Episode 19: Unresolved in Resolute

6:58 am Mark

It’s snowing and blowing in the Arctic. Today is one of those days you are glad that you are not flying in a small aircraft. Thank goodness for our hosts at the South Camp Inn here in Resolute, Ozzie Kheraj and his wife, Aleeasuk Idlout. They provided us a safe place to park the Beavers in the howling Arctic winds, and warm accommodations. Thanks also to Ludy and Doris for checking on our planes.

Ozzie immigrated to Canada from Tanzania when he was a teenager, and moved to Resolute when he was 24. That was 30 years ago, and he has never left. As near as we can tell, very little goes on in Resolute without some input from Ozzie. He runs a construction company, the fuel company and the main hotel. He and Aleeasuk are often there at the airport to meet guests staying at the Inn. They will even look after your sled dogs for you, as evidenced by a string of dogs howling outside, owned by a famous Japanese musher. They are friends to virtually every major Arctic explorer that has used Resolute as a jumping off base (thus the name ‘South Camp’ Inn) during the last three decades. They and their staff, including the amazing cook, Randy, have been a big help to us as well.

Aleeasuk is an Inuk who when she finds spare time from running a hotel and raising a gaggle of kids and grandkids, is one of the top producing polar bear guides in the world. You would not have guessed it to look at her, with her petite stature and unassuming nature, but after talking to her a bit about polar bear hunting, I think I would avoid her if I were a polar bear.

Jim spent most of the day editing. Doug, Eric and Mark went out to the airport to try and solve the Magnetic Pole puzzle. We had planned our schedule to arrive at our most northern fuel cache in Eureka in the middle of August, a time that traditionally offers a high probability of providing open water. It is a balancing act, because as the ice moves out in mid to late August, the weather starts to change from summer to fall. (Or as near as we can tell, it goes right straight into winter!) Last summer it would have been smooth sailing. However, this is a different year. A couple of days ago the wind shifted, pushing the ice pack back into Slidre Fjord where Eureka is located, making it impossible to land the Beaver there. For now we are cut off from our fuel cache.

We stopped by the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources office of Polar Continental Ice Shelf Project Base Manager Tim McCagherty. Tim, a big affable guy who was quite gracious with his time, must be one of the best logisticians anywhere in the world. His job is to coordinate several airplanes, helicopters, crews and other equipment in support of virtually every Canadian sponsored scientific research expedition in the Arctic. There are many, going on year round, spread out over an area twice the size of the state of California, in some of the most forbidding country and weather conditions on the planet. If Tim couldn’t find a solution to our challenge, no one could.

We discussed many options. Some of the lakes up near Eureka are still open. If we could somehow get our fuel to one of these lakes, we could land there and refuel. Transporting the fuel from Eureka to an open lake may take a helicopter (none are available right now), or a Twin Otter on tundra tires which will need a lake near a tundra or esker landing strip. We even considered using four wheelers, carrying drums of fuel on a wild cross-tundra ride, which would probably take several days, depending on the location of the lake we find.

We could also cache fuel in the Beavers from here in Resolute and abandon our fuel in Eureka. Carrying three drums per 720 nautical mile round trip ferry, it will take two of the drums to get back to Resolute. That means that we could cache one drum per Beaver per ferry. We need at least six drums for one Beaver to make the pole run and return to Resolute, so six ferry flights, or three good flying days, plus two more for the pole and return to Resolute. Five good flying days.

So you see the process. It is still a work in progress, and as of this writing it is still unresolved. For now we remain undeterred and will continue working on it tomorrow. Meanwhile, a severe low pressure system is bearing down on us from the Boothia Peninnsula, 500 miles south. I’m sure glad we are well tied down here.

Allison’s Ornithological Report:

There are not many birds up here in this place we are affectionately calling the gravel pit. But we finally figured out that the bird making the low honking sound we’ve been hearing for the last week is an arctic loon, as one flew right over us this afternoon.

Thanks to all for tuning in, and so long for now.

The GAAA Team

3 Responses
  1. Ken Whitfield :

    Date: August 21, 2008 @ 11:10 am

    Hi Mark.
    Great to hear that you are on the adventure of a lifetime. I read about this trip on Avweb and will be following along with your blog. I am currently flying Airbus A320 airliners for Spirit Airlines in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Good luck and Happy Flying.

    Ken

  2. Steve :

    Date: August 21, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

    Here is the web site for the South Camp Inn and Resolute. Work through it an you will see the weather forcast and the high life the team is living. http://www.southcampinn.com/index.htm

  3. Al Paxhia :

    Date: August 21, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

    Hello Mark,
    What an adventure! I just tuned in today but will be following along from here. Some day you will need to write a book otherwise your grand kids will never believe your stories.
    Best Wishes to all,
    Al

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