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People & Culture

New Land Expedition: Magic polar travel with dogs

  • Apr 29, 2013
  • 465 words
  • 2 minutes
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The New Land 2013 expedition is following the route of Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup across Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. This blog was written by John Huston.

When we set out on this trip, we knew the dogs would help, but we didn’t know how much. And the answer is: in these ski conditions, they help big time.

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Inuit sled dogs are essential to the expedition. (Photo courtesy of New Land 2013)

It’s the combination of Norwegian cross-country skiing and running Canadian Inuit dogs that Otto Sverdrup and other Norwegian explorers who are his contemporaries discovered and played with. It has become one of the modern modes of polar travel, because the pace of the cross-country skiing and the dogs matches just perfectly. And we experience that every day out here.

We’re getting pulled. Each skier has a dog out front of him pulling, and the skier is in the middle with the sled trailing behind. The dog does some work and the person does some work and often it’s in combination. So there’s a synthesis going on where we kind of have a magic form of travel that is part of polar exploration history and part of our trip that is just super fun to experience. It’s very, very efficient and very team oriented.

The dogs are working; they love to work and so do we. It’s that magic of dog and ski that is still alive today that is propelling our expedition northwards right now on Eureka Sound. The dogs have hugely paid off. They’re giving us huge travel distances and relatively short hours.

Tonight’s photo (above) is of Napau. He’s one of our four sled dogs. He always skis with Toby as Toby has a special relationship with him. And you can see here in this photo, he is super-enthusiastic to get started. So it’s a good example how sled dogs just love to do what they do, which is pull and pull some more.

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The expedition recently encountered this giant iceberg. (Photo courtesy of New Land 2013)

This evening we are camped right on shore near what we believe are Thule culture tent rings. It’s a little river right here, so it would have been a good place in the summer to camp out. And we think the Thule culture was anything from 400 years ago to back before the Middle Ice Age. It’s pretty cool to be camped where some other people camped a long time ago. Very good travel conditions. Our sleds are getting lighter, our dogs are getting stronger, and we’re having a really good time out here.

This blog was originally published on Read more blog posts from New Land 2013 here.


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