There’s adventures that are fun. There’s adventures that are difficult but rewarding.
Then there’s adventures which the word ‘crazy’ doesn’t even do justice.
A Texas trio are about to attempt to kayak across the Northwest Passage, setting out from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and paddling all the way to Tuktoyaktuk, N.T.
“Somebody’s go to do it,” said team lead West Hansen. “We’re not going to do any overland portages and we’re going to do this about 60 or so days.”
Joining Hansen will be fellow adventure-kayakers Jeff Wueste and Rebekah Feaster, both fellow accomplished kayakers. Wueste and Hansen have previously kayaked the entire length of the Amazon River and the entire length of the Volga River and feel fairly confident they can make the trip.
In preparation for the 60 days of straight paddling across ocean in the Arctic summer, the self-funded team is largely focused on gaining weight. Stationed in Ottawa while their gear navigates the convoluted shipping lanes to Pond Inlet, they’ve been enjoying the finer parts of Canadian cuisine — meaning lots of poutine.
“We’re not going to be going at race speed,” said Feaster. “Just keep moving nice and slow pace. But keep moving forward. So really, we’re just focused on trying to gain weight right now because with our continuous movement out there, that’s kind of the biggest struggle I think is going to be trying not to get cold.”
Upon hitting Pond Inlet, they’ll make their way to Button Point where they will officially start their journey. From there, the team will navigate along the northern coast of Baffin Island before heading southwards towards the Canadian mainland, reaching it at Boothia Pennisula. The team will paddle along the north end of the passage, passing Cambridge Bay before hitting the Amundsen Gulf and hugging the southern shoreline the rest of the way to Tuktoyaktuk.
Along the way, the team has placed caches of food, supplies and water to help lighten their load, which they admit is quite minimalist. Each will also be wearing a GPS tracker and have a connection to a satellite phone network in case of an emergency. The team is also bringing tools to protect themselves from wildlife, including shotguns and flares.
“Obviously we’re gonna bring our food and camping gear, and I guess a little clothing to either keep warm for when he gets cold,” said Wueste. “We haven’t experienced the cold yet but I’m assuming there’s still gonna be some there.
“But mainly it’s a lot of food and calories that we’ll need to take. The boats may start kind of heavy and we kind of eat them into a lighter version every week.”
With a timeline of 60 days to complete the trip, the team said they probably won’t be able to do a lot of sightseeing or visiting outside of a resupply stopover in Cambridge Bay, though they hope to meet hunters and trappers along the way.
This has been a dream for these three for over three years. Initially planning to do the trip in 2019, their plans were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which put a severe limit on who could enter the country.
“I don’t blame you for not letting us Americanos in,” joked Hansen, who added the team was looking forward to relaxing in Inuvik once they make the trip.
Anyone interested in following the team as they make their way through the Northwest Passage can get live updates from their website, http://www.thearcticcowboys.com
One thing the team is still looking for is some help from the Beaufort Delta community — because they’re travelling so light, the team is relying on supply caches to keep going. They also are leaving most of their non-essential items behind and are looking for someone to hold a box of clothes, food and other items for them until they arrive. Anyone interested in volunteering some space can contact Barbara Hansen Edington over Facebook or by email at Barbara3800@gt.rr.com or by phone (409) 659-5146.