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.’
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.
Pamela Coulston’s sketch of a walrus
skull found en route.
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.’