Week 03 Leading the Way

Date Posted: 3.07.2011
Location: 44º54'N 92º47'W Expedition Basecamp, MN, USA
and 54º55'S 67º37'W Beagle Channel, Chile
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, 28ºF (-2ºC) / Sunny, 54ºF (12ºC)
It was about an hour after Mille shut down for the day that the phone rang again—this time from Sweden; Minutes later Mille dialed Punta Arena in Chile—to tell an exhausted Chris that he and Tasha had barely two hours to be ready to board the last tiny plane to get to the Sea Dragon.

Just a few hours earlier, at 3 that morning, Tasha and Chris had finally arrived to the tip of South America, after some 43-hours on their way.

  Listen to Chris and Mille on Skype--and why its easier to get to Antarctica than to meet up with the Sea Dragon!

Chris and Tasha about to take off to get to the Sea Dragon       
Jim at  Expedition Basecamp is cranking to get
the second set of sleds done for the race in
Chukotka, Russia in western Beringia.

Watch movie Tuesday was Jim's birthday! We headed to a local Russian restaurant for some Russian cuisine and music!

The journey to board the Sea Dragon and set sail up the Beagle Channel began with a delay (the first plane to Toronto was almost 2 hours late); it took us 14 hours to make it to New York (what could have been a mere 3-hour direct flight from Minneapolis); and we missed our plane in Santiago to then be told that there would be no seats to Punta Arena until days later! “It was pretty nerve-wrecking,” admits Chris. And that was without knowing about all the action back at Expedition Basecamp! Getting Chris and Tasha onto the Sea Dragon has been a bit of a logistical nightmare. After waving them off at the airport, Mille had a call from England that they were not going to be able to board a plane from Punta Arena to Puerto Williams for a week or more—because of an error, there were simply no seats.

The Sea Dragon already about to dock in Puerto Williams we were faced with the fact that the research ship might have to take-off without Chris and Tasha in order to fulfill its mission at sea. We tried everything, spanning from suggesting to the airline that Chris and Tasha could act as reserve flight attendants to getting them on a bus across the border to Argentina to then board a ferry headed for Puerto Williams; all to no avail. But, Electrolux – a sponsor of a fellow ship-mate – pulled through, renting a small plane, the plane Mille got the call about from Sweden!

As it turned out, it was another day of waiting while weather moved, ultimately causing the plane to freeze over! Then, finally… “it was the most amazing feeling, simply the flight of my life, the little plane took us over the Strait of Magellan, snow covered mountains, and glaciers, and then after four days of travel finally seeing the Sea Dragon!” says Chris.

        Mille is hard at work for entry to Chukotka!
Every bit of its 72-foot length serves purpose, without an inch of space spared. Including Chris and Tasha they are ten crew on board and beds are stacked atop each other in the stern of the cabin. One bunk is dedicated to the ship's laboratory where the on-board scientist, Anna from Sweden, takes water samples and tests them for plastic-derived chemicals.

“I am so excited to learn more!” exclaims Tasha, she goes on “to know that we are now taking part in the very research that is leading the way in our understanding of plastics and oceans, that is just mind-boggling to me!”

Don’t miss the chat on exploration and science with our own GoNorth! Cool Scientist Shari Gearheard this Thursday, March 10th at 10 AM CT (and get the latest report on Polar Husky puppy Sila!)

Watch movie  Watch Home Run I.

Watch movie  Watch Home Run II.

Watch movie  Watch Ashley and Tucker finish the day!
Indeed setting out to explore, the ship set sail on the Beagle Channel heading nearly due west "at ridiculous o'clock" according to Clive the skipper! Chris writes… “The winds were not in our favor so the motor propelled us on our course at about 8 knots.  The crew is divided into two teams, working three-hour shifts at a time.  While your team is on duty, members are involved in steering the vessel, keeping log, cleaning, cooking, and keeping watch.  While you are at the helm (steering) your job is to maintain a specific course that Clive or Dale the ship manager, have determined using a large steering wheel.  While keeping watch you are looking for anything in the water that might present a problem (kelp beds, rocks, etc). 

Once leaving port we started seeing glaciers and waterfalls, and passed the last city (Ushuaia, Argentina) we will see for a while.

After lunch the crew switched places without missing a beat. We headed off the main channel to a small fjord at the base of a beautiful glacier to anchor for the evening.  I simply can not describe how breathtakingly beautiful it is!  Sweet potatoes-coleslaw-and-chorizo-later we boated to shore to explore the coastline, finding a ridge line to give us a view of the Sea Dragon in “glacier” bay. Tomorrow morning the first crew is to begin the day at 4 AM—that’s Tasha’s crew!”

     Polar Husky Superstar Mikisoq
Watch movie
  Watch Miki lead through
  an intersection!
Much like Tasha and Chris are learning the ropes on board the Sea Dragon; This weeks’ first Polar Husky Superstar Mikisoq have had to learn the ropes of being a Polar Husky. Miki as we call him, was born in Greenland, where Team GoNorth! traveled in 2010. While Miki has miles under his paws running on sea ice in Greenland as a hard-core hunters husky, this summer for the first time ever, Miki learned about butterflies, grass, and thunderstorms to mention a few… Taking to our different way of running the Polar Huskies in tandem hitch (pairs of two or three) instead of running in a fan hitch came easy to Miki. Actually, Miki has adapted to the kennel, its personalities and our ways in the most admirable of ways! To such an extent that this little guy (Mikisoq means little one in Kalaallit, the Native and official language of Greenland) is now one to be leading out the pack!

Miki is a solid worker with good technique, but most important he is a tough yet happy spirit who loves a good scratch and some loving. Mille grins, “it is entirely Joar’s ability as a trainer that brought this about—I did not foresee Miki becoming a lead dog at all… One day Joar came back from the training run with a smile from ear to ear, telling me that he ran Miki in lead!” And that was just the beginning—it did not stop there…

Polar Husky Superstar Sunrise  
Despite her early ‘claim-to-fame’ as the puppy mascot for the local NBC TV station for KARE11, Sunrise, this week’s second Polar Husky Superstar, grew up to be very shy. Out on the expeditions running with Mille, “Sunny” shined with her bright personality. Sunny is an exceptionally hard worker with an excellent work ethic, but in training she was very shy and not all that confident, often not performing simply because she was a bit of a ‘’worrier.’  That all changed around Joar! Sunny has become a lead dog too! Brimming with confidence, she now takes commands, sets a high pace, and launches herself into the air with great enthusiasm to keep the team moving, leading the way.

Watch movie  Watch Sunny at work!

Watch movie  Watch Sunny's sis Qannik having some fun with Joar

Watch movie  Watch Nazca self-load after a good training day!