Steger’s Arctic Transect ends early

by Nick Wognum

Will Steger’s trip across Nunavut came to a halt earlier than planned.<BR><BR>Arctic Transect 2004 was supposed to be a seven month, 3,000 journey across the Canadian arctic.<BR><BR>But the weather, bad ice and being six weeks behind schedule made Steger abandon plans to complete the trek. The decision to end at Pond Inlet came on June 6.<BR><BR>This is a portion of Steger’s journal entry for that day, “The warm weather continues today. It is very warm, the streams are flowing full tilt, there is a lot of melt from the mountains above. The leads - open sections in the ice - are also widening. For instance, to get out to our camp right now I’m jumping a number of leads. When we got here four days ago the leads were an average of a foot and a half or two feet wide. And they rise from the bottom of the ice up, so there is a kind of lip on the edge. They are now even wider. <BR><BR>“The ice, however, is extremely solid, there is probably four feet of ice, so there is no problem there. But the leads are opening. The decision was made today that we will end the expedition here at Pond Inlet. ”<BR><BR>Steger and five others used 30 sled dogs to traverse from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada across the Inuit territory of Nunavut.<BR><BR>Joining Steger were Aaron Doering from the University of Minnesota, the husband and wife team of Mille Porsild of Denmark, and Paul Pregont, a member of the International Arctic Project, Eric Dayton, son of U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and Canadian Hugh Dale-Harris. <BR><BR>Steger said on his web site that he struggled with deciding to end the trip.<BR><BR>“Another thing I am taking into consideration when making this decision is that we are six weeks behind schedule. If we were on schedule, we would be 500 miles south of here, and we would be in an area called Home Bay, which is a protected area about 200 miles long, and this ice stays for certain until July. In looking at satellite photos when I was studying the route, I saw that the ice on Home Bay would never drift off into the North Atlantic. So if we were on schedule, we would definitely still be traveling, because we would be in a protected area. <BR><BR>“So I felt the prudent decision was to stop here at Pond Inlet. All the decision making throughout the expedition was on a consensus basis, it was a democratic process, a lot of compromise all the way through, and that is normally how I would be associated with an expedition. But the decision to halt here was my decision alone. I made my decision based on the onset of summer weather and also the deteriorating conditions. I take 100 percent responsibility for this decision. The decision was not too popular with Aaron, Mille and Paul, who were determined to push on into July to Clyde. I understand their disappointment, but I felt that we needed to keep the team together, and I just had to go with my decision. Eric and Hugh trusted my judgment on this, they were totally behind me on the decision. <BR><BR>“I feel the expedition has been a remarkable geographic achievement. We traveled 2,041 miles in 151 days, from Yellowknife to Pond Inlet. I don’t think anyone has ever done that. We crossed the full extent of the Canadian Barrens, 1,300 miles, traveling through the mid-winter night. We did a 500 mile route from Baker Lake to Pelly Bay, which was a first. We always took the unbeaten trail, the most challenging route whenever possible. It was a great adventure. <BR><BR>“These expeditions are an all-encompassing experience, as you can imagine. When you are in them, you are totally in them. There is no outside perspective of what you are doing, no one is saying what a great thing you are doing and such. It always takes some time and distance to appreciate your accomplishments. I hope, and am quite certain, that everyone will be pleased with the distances we have covered, once we get a little time behind us. Unfortunately, I am not the most popular guy in camp here with Paul, Mille and Aaron, but I will stand by my decision. And I think for the sake of their parents and their wives I have made the right decision.”<BR><BR>Steger left Ely last December and arrived at the Minneapolis airport on June 15.<BR><BR>The trip was followed in school classrooms as Steger continues to use the successful educational model, “adventure learning.”