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Ed Viesturs’ Final Baffin Island Dispatch

By Ed Viesturs - June 5th, 2008

Editor's Note: See the final batch of photos from Ed's Arctic journey.

Hi everyone. Just a few final thoughts on our Baffin Island adventure after being back home. Our return journey home was rather uneventful once we were able to leave Pond Inlet. As we flew home John and I discussed what we had done, what we had learned and possible plan for the future.

One of the things we wanted from this trip was to find out from the local Inuit what their observations were regarding climate change. We had the opportunity to speak with a few of them and there were common traits that were apparent to all of them. They had noticed over the last 15 years or so that Eclipse Sound, which they live on the shores of, freezes over later each year and melts sooner as well. They hunt primarily at the flow edge-where the frozen sea ice meets open water, as this is where the marine species that they hunt gather-and this area has become more tenuous and disappears faster each season. This makes their hunting season shorter.

The flow edge is also vital to Polar Bears as this is where they also hunt for food. The fact that they are now once again on the threatened list, makes apparent the fact that their habitat is changing and being affected by climate change.

The local Inuit also mentioned that they are seeing species of birds in the area that they have not seen before and they therefore have no traditional Inuit names for. We noted this from conversations last year as well. Some species of duck that normally migrate south each season are spending winters in the area rather than leaving.

We also asked about glaciers in the area. There are a number of glaciers on Bylot Island which is across from Pond Inlet on the other shore of Eclipse Sound. There are a number of glaciers there that spill out of the mountains and come directly down to the shoreline. One Inuit mentioned that a couple of these glaciers came directly to the sound, but in the last 15 years, these have receded inland and no longer come down to the edge of the land. John and certainly could not see these changes occurring for the short time we spent on Baffin Island. Only by living in this area for many years, as the Inuit do, could these changes be seen.

The other goal of our expedition was to test equipment, systems and schedules. Our hope is to one day travel unsupported to the South Pole and this would be an undertaking of a larger magnitude. On the Baffin trip we had the chance to use and test the gear that we would potentially use on a longer expedition. What worked well, what did not, how to use certain things in the right way, what broke along the way and how were we able to fix it. The various types of clothing we wore and our layering systems as well. The food and fuel we brought along as well-how much did we actually use and what types of food worked well. If we do a South pole trip we will need to weigh everything to the ounce and have our food pre-packed into daily rations. This ensures that you don't have too much or too little food for the number of days that you plan to be out on the journey.

From our experience on Baffin we both realized that before we do a 50-70 day expedition to the South Pole we would need another shake down trip harder and longer than the trip we just did. An expedition to traverse Greenland seems to be the next logical step as the glacial terrain and condition there would be very similar to Antarctica. We would want to continue the theme of Earth Health as well while on Greenland. This is something we discussed for the future as we flew back home to the states.

I would also like to thank those that helped make this expedition to Baffin Island possible. We both had support from Talus Outdoor Technologies makers of the Cold Avenger Face mask. Personally I want to also thank my continuing sponsors Timberland footwear, Smartwool, Rolex, Adventure Medical kits and, special to this expedition, Alltel Wireless. We would also like to thanks those companies for their contributions of equipment and gear. Mountain Hardwear (our custom Trango 3.1 tent), Granite Gear (sleds, harnesses), DeLorme (GPS units and related mapping softwear), Grandoe (gloves, mitts), Julbo (sunglasses, goggles), MSR ( XGK stoves, pots, fuel bottles, Ridge rest pads), SOLE (insoles), ACR (rescue becon).

Also a big thanks to Dave Reid of Polar Sea Adventures- -for hosting us, providing logistical information, and letting us stay at his house while in Pond Inlet.

It was also great to reconnect with and editor Peter Potterfield whom I have worked with on expeditions over the past 10 years.



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