They’re back! Two of our intrepid Explorers in Residence, Hazel and Luke, have returned from Alaska and are sharing some of their findings with us in this final ‘Due North:Alaska’ blog post. We’re also really looking forward to hearing more about their expedition during their talks for the Inspiring People programme at the below locations:

16-Oct-17 Kirkcaldy School of Midwifery, University of Dundee Fife Campus, 5 Forth Avenue, Kirkcaldy, KY2 5YS
18-Oct-17 Edinburgh afternoon Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9LE
18-Oct-17 Glasgow evening Waterstones, 153-157 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow, G2 3EW
23-Oct-17 Dumfries Easterbrook Hall, The Crichton, Bankend Road, Dumfries, DG1 4TA
24-Oct-17 Borders  Scottish Borders Campus, Nether Road, Galashiels, TD1 3HE
25-Oct-17 Ayr Council Chambers, Ayr Town Hall, New Bridge Street, Ayr, KA7 1JX
26-Oct-17 Helensburgh Victoria Halls, Sinclair Street, Helensburgh, G84 8TU

Find information about all our talks/speakers by following this link 

 

Hazel and Luke with the RSGS flag at Exit Glacier, Alaska.

Luke and Hazel Robertson – Due North:Alaska Expedition Report 

As we nudged the bow of our kayak into the inland waters of the Pacific Ocean, the prospect of travelling over 1,500 miles through the wilderness of Alaska by human power alone became very real.

Beginning this journey on the banks of the Tongass rainforest, we soon found ourselves engulfed by dramatic and spruce-packed mountainsides. We encountered curious and confident sea lions, held our breath as majestic humpback whales breached intimidatingly close to our little kayak and witnessed grizzly bears trawling the beaches for any form of summer sustenance at low tide.

Later in the expedition, whilst paddling through the equally remote, but barren, flat and tree-less expanse of the Arctic, we watched as foxes made fleeting attacks on flightless coastal birds and wolves tracked the path of a solitary caribou. On one memorable day in the shallow but enormous delta of the Colville river, we were forced to dragged our kayak through inch deep water far enough out to sea, that no land could be seen whatsoever.

Sandwiched in-between the kayaking stages, we cycled the full distance between these two bodies of water. Here, whilst on two wheels, we witnessed receding glaciers, climbed mountain passes and sped by sprawling tundra as we covered over 1,300 miles. Climbing over 40,000 ft., we bumped our way over the infamous 415-mile Dalton Highway dirt road in the process.

We were fortunate enough to setup camp on sandy beaches of remote islands, and dense forests in equal measure, as we made our best judgement as to the both the safest and comfiest spot to spend the night. Often, we wondered what surprise we might wake up to tonight – what was out there and what was making that noise?!

It was in the far north, however, where we came across the biggest surprise of all.  After paddling carefully through sea ice at the start of our Arctic paddle, we headed inland to pursue a fascinating and historic Iñupiat trade route and to avoid any further pack ice.

Here, however, instead of huge lakes of water and deep flowing rivers as appeared on recent satellite imagery and topographic maps we found dry flats and grassy waterways. We trudged through mud instead of padding through water of any passable depth and streams that once flowed suddenly stopped in their path. We knew we could not go any further.

For us, exploration is about discovery, not necessarily solely about completing what you set out to do – although that would’ve been a bonus! So although our trip ended slightly prematurely, our main aim was to share and document this journey with others. It was a huge part of what drove us on each day and we’ll continue to do so, even if we didn’t reach our final coordinates.

Carving out a new path is always going to have more unknowns and uncertainties than following a well-trodden one. But it also makes it far more interesting and rewarding.

Thank you to Luke and Hazel for sharing their updates! To see more images from their latest expedition (and then their adventure on Mt Blanc) check out their Facebook page