our guide discretely inquired about our destination. The people he talked to said they had seen no one in these parts, but that weird lights had been noticed on Axel Heiberg. They also mentioned rumblings in the ground (from the digging, or could it simply be related to the growing instability in the earth’s plates?) and seemed concerned.

That was nearly nineteen days ago and we have traveled by every means known to man to reach our current location. We are at the Research Station now and while there’s not much to it: a small research hut, cookhouse, and pair of temporary structures easily accommodates our team and it is nice having a roof over our heads.

The weather has been miserable and upon our arrival on the island, we were snowed in for eight days straight. We set up shifts to keep the door clear of snow, and also to ward off the polar bears that we have spotted periodically throughout our journey.

The thermometers have registered an average temperature of -42°C and we have been operating in whiteout conditions since we left Ellesmere, but I am optimistic that the tides will soon turn. We are nearing the mid-point in March and this cannot persist much longer. The team is tired already, but they are looking forward to the mission.

Today is our first clear day, and by extension, the first time I have been able to uplink to send you a report. We are doing some preliminary recon today and will follow up with a field excursion over the next few days. The meteorological centre is calling for a week of clear skies and we do not want to miss this opportunity.

Have faith in the mission. If they are out there, we will find them.


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