People & Culture

Handmade kayak team faces sweat, tears and mosquitoes in Nunavut

  • Aug 28, 2013
  • 429 words
  • 2 minutes
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Adventurers Erik Boomer, Kate Breen and siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry set out earlier this summer on an expedition they call Qajaqtuqtut, an Inuit word meaning, “they kayak.” The team spent months building traditional Inuit sea kayaks in an effort to contribute to the revival of the 4,000-year-old kayak-building tradition in Canada’s North.

After building the kayaks, the team left Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, and crossed the Penny Ice Cap, Baffin Island’s largest. Deep, soft snow covered the crevasses on the ice cap, making them difficult to spot.

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(Photo: Sarah McNair-Landry)
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Four kayakers are facing sweat, tears and a whole lot of mosquitoes on a 1000-kilometre journey following historical hunting routes across southern Baffin Island.

“Our rescue system was tested when Kate slipped chest deep into a crevasse,” Boomer wrote on the team’s blog. “Eric and I both arrested and held the line taut, and before long Kate was back on solid ice.”

Some of the worst challenges are much, much smaller: mosquitoes.

“Numerous people who have travelled in these areas told us that the mosquitoes would be terrible,” Breed wrote. “One person told us that they have been known to kill dogs . . . and even people. While we’ve not felt that our lives are in peril, the inside of my tent does look like the scene of a violent crime; blood streaks, dead mosquitoes stuck to the roof, to the walls and on the floor. The bugs get into everything: breakfast, dinner, the inside of your bug jacket, the inside of your sunglasses and the inside of your pants.”

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Traditional Inuit Kayaks are built without nails, screws, or glue. (Photo: Erik Boomer)

The expedition, funded by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is testing the team members both physically and emotionally.

“This trip has been stressful in a whole new way. Long days, mosquito bites, sore hands and bruises from innumerable falls. Sometimes I cry.” Breen wrote. “The Amadjuak, a raging high-volume torrent of a river whose large rapids and strong currents stalled our progress for days on end, it made me cry. The weather has taken a turn for the worst; rain, headwinds, sleet and snow. Our gear is saturated. But for one change of clothes, one pair of socks, everything that I have is soaked. Mornings are cold and I summon every ounce of toughness to wiggle into my wet clothes.”

Read more about this expedition or learn about The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s expeditions program.

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