(Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic.)

Just 29 and 28 years old, respectively, siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry are already seasoned Arctic adventurers. Having grown up in Iqaluit the children of polar explorers, their missions, including Northwest Passage crossings and visits to both the North and South poles, were encouraged from a young age. “Iqaluit is a place where people train for polar expeditions,” says Eric, “so it’s given us such an edge in the outdoor world.”

It’s an edge the duo relied on repeatedly during their most recent expedition — a two-month-plus kayaking journey across Baffin Island. What made the adventure particularly noteworthy is that the siblings — who were joined by Dr. Katherine Breen, a member of the Wilderness Medical Society, and Erik Boomer, a professional kayaker — travelled in traditional 5.8-metre Inuit kayaks, inspired by 4,000-year-old artefacts. They also made the kayaks by hand, with no nails, screws or glue, bending the wooden struts and sewing thin canvas around the hulls, then coating them in polyurethane.

“There’s such a disconnect between sea kayaking of now and old,” says Eric. “Inuit are the inventors of an entire Olympic sport and don’t get any credit in that.”

The team spent two months building traditional Inuit kayaks at a high school in Iqaluit, Nunavut. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

With funding from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the Genographic Project Legacy Fund, which supports the preservation of indigenous artefacts and farming techniques, the crew crafted their boats at a local Iqaluit high school and held public demonstrations to get the whole community involved.

The expedition began on July 15, 2013, in Qikiqtarjuaq on Baffin’s northern coast, and the team put the kayaks to the test starting at the Weasel River near Pangnirtung. They followed ancient hunting trails and eluded polar bears as they paddled 1,000 kilometres of wild rivers, rocky streams and lakes across the island. They arrived at the shores of Cape Dorset 69 days later to a cheering crowd of locals, fireworks and hot showers.

All four paddlers were amazed by the strength and agility of the boats, particularly while carrying 30 days’ worth of food. Boomer even declared the craft his favourite kayak ever. The adventurers hope their mission will help to revive the traditional tool. Says Eric: “We want people in the North to be proud of what they invented and gave the world.”

Breen shaves down the ribs for her kayak. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry bend the first of 22 ribs into place. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

A nylon fabric is stretched over the kayak and sewn tightly before being covered in a polyurethane coating. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

After being boiled and steamed, the rib quickly hardens. Eric McNair-Landry moves fast to bend the rib into place. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

The expedition team shared stories at a Cape Dorset local school. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

The expedition team worked with classrooms teaching students to build their own model kayaks. (Photo: Katherine Breen)

(Photo: Eric McNair-Landry)

(Photo: Erik Boomer)

(Photo: Eric McNair-Landry)

The team shuttles boats and gear back and forth to complete an eight-kilometre portage. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

Old tent rings left behind by the Inuit. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

(Photo: Erik Boomer)

(Photo: Erik Boomer)

(Photo: Erik Boomer)

The team kayak beside cliffs. (Photo: Katherine Breen)

The team travels while tied to a long rope to avoid the danger of someone falling into a crevasse. (Photo: Katherine Breen)

The ice blew into Cumberland Sound, forcing the team to weave through ice. (Photo: Eric McNair-Landry)

Boomer reels in a huge char. (Photo: Eric McNair-Landry)