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Ice Foot

By July 15, 2017Uncategorized

Observation: a small autonomic mercy is that when under severe psychological stress humans tend not to snore. This is one of the small blessings counted as last night as we huddled five in a three person tent to wait out a now-northerly wind. As our morale degraded, the group ENT-situation at least trended up. In 15 days we have fought for a total of 30 miles. 22 of these have come in two days: 12 sledging across the land fast ice of lady franklin bay,and 10 kayaking the day after the hurricane blew most ice to the North. The remaining 8 have been covered in arduous fashion along the ice foot. The entirety of Nares Strait is ringed by an ice foot some 5-30 meters high. As tides move sea ice up and down the coasts, it piles and piles, forming towers of rubble that pack densely on the shoreline. Over time, water fills cracks and gullies in the rubble and freezes, forming a dense wall at the elevation of the average tide. If caught in the open pack, it is a near-impenetrable barrier when the tide is low. At low tides, we attempt to sledge along the now-melting foot, at high tides we try to kayak over it.

Yet conditions are against us. In the 1800s, despite Greelys description of the foot as “terrifying,” “dreaded,” and “feared,” the ice foot was the main mode of transport for Arctic explorers as it was flat and extensive. Now, the thinner, small-floed Arctic sea ice has resulted in a horror show of ridges and valleys, and means horrendous slow going. In 8 days of ice foot travel we have portaged, sledge, kayaked, waded through chest deep Arctic water, flailing all the time through ridges and potholes (Mike leads the team with 10 full tumbles). We have traveled 10 miles in those 8 full, exhausting days.

Still, I type this after 6 hours in which we traveled 2 miles. We sit in a protected ravine behind a 20m high wall of ice on a glorious sunny day. On the other side is fractured and churning pack ice clear to Greenland, that one can, after a climb, sit and observe from the comfort of a courtside seat. For all the complaining, struggle, ardor and pain, the Arctic and its ice retains its ability to stun, and for that we will keep moving, ice foot be damned.