Thursday, June 10, 2010

Arctic Adventures

Ian & Sally Wilson

My Rating: 5 Stars

The musty smell of canvas filled my nostrils as Sally and I rummaged through a pile of tents. Nearby, the grizzled denim-clad owner of the camping supply store leaned against a rack of snowshoes.
“Let's see if I've got this straight,” the old timer said as he surveyed the pile of supplies we had selected. “You're planning to go on a year-long trek across the Arctic by canoe and dog team.”
“That about sums it up,” I said, steeling myself for the questions I knew would follow. The old-timer had always taken an interest in our adventures and misadventures.
“And you tell me your whitewater canoeing is a little shaky, your wife is scared of dogs, and you've never even had a pet mutt before,” he continued, looking me straight in the eye.
I reminded him that we had managed to tackle several demanding rivers on previous trips. Sally added that she was sure she would get over her fear of dogs once she got to know them. Then, almost as an afterthought, I assured him that we would learn what we needed to know along the way. I hoped I looked as confident as my words sounded. (Prologue)

Ian and Sally Wilson are an incredible couple. They are both talented: her in art; he in writing. They joined their talents and love for adventure and have written several books as a result.

As you may have judged by the title, Arctic Adventures is about their trip in Canada's north. The first route of the journey was made by canoe from the headwaters of the Thelon River to the Chesterfield  Inlet of Hudson Bay, a distance of twelve hundred kilometers. That may sound simple but keep in mind these key words: mosquitoes, rapids, black flies, bathing, frigid water, campfire, maps, falls, gear, storms, portages.

The first third of the book is about the canoe trip. The rest of the book is taken up with their experiences with the Natives at Baker Lake, where Ian and Sally learn the necessary skills for their trip by dog sled. They learn how to prepare caribou hides for warm clothing: chewing (yes, with your mouth/teeth!). How to eat raw meat (if you eat too much at once, you end up with stomach problems). How to build an igloo. How to stay warm when it's -100* with a blizzard raging. How to function at all when it's -100* with a blizzard raging. How to drive a dog team. How to treat frost bite... and a million and one other things necessary for surviving their adventure.

By the time they were at their journey's end, they had a new perspective on life, dogs, cold and the Great Up North in general. Ian kept a detailed diary that makes for a fascinating read, especially for those who are exposed to some of the same things as the Wilsons went through. Someday, it would be fun to go see some of the places mentioned for myself! Also, they took many photographs, so it isn't completely up to the reader's imagination. :-)

ARCTIC ADVENTURES - Exploring Canada's North by Canoe and Dog Team


Prairie Voyageur said...

I became addicted to reading about Ian and Sally's adventures after seeing them present a slide show (yes, with REAL slides, not powerpoint) about their Arctic trip at a local science center when I was a teenager.

I now own four of their books and have attempted some adventures of my own, though on a much smaller scale.

Glad you also enjoyed this book. Their other books are great reads as well. I recommend their first book "Wilderness Seasons" in particular, if you have not already read it.

The Ponderer said...

I can imagine having them present a slide show in person and hearing the stories *in person* would be very inspiring and remarkable! I'm glad you had an opportunity to hear them.

I have read Wilderness Seasons and have also been tempted to try some adventures as well. :) There is something very happy about the thought of living in the wild with nature, as harsh and bold as it might be.

The best to you! I hope your path takes you places that you appreciate and learn from.