February 9, 2010

2010 Arctic Expedition Update

The 2010 Arctic Expedition is off to a great start.  It hasn’t been without its struggles, though.  Joe reports a lot of open water and overflow as well as a lot of unexpected warm springs, making river crossings an exciting challenge.  The snow is a lot deeper than in past years when he’s traveled along the Arctic coast and in the flat tundra north of the Brooks Range.  The snow is thigh-deep and there’s a lot of high, thick willow brush to dodge.  This year there are more hills than ever before, but traveling with the dogs has been slow and steady.  Joe’s on snowshoes in front of the team all day.

This is a photo from last year of Joe running in his snowshoes ahead of the team on the Arctic sea ice.  Although the wind blasts that country much harder it makes for easier traveling as the snow is hard packed. 

IMG_0600But this year the expedition is in the mountains, and the terrain looks more like the photos below which I snapped while doing some geological studies quite a few summers back.  I’ve been wanting Joe to do a route I picked out while doing my field work over the years and he’s finally going to tackle it.  I can’t wait until Joe brings back winter photos of the same country!  :)  This is one of my favorite areas of the Brooks Range and I knew he’d love to see the same rugged scenery. Although traveling in the deep snow will be tough going, I know Joe and the dogs are up for the challenge.



And it is a challenge.  Joe’s traveled in the Brooks Range before, but he’s never been in this particular area and the conditions are so variable across the range that he hasn’t run into snow like this in quite some time.  Even in his favorite, old school Iverson Snowshoes, he sometimes sinks in up to his shins or knees.  And when he makes camp for the night he has to take the snowshoes off because it’s incredibly difficult to put the dogs on the picket line and set up the tent with them on, so he sinks in up to his thighs.  By the time he’s done with those basic chores, he’s relieved to slip into his tent and cook up some hot coffee (which, if made with water from the warm springs tastes like million bucks), and steak or salmon with a side of brown rice and sautéed vegetables. 

The day after I dropped Joe and the dogs off at the rendezvous point, the weather got nasty and a blizzard moved in.  Temperatures were down to –20 degrees Fahrenheit  and the wind blared with 50 mile-per-hour gusts, driving the temperatures down to about –60 Fahrenheit according to the National Weather Service Wind Chill Chart.   But the weather shaped up and since then and temperatures have ranged between   –10 and –40.  Joe reports that he wouldn’t mind a 70 mile-per-hour blow to pack the snow a little better.  Crazy…I’m pretty sure he’s never wished for that before!  Here’s a little video clip from last years expedition during a relatively mild blizzard.

All hardship aside, the sun is up for 4-5 hours now in the arctic and the dogs are all healthy and they’re maintaining their weight very well (if not gaining a few pounds) on their National Dog Food

This is Dino, Petra, and Tip’s first year on an expedition and they are adjusting like they’ve been doing this all their lives…it’s in their blood.  Regardless of the conditions, the team is still pulling upwards of 1500 pounds!  They’re a tough bunch and we love ‘em! :)


  • http://dogblogemma.blogspot.com Emma Rose

    Oh my word! That video almost made me cry! You are all terribly brave, in my opinion. When I see things like that it makes me think of those that came before us. I live in Oregon and I often think about what it must have been like for the pioneers.

    Amazing pictures. Thank you!

  • http://kit-dogdaze.blogspot.com/ Kit

    Amazing video!

  • http://www.goldensierrarose.blogspot.com Sierra Rose

    Wow! What an amazing adventure. The blizzard looked fierce. The dogs don’t huddle? No warming tent or so? Guess it would probably blow down? This is a really tough crew! Those are some mighty conditions.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose and mom

    • Malamutes are native to the arctic and they’ve endured conditions like this for thousands of years, so we don’t really need to take any special action…we just let their genes take care of them. Their fur really protects them well against the wind and driving snow. Each dog just curls up and covers their snout with their bushy tail and that’s all these guys need. They are really amazing and it’s hard to believe that they do so well in such wretched conditions, but we’ve never had a dog who didn’t do just fine out there. None of them have ever had any problems staying healthy and vibrant even in that kind of weather.
  • Lyne

    your study area sure looks like some places I’ve visited in NZ…..& they rivers are good fishing!!! Hope the snow depth is improving for the dogs & Joe….great to see you & the pups the other day.
    Hugs to all