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1000km of traditional routes and kayaks: ExWeb interview with team Pittarak

Posted: Oct 04, 2013 11:27 am EDT


(By Correne Coetzer) This expedition was a chance to experience history and older ways of living and traveling, says the 20-something team about their 65-day, 1000 km crossing of Baffin Island.


Erik Boomer, Katherine Breen, and siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry started their adventure in Qikiqtarjuaq in mid July, traveling across the Penny Ice Cap and through Auyuittuq National Park to Pangnirtung. From there, they paddled and portaged a historic route from Cumberland Sound to Nettiling Lake, the Amadjuak River to Amadjuak Lake, and through a series of small lakes to the Southwest coast of Baffin Island. For the final leg of the expedition, they followed the ocean’s coast to Cape Dorset.


The paddling was done in self-made kayaks, according to the design of an east Baffin kayak from the Cumberland Sound area, explained Eric McNair-Landry to ExplorersWeb. Boomer, a professional whitewater kayaker and specializing in kayaking some of the world’s toughest rivers, found the building of the kayaks a challenge as he doesn’t consider himself as a wood-worker “let alone built something like a kayak that my life would be dependent on.” He now prefers this kayak to any plastic manufactured kayak, he said.


Sarah, who, among other accomplishments, is the youngest person to have completed both a full route expedition to the South Pole and North Pole, said to ExWeb, “Traveling along traditional routes that Inuit people have used in the past made for an amazing experience.”


Although Kate is an avid sea kayaker, she was thrown in at the deep side with her three team mates, “professional adventurers and athletes with a list of accomplishments a mile long”, as she wrote in their blog.This trip has been stressful in a whole new way. Long days, mosquito bites, sore hands, and bruises from innumerable falls.” Although it was summer, temperatures hovered around zero and their one change of clothes were soaked. Despite all the challenges Kate and being a “rookie out there”, her team mates describes her as Tough, Centered, Yogi (she is a qualified Yoga  teacher.)


ExplorersWeb caught up wth the team back home in Iqaluit.


What about this expedition has enriched your lives?


Sarah: Traveling along traditional routes that Inuit people have used in the past made for an amazing experience. Often we felt so far away from everything, yet if you looked closely old Inukshuks stood on hilltops marking routes, and ancient tent rings confirmed that people once inhabited these lands. 

What was the most challenging for each of you?


Kate: The physical challenge of paddling and portaging up the Amadjuak River was tough. Our boats and our bodies really took a beating during that 60km. 

Eric: Helping three team members build their kayaks was a huge challenge. Before this project I had only built two other kayaks (one with Kate) and am by no means an accomplished carpenter. The previous two kayaks were also a Greenlandic design, and the team was adamant that we use a Baffin design for this expedition. We selected our design, an east Baffin kayak from the Cumberland Sound area, from a book whose only information regarding the kayak was a picture and a side-view line drawing. It took substantial effort and time to backwards engineer a suitable frame in a 3D program. 

Sarah: Building the kayaks was a huge challenge, which took a large part of the winter and spring. The most difficult part was the stress of building a kayak that had to last on a two-month expedition. All our hard work paid off, and our kayaks performed great!


Boomer: I have never considered myself a wood-worker let alone built something like a kayak that my life would be dependent on.  Carving each custom piece so that it would fit in a groove that we notched out of a cedar plank was difficult. If we screwed up we couldn’t just go to the store and buy more wood, we would have to deal with it on during the expedition.


How did the self-made kayaks perform? How did it feel to use one of them, compared to a bought one? 


Boomer: Each kayak we made was unique and based mostly off of our personal body dimensions.  I loved the way my kayak performed.  It was incredibly fast yet maneuverable.  It carried a big heavy load well and performed great in adverse conditions; waves, swell, headwinds and tailwinds. Notably waves of all sizes where no problem as the boats rolled over the waves and kept their nose up yet sliced through the waves.  


Durability wise they survived this trip through the ocean, up a river with rapids, long portages and another ocean section so I don’t have any complaints here either.  I prefer this kayak to any plastic manufactured kayak.

