Weekend Warm-Up: Into Twin Galaxies

Towing a kayak 1,000km east to west across Greenland’s ice sheet, in order to paddle down an unknown river that’s only been seen from satellite images, might sound like a leap of faith to some. But for the Canadian and American trio of Sarah McNair-Landry, Erik Boomer and Ben Stookesberry, it was an opportunity to double-up on the adventure and complete a first descent of one of the most northerly rivers ever paddled.

The Uummannaq Fiord on Greenland’s west coast. It’s here that the Twin Galaxies river system drains off of the ice sheet to the east. Satellite Image by Google.

Into Twin Galaxies, named after the two rivers emptying into Uummannaq Fiord on the west coast, shows the challenges involved with making the first descent of a frigid meltwater river; ranging from nose-breaking 50ft waterfalls, navigating on foot through towering ice canyons and kite-skiing through ferocious winds on the approach to the headwaters.

Gushing at mach speed out of the glacier’s bowels, this river may have been the northernmost ever truly paddled — but not the northernmost ever to see canoes or kayaks. About 20 years ago, a party with ambitions on that record tackled the 50km-long Ruggles River, which issues from Lake Hazen on northern Ellesmere Island and empties into a fiord near the Arctic Ocean. Although approximately 1,000km further north than the torrential Greenland river, the Ruggles is a pussycat, with low gradient — and, in the end, not much paddling for that party, because of a shelf of ice just below the water’s surface. The Ruggles group may have won northernmost on a technicality, but the Boomer/Stookesberry duo paddled a frighteningly technical river.

You can watch the full film here.