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Kayak Nunavut 1999

A successful cultural exchange. (Photo: Mike Beedell)

Second Time Around
Arctic photographer Mike Beedell and freelance writer Pamela Coulston say they haven’t lost their senses. Well, not by much anyway.

‘We are all crazy,’ says Beedell, when asked why he will try to circumnavigate Bylot Island in the High Arctic again next year after he and his wife were forced to cut short their effort last summer. ‘It’s just that we're all crazy at different levels.’

Pamela Coulston’s sketch of a walrus skull found en route.
The Wakefield, Que., couple spent about two months on a kayaking and cultural exchange, dubbed ‘Kayak Nunavut ’99’. They received a $5,000 expeditions grant from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). Besides paddling, the pair also provided trip updates, photographs and sketches on their website, and produced lengthy newspaper accounts.

Their reports gave insight into the joys and pitfalls of such adventures, including the disappointment when they ended their circumnavigation after 350 kilometres — about 250 kilometres short of their goal. With the weather against them, they hitched a ride on a coast guard vessel to Pond Inlet in early August to complete the cross-cultural component of their project.

Four Inuit youths, artist Allen Smutylo, translator and carver July Papatsie and CBC radio broadcaster Avril Benoit shared the 10-day exchange, says Beedell, which exposed the youth to creative people and the ancient art of kayaking, a part of Inuit culture 'pretty much lost to their generation.'

RCGS support for expeditions began with the successful 1992 climb of Mt. Logan in the Yukon by 10 scientists and guides. An expeditions committee was soon formed. Grants of up to $5,000 or endorsements are available for projects that, in most cases, involve travel in Canada and focus on Canadian issues.

An important goal, says RCGS Executive Director Louise Maffett, is to encourage well-organized amateur explorers, as well as more professional, experienced teams. And how does the RCGS feel when things don’t go exactly as planned? ‘We don't mind as long as it is a worthy endeavour,’ says Maffett. ‘The idea is to get out there and explore.’


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