Four years ago, Jon Turk and Erik Boomer circumnavigated Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, using only kayaks and skis on skins. The story of that expedition is now detailed in a soon-to-be-released book that also covers some of Turk’s other, lesser known voyages. In Crocodiles and Ice: A Journey into Deep Wild, available Sept. 15, Turk uses a collection of narratives to explore people’s deep, reciprocal communication with the Earth.
An excerpt from the book is below. The scene opens in camp, on the first night of the Ellesmere Island expedition.
That night, in the safety of the tent, after Boomer borrowed my superior spoon so he wouldn’t melt the Chinese piece-of-s***, one-time-use, coffee-stirring device that he took from the counter at McDonalds, I had time to assess. Now that reality was staring me in the face, like a mother polar bear with bad breath and two cubs behind her, I concluded that this circumnavigation was a really dumb idea. It’s too far. We don’t have enough food. We’ll wear holes in the bottoms of our kayaks dragging them as far as the distance from New York City to McCook, Nebraska—as if anybody ever wanted to go to McCook. Our kayaks are too small. Too loaded down. Too much weight on the deck. We don’t have the foggiest idea what the ice will be like. My skins are screwed on backwards. Boomer’s spoon is going to break. He’s too young and inexperienced. I’m too old and feeble.
OK, I’m going to wake up in the morning and say, “Hey Boomer, buddy. Sorry about this. All the planning and anticipation and all. Don’t mean to disappoint you, but I’m going home.”
I slept fitfully, and in the morning, tried to hide the internal tension by bouncing out of my sleeping bag into the cold, to start the stove, priming it just right, with not too much or too little fuel. I slid into the familiar routine, repeated so often in my life on mountains and by tumultuous seas. I watched the oatmeal bubble and adjusted the flame carefully. Boomer was cheery, enthusiastic, and excited and I loved the guy, already, with his mix of boyish innocence and deadly focus. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was ready to surrender to anticipation of hardship before any hardship actualized. I didn’t have the heart to tell myself that I was prepared to quit, before the expedition began. We broke camp in silence. Boomer adjusted his harness, stepped into his skis, and took off while I was still fiddling with my gear.