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4000km Baffin Island Circumnavigation interview with Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer

Posted: Jul 01, 2015 07:00 pm EDT


(Correne Coetzer) "Our biggest responsibility during the expedition was caring for our 16 dogs. The task started way before we headed out,” Sarah tells Explorersweb from Oregon where she and Boomer spend a “hot" summer.


Twenty-five years ago Paul Landry, Matty McNair and friends, Jeff and Rosemary Murray, circumnavigated Baffin Island with a dog team. This year, daughter Sarah McNair Landry and her partner, Erik Boomer, retraced the steps.


Boomer says the circumstances were overwhelmingly similar. They read the journal of 25-years ago and checked the route map. They dogs were crucial in the  success of the expedition. Sarah explains how they took care of them every day. They share advice and their biggest challenge.


Explorersweb: You had the journals of Paul and Matty with you. How was this expedition / route / circumstances similar and different from their’s?


Boomer: Our expedition retraced Paul and Matty’s Baffin Island Expedition from 25 years ago. Beginning in Iqaluit we traveled counterclockwise around the island ending back in Iqaluit. Linking together Inuit communities along the way our route was almost identical, except for a few modifications because of current snow/ice conditions.


The circumstances were overwhelmingly similar. We dealt with many of the same difficulties of deep slow snow, storms, tired dogs, rough ice and open water in the same places that Sarah’s parents did. Coincidently, we had many positive experiences that seemed to mirror Paul and Matty’s expedition and met many of the same people along the way. 


Paul and Matty finished their expedition in June, and the last leg was very difficult because the snow was melting away and the rivers were opening. We were very worried about this last section, so we started our expedition 10 days earlier than they did.  Oddly enough we ended the expedition in 120 days, the exact same number of days as Paul and Matty. 


Explorersweb: How do you take care of a dog team dog during such a long expedition? And how do they take care of you?


Sarah: Our biggest responsibility during the expedition was caring for our 16 dogs. The task started way before we headed out, getting them into shape for the expedition. 


Once on the trail we did everything to keep them healthy and kept a good eye on them. For example if one had a hurt paw, right away we would put on dog booties before it got worse.


In the communities we would feed them as much fresh seal meet and fat to get them fattened up. Most importantly we had to make it fun for them. We spent a lot of time playing with them after a long day, letting them loose so they could run around and play with the other dogs, and on rest days we would take them all for walks. 


The dogs also took care of us. Traveling in polar bear area, the dogs would warn us by barking if a bear came into camp during the night.



Explorersweb: What were the toughest parts in the journey?


Boomer: The beginning of the expedition was just plain cold, in fact, it was the coldest winter in the Arctic in the last 22 years. The cold combined with the high winds that roll across the plateau makes everything tough. The winds often would obscure our visibility, combined with sub 40ºC temperatures, made navigation difficult. 


But our biggest challenge was to cover 4000km in one season. In order to complete this trip before the snow melted we had to keep up huge mileage everyday and we couldn't afford to let any overuse injury hold us or the dogs down. Taking care of the dogs and ourselves was something we paid close attention to.



Explorersweb: What tips from your parents came in handy?


Sarah: On expedition, we carried with us my parent’s maps and journals from 25 years ago. The maps had their route marked, along with notes about terrain and ice conditions. Of course 25 years later some of the conditions are different, but the maps helped warn us of areas with strong currents and open water and areas that generally have rough ice.


Often in the tent we would read through their journals to give us an idea of what was to come.



Explorersweb: If someone wants to repeat this, what advice would you give?


Boomer: Bring a good team of Canadian Inuit sled dogs and spend lots of time / years training on Baffin Island.


Explorersweb: Anything else?


For more stories and images check out our site: www.wayofthenorth.com



Check a video montage of the days prior to their journey here


Sarah McNair-Landry, Erik Boomer and their 16 dogs completed their 4-month, 4000km, 30kg of chocolate sled journey around Baffin Island on June 1, 2015. They started at their home town, Iqaluit, and on their way, stopped at the villages of Igloolik, Pangnirtung, Qikiqtarjuaq, Clyde River, Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. 


At 18 years old, Sarah became the youngest to ski to the South Pole and a few years later, the youngest to ski to both Poles. She has guided teams to the South Pole and North Pole (full route expeditions). She has traversed the Greenland Ice Cap five times, venture into the Gobi Desert, and kite ski 3,300 km retracing the Northwest Passage. When she is not in the cold, she spends her time working in film. She has directed several documentaries and is a published photographer.


Erik is a pro kayaker, pro photographer, and a featured athlete in numerous adventure films. Boomer is not only an adventure photographer, but also works as a commercial and editorial photographer. His confident approach to challenges on and off the river has earned him the title “the honey badger of kayaking”. With many first descents of rivers and waterfalls to his name, Boomer specializes in kayaking some of the world’s toughest rivers. In 2011, Boomer and John Turk became the first to circumnavigate Ellesmere Island on a 100-day ski and sea kayak expedition





4000km Baffin Island Circumnavigation completed


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


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


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


Polar AdventureStats

















Boomer, March 3rd, 2015: "Sarah and I are about to leave Qik and hit the trail to Clyde river."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
courtesy Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
Boomer from the field: "Bonnie Ammaq remembers when Sarah's parents dogsledded by her parents outpost camp 25 years ago. Bonnie clearly missed life on the outpost camp, the taste of fresh water and the game of that coastline."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
Boomer from the field: "Sheer ice and overflowing water on a calm section of the Weasel River."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Sarah McNair-Landry / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
May 4th: "Summer is catching up to us. We are now traveling through the night to avoid the heat of the day, the dogs prefer the cool nights. Here is a big sunrise at 4:30 AM between Arctic Bay and Igloolik."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
Sarah: "Once on the trail we did everything to keep [the dogs] healthy and kept a good eye on them."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE
"Traveling in polar bear area, the dogs would warn us by barking if a bear came into camp during the night."
courtesy Erik Boomer / Sarah McNair-Landry / Way of the North Expedition, SOURCE