Will you use them again? Improve on them? Share the skills?


Eric: Despite the wear and tear from the expedition the kayaks are still in a functional condition, and undoubtedly we will continue to use them on the bay here at home. During the winter months the kayaks will be included in a gallery display with photographs taken during our expedition. 


I have every intention on building more kayaks; I would like to explore several different designs. The types of kayaks used across Nunavut vary substantially, each one having been optimized for the local conditions. I would love the opportunity to explore how several designs overcame challenges such as stability, speed, carrying capacity, winds, and high seas. We also intend to teach traditional kayak building in several communities, along with kayak paddling and water safety skills.

Three words to describe your team mates. 


Sarah - Smart, organized, experienced 

Kate - Tough, Centered, Yogi 

Boomer - Fun, Thoughtful, Honey badger 

Eric - Savvy, Mcgyver, Carpenter

Kate, you had quite a baptism by fire, are you now fired up for more?


Kate: It will be tough to top this trip, but I’m already looking forward to the next adventure. 

Surely you have talked about what's next, any plans?


Team: Although the expedition has been completed, the project has only just begun. Our plan is to teach traditional kayak building in Nunavut, specifically in the communities that we visited during the expedition: Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, and Cape Dorset. 

Last word...


Team: This expedition would not have been possible without support from our sponsors: National Genographic Legacy Grant, NRS, The Royal Canadian Geographic Society, Fist Air, Klattermusen, Hilleberg, Adventure Technology, Camino, Watershed, Delorme, Explorersweb and Voke. 




Ski and kayak, ExWeb interview: 20-something team combines culture and adventure


Team members biographies


ExWeb interview Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry (part 1/2): The battle of body and gear across 2 South Poles


ExWeb interview Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry (part 2/2): An odd encounter in a paralleled universe


ExWeb Interview with Sarah McNair-Landry, "The North Pole is a race against the clock"


ExWeb interview with Erik Boomer: walrus attack scarier than polar bear attacks


ExWeb interview with Noah Nochasak, “connecting with a past that is so much part of my Inuit culture.”


Greenland ski wrap-up: New kite-ski world record


Northwest Passage kite ski update: critical final route decisions


ExWeb Interview with Eric McNair-Landry, "an expedition in which more decisions had to be made on the trail than during the planning


ExWeb interview with Sarah McNair-Landry, it was odd to have to worry about finding water


Vada mission accomplished


Best of ExplorersWeb 2005 Awards: Matty McNair - Arctic and Antarctica


Video: "Cascade" Erik Boomer and others hunting the remote Mexican jungle for the perfect waterfall and the perfect shot.Directed by Anson Fogel & Skip Armstrong


For more info and photos on the expedition:


2013 Qajaqtuqtut Expedition website


2013 Qajaqtuqtut Expedition on Facebook


#Polar #Oceans #ErikBoomer #KatherineBreen #EricMcNairLandry #SarahMcNairLandry #BaffinIsland #interview



Sarah: "Stone cairns and Inukshuks, tent rings, and other artifacts like kayak stands were reminders that people have been traveling on this land for thousands of years."
courtesy Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE
Boomer: "Pulling a pulk and a white water kayak, we started our climb up the Penny Ice Cap, the largest Icecap on Baffin, with 4,000 foot high mountains and cliffs towered on either side."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE
Eric McNair-Landry Katherine Breen Sarah McNair-Landry paddling newly made kayaks near Pangnirtung.
courtesy Erik Boomer / Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE
Eric: "Nettiling and Amajuak Lake are connected by the Amajuak River [...] after three excruciating days we have little mileage to show; unrelenting current stalls our progress, and countless rapids have blocked our path, forcing us to line or portage."
courtesy Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE
Boomer with The Catch of the Day. He says that his kayak is the most impressive thing that he has ever build with his own hands. " In a small way, it is nice to know that we are doing something to help keep the kayaking tradition alive in Nunavut.”
courtesy Sarah McNair-Landry / Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE
"We were overwhelmed by the greeting that we were given in Cape Dorset," says Katherine Breen.
courtesy Erik Boomer / Pittarak Expeditions, SOURCE