Justin Barbour Finishes First Leg of 3,800km Northern Journey

Northern explorer Justin Barbour recently reported the first major landmark on his most ambitious expedition to date.

Barbour’s mission is to cover 3,800km of varied arctic and subarctic terrain from Hudson Bay to Cape Pine, Newfoundland’s southernmost point. He lit out from the Inuit village of Puvirnituq in early July.

On Aug. 23, he posted a hearty check-in from Tusiujaq, 692km south of his starting point. He and his trusty canine adventure companion, Saku, appear to be thriving.

“It has been every bit of the world-class wilderness I expected and more,” he said via Instagram. “Saku ran and swam his heart out up the Koguluk River and rode the bow of the canoe down most of the Goudalie and Leaf Rivers like a king.”

Late but no worse for wear

It’s stage one of four on what Barbour calls “Expedition Northeast.” The team clocked in three days later than planned at Tusiujaq, but don’t seem flustered by the lag. During 38 days without seeing another human, they experienced “unbelievable” freshwater fishing and prolific wildlife populations from ptarmigan  to “1,000+” migrating caribou and even a beluga.

“Travel up and down rapids, endless lakes and northern lights that danced like green ghosts in the night sky as we laid down our weary and contented heads to sleep,” was the general texture of the first leg, he said.

Barbour and Saku took a short respite in Tasiujaq, where the locals have been “warm and helpful.”

Expedition outlook

The explorer has not shared an updated InReach location via social channels since before the stopover, but last reported that he and Saku had planned to begin stage two by late August.

They would do well to act industriously. Stage two is a race against winter’s arrival. The task is to cover at least 700km to reach Labrador before the coldest months set in.

The route, crisscrossed by wild rivers and big lakes, promises to engender “an exciting ordeal.”

Saku in Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula.

Saku in Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. Photo: Justin Barbour


Though Saku will leave the trip at that point, Barbour will continue on in service to a goal based not on speed, but on the time cycles that govern the Earth. It’s also a skill-building exercise based on a previous bail-out on a long expedition bid several years ago.

“I want to experience a full year in the northern wilderness,” he previously told ExplorersWeb. “To experience the four seasons as the indigenous people of the area have. I felt good physically and mentally in 2018. I had enough summer experience, but my winter skills in the subarctic cold weren’t there yet. With one mistake, you could freeze to death. I knew I had to get ready.”

You can follow Barbour via Instagram.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.