I believe we have a strong magnetic pull, a compass, inside our hearts.
Society tries to harden it with skepticism or people ignore or silence it because it helps us to feel more in control. Even though the science behind human magnetism is technically impossible, meaning your body can’t actually attract metal forks and spoons to stick to you in the way magicians seem to be able to do, you’ve probably guessed that my use of the word magnetism describes the inner voice we each possesses.
On Thursday, April 4th, this was all I could think of as my butt slammed up and down inside the simply constructed Inuit-made komatik. I could hear the wind whipping despite the three hats on my head and it felt like we were driving into a tunnel of uncertainty.
My inner voice told me this was going to be a hell of a ride. What was I thinking when I said yes to this adventure. I was traveling in one of three komituks, it was getting dark and I worried we might run into a den of bears or surprise a hefty momma bear guarding her bear cubs. Who would come and help us if something happened? What if we were hurt in this frozen world?
My intuition was right. Darkness fell quickly and the next few days were so tough many from our group felt emotionally and physically overwhelmed. This would be a challenge unlike anything I had ever done and survival eclipsed almost every other thought, feeling or concern from one minute to the next.
Sadly, our komatik riders never saw any bears although the earlier group of travelers from our team did. They captured their beautiful play on film; something I’ll show when we talk more about these amazing creatures.
When I think about it, riding into trouble at full speed is nothing new for me even though this was very different kind of trouble.
Most of my trouble is the kind that is embarrassing like finding myself into regretful predicaments. Perhaps, I attract these predicaments because they seem to happen when I let my guard down and I feel safe.
Over the last two days since leaving Ottawa, our team experienced so many hurdles beginning with our canceled flight from Iqaluit to Qikiqtarjuaq. The original plan for our Baffin 2019 expedition was to trek 100 km across the Akshayuk Pass via snowshoe, starting from the top of the Pass and going 4-hours in a komituk pulled by snowmobile from Qikiqtarjuaq.
At the start of the trip, our group had already raised nearly a half a million dollars for True Patriot Love, a nonprofit foundation helping Veterans and their families with programming support. The trip involved flying from Ottawa to Iqaluit, followed by a flight from the town of Qikiqtarjuaq in Nunavut and a sleighride taking us to the top of the Pass. We’d finish outside of Pangnirtung and then fly from there to Iqaluit and on to Ottawa.
But Mother Nature had other plans for us when our connecting flight from Iqaluit to Qikiqtarjuaq was cancelled.
High winds and snow forced us to wait an extra day until Wednesday, April 3rd to fly out. With a mining convention in town and no hotel rooms available on Tuesday, it also looked like we’d be spending the night on the airport floor.
This shouldn’t have been a surprise, noting the consistent advice from our guide, Scott and his trusted assistants – Ben, Liz, Kat and Mel. Often, they joked we should always expect the unexpected in the Arctic. It’s a place where time stands still; they were right and I would eventually come to learn this truth but only after some rough experiences.
Our team would also learn it was easier not to set any steadfast expectations in the Arctic. This removes the element of surprise and helps us to embrace unfolding events as they happened. This lesson hit home right away when our military team doctor managed to find a few military men to open a local bases and host us overnight in their dormitories. The men worked as search and rescue specialists and when their massive Humvee-style tank pulled up to the front doors of the Iqaluit airport, I nearly cried.
Before our eight-day trek from Friday, April 5th to Friday, April 12th – a trip that included 17 female veterans and civilians in addition to guides, we also enjoyed a tour of the dogsled teams kept at the military base. Pizza and warm coffee in the morning helped to make our unexpected side-trip one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.
When we arrived in Qikiqtarjuaq, we had time to explore the small town of less than 1,000 Inuit people. Apparently, a polar bear had been spotted mulling around town for the last several days so we were told to be on alert even though the likelihood or “expectation” that we would run into the bear was remote.
Naturally, we ran into the bear but by this time it was flat on its back and rigor mortis had set in. It was strange to see a corpse laying in the middle of the field for hours before it was taken away. Even stranger was its position: lying on its back with arms stretched our as if in prayer to the skies. It’s something I can still picture today. I never quite got over it.
Check in tomorrow for part 2 of Komituk into the Night.