Young explorers battle dry rivers, strong headwinds on Know the North expedition

At every turn, the RCGS-funded voyage has presented new challenges and untold wonders 
  • Aug 17, 2016
  • 371 words
  • 2 minutes
The expedition rests on an esker. Expand Image

By Sydney Toni

Media Coordinator, Know the North

It’s been more than 40 days since the Know the North expedition hit the water in Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan with boats almost too full to float. Though the seven young explorers set sail in sunny weather, they’ve faced biting cold, battled headwinds and dragged their boats up dry waterways — and they are in awe of the beauty that surrounds them. Though some members of the trip optimistically brought along shorts, they’ve only seen eight days without rain so far.

The first week of the trip was spent traveling from Wollaston Lake to the border of Manitoba. Grey skies and strong winds bid them a feisty welcome to the north. The constant light has allowed them to paddle sixteen-hour days, stopping on eskers for lunch alongside the tracks of caribou, wolves, moose and bears. On portages, they’ve often crossed paths with animals, some unwelcome, such as grizzly bears and a charging moose.

After reaching the northernmost point on the Cochrane River in Manitoba, the trip portaged onto the Thlewiaza River and headed toward an upstream slog on the Little Partridge River. This route proved to be very different from how it looked on the map. After spending six days on Little Partridge dragging and portaging their boats, they reached water deep enough to paddle into Kasba Lake, which straddles the border of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Since then, they’ve arced their way back towards the Seal River in northern Manitoba. On day 36, the group caught sight of the northern lights — once it was finally dark enough to spot their sinuous glow. They’ve been continually surprised and humbled by the wilderness. They’ve been attacked by birds defending their young, they’ve spotted a wolverine from a distance, and, once, caught a glimpse of a white wolf. At every turn, the journey offers something new and unplanned.

When the explorers set out, it was with the intent of pitting maps and plans against the land. As the trip nears its end on August 18 in Hudson Bay, they’ve realized that travelling this region once is not enough to truly know it. Passing through is enough to briefly take stock of a moment in time, nothing more.

Related Content

Heinrich Scherer's 1702 chart of the North Pole

People & Culture

Why the North Pole matters: An important history of challenges and global fascination

In this essay, noted geologist and geophysicist Fred Roots explores the significance of the symbolic point at the top of the world. He submitted it to Canadian Geographic just before his death in October 2016 at age 93.

  • 5188 words
  • 21 minutes
Canadian Hydrographic Survey launch, CSL Gannett


2014 Victoria Strait Expedition

This year's search is about much more than underwater archaeology. The Victoria Strait Expedition will contribute to northern science and communities.

  • 1205 words
  • 5 minutes
CAE ships anchored at Bernard Harbour, Nunavut, in 1914


Canada’s unsung expedition

A century after the start of the thrilling expedition that strengthened claims to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, the first Canadian Arctic Expedition remains a largely unknown part of the country’s history

  • 1956 words
  • 8 minutes


A bridge of ice

Ken Hedges of the 1968-69 British Trans Arctic Expedition reflects on the perilous and ground-breaking journey

  • 3332 words
  • 14 minutes