+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

After the extraordinary trip in July with A&K, to Norway, Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Scoresby Sound in Greenland and Iceland, awakening a deep interest to know more about the Arctic and its history.
The past month has found me fortunate enough to be with EYOS expeditions in Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island and extreme North-Western Greenland. It is very hard to believe that people of Thule and Dorset descent inhabited these frozen shores for the past 4500 years. Depending on the latitude the dark winter months can be 3-5 months long, placing enormous pressure on communities to “stock up” with as much food and supplies as possible beforehand. The ocean freezes so any water travel is impossible. Dog teams and snowmobiles become the winter norm, towing sleds behind them. The Arctic is most definitely a place to be treated with great respect. Stories ending tragically abound; not an environment to be taken lightly.

Lewis Pugh (aka the Human Polar Bear) is well known for his cold water swimming. Lewis undergoes exercises to elevate his core temperature before any cold water swim, and trains intensively to prepare his body for the shock of cold water immersion. Yesterday, I did a plunge into water at 0 Celsius (frazil ice forming on the surface) and believe the ability to think coherently never mind swim reasonably becomes almost impossible in frigid water? Immersing oneself in water below 10C is impressive – ask Dr Wim Hof. Swimmers like Lewis Pugh and Ryan Stramrood are a very rare breed indeed.

Inuit culture of hunting in sealskin kayaks with harpoons has been replaced by motorboats and rifles. Snowmobiles make autumn/winter travel infinitely easier in search of Musk Oxen, Polar Bears and Caribou. As a result wildlife is nervous, and tends to flee as soon as an outboard engine is heard. In Qanaaq there were Narwhal tusks easily 7 feet long (2.1meters). Apparently they can grow to 12 feet long, the material very much like ivory. Esquimaux/Eskimo literally translated means meat eaters, and meat is the mainstay of the diet hereabouts.

Being invited to work in these extremely remote regions on both sides of Greenland has been a special privilege, and I hope fervently to return. I have plenty to learn/research regarding the Arctic, quite daunting in fact. For anyone interested, I cannot recommend Pierre Berton’s book, Arctic Grail, highly enough. A tome, but imminently readable and the most scholarly work.

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