We're just this moment back from an ice-gathering trip offshore, driven for the first time by our dogs (five instead of ten today since we still have L-plates on). There's been mixed news from Qaanaaq this week. In an unavoidable turn of events, Anastasia has had to temporarily head back to the UK for a few weeks. Our longer-than-expected stay in Greenlandic territory and her being a Russian national means that the visa, which would have comfortably covered Dark Ice, won't last to our expected return date in the summer. Rules are rules and it's how it must be.
It's a bit of a blow to be a teammate down for what will be about a ten week absence - back in time to rejoin the team before we set out on our main journey. Alex, Anders and I will be working hard over the next few months to build ourselves and our dogs into slick, well functioning teams. We're confident that by keeping in daily contact plus some intensive test journeys with the dogs upon her return, we will have a seamless transition back into a four-person team come the spring.
In better news, a week in the Qaanaaq workshop has produced two new dog sleds and we are very excited by the prospect of testing them out. Huge thanks to Rasmus and Tobias, local hunters and master sledge-builders. We would certainly be much worse off without their patient instruction, hard work and expertise. The sheer number of subtle techniques and tricks they use will hopefully mean we have robust and flexible steeds for the upcoming trials they will face over hard ice, deep snow and steep gradients.
Inughuit carpentry does take a bit of getting used to. There is some measuring involved, but just as often not. Working with those who have done it a hundred times before means that you very quickly take confidence in quickly drawn pencil lines and with no common language, watching every technique closely was essential.
Long nails are used to counter splits and almost always replace screws. Intricate lashings form all major joins and eschew familiar knots in favour of long series of friction-held turns and half-hitches. These flexible joins allow the runners to move and twist independently over obstacles without splintering the wood.
All that now remains before we take to the ice is sewing up a final harness and then we'll be able to get started. We're organising a series of outings with hunters who have offered their time to give us more tips over the next few weeks, so hopefully some sledding stories next time.