Tuesday, November 20, 2007

These images were taken on the edge of the Queen Maude Gulf SW of town. These pics and the two above represent about 9 hours of skiing while pulling a sled – 5 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. It’s a huge logistical effort to get out to the edge of the passage but well worth once there. I keep the camera in a pack that I carry and the sled is used for extra clothing and emergency equipment such as a tarp, stove etc. I also had crampons and ice axes along for the ride as well on Sunday – which made for a fairly heavy load.

The trip out Saturday was good with no wind and clear skies. When I left town at 7 ish it was 35 below. The plan was to ski west along the western arm of the bay (not surprisingly known locally as West Arm) past the airport and North Warning hangar. It is interesting skiing along the ice of the bay – you only get reminded of the fact that you’re above 150m of ocean when you pass the pressure cracks in the ice which widen out, close and creak often.

From the bay I used the gps to head overland and crossed a low plateau, looking for an inlet of the gulf side of the peninsula. After a while the topography dips and you lose sight of any artificial structures and it becomes an easy place to get lost. Following several small hummocks a guides and the gps set me on to the north end of the inlet – which really looks to be more of a of a draw that leads down to a shallow bay on the ocean. Stopping to take some pix and having a more indirect path led to a slightly longer approach. A sun pillar formed right before sunrise which is unusual to see in most other places besides the Arctic.

Pulling the sled over the sea ice / snow is easy unfortunately traveling over the land represents more effort as I’m traveling more or less perpendicular to the drifts and stratugii (all of which sounds like you are walking on Styrofoam), catches the sled and makes pulling inconsistent. Keeping the camera batteries warm and useable is also a struggle. If I leave a battery in the camera and don’t open the case –it’ll be good for about an hour and half and give about 10 minutes of shooting time. If I keep the battery in a pocket and only load it when needed (which is a bit of a chore with gloves on) I get anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of shooting time. On Sunday, with the wind blowing batteries that were kept in a pocket with a hand warmer lasted about 15 minutes each.

The other wonderful thing is the plate for the tripod mount covers the battery compartment so I can’t put it on in the house before I leave. So the whole process to take a self portrait becomes complicated at best when the wind is blowing. First you have to get the battery compartment open, install the battery, warm fingers up. Find the tripod plate, warm fingers up, install trip plate, warm fingers up, position tripod, warm fingers, install camera, warm fingers, set camera, warm fingers and finally trip the shutter timer and get in the pic. You can do this maybe 10 times before the wind sucks all the energy out of the battery. The main concern is keeping your hands functional – if they get too cold it takes to long for them to warm up and the situation could become serious since there is no respite from the cold and wind except back at town – so it’s a process to say the least.

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