One day after our last Destination Torngat update, we heard from Ben Stookesberry again—at latitude 57deg 10min—this time with an update of the team’s contact with a geological survey crew, a slow 7KB-per-second sat-uplink upload of new images and a report of their progress down the might George River in the wilderness of Labrador. For those of you who missed our first report or our audio dispatch upload, the longboat kayak trip is a two-month expedition kayaking mission deep into the Torngat Mountains of Canada’s Labrador region through a rarely visited 10,000-square-kilometer national park to the iceberg-choked waters of the Labrador Sea. It’s been an epic so far, but tracking their progress via sat uplink and DeLorme InReach has added an entire new level to armchair adventuring. Check out Ben’s update, their current GPS location and their multi-media uploads below. —LYA Editor
Words by Ben Stookesberry, Images by Erik Boomer
We have stumbled across a geologic research station about 100 miles up from the end of this George River canoe route and the gateway to our eventual destination—the Torngat Mountains of Northern Labrador, Canada. Speaking with the head geologist here, this area is even more interesting and remote than I had thought. Their team is here to map this remote area of the Labrador Peninsula via helicopter. According to him, it is one of the last—if not the last—areas of Canada to be mapped by modern geologists. Already there is huge interest in this area’s rare earth minerals, as China currently controls 95% of the global market and sources outside of Chinese control are highly sought after. In this way, the area has a bit of a bull’s-eye being painted on it. But for us, this wilderness corridor nearly the size of Alaska is a rare opportunity to experience a place that time and progress have momentarily overlooked.
We are only 100 miles from the end of this 450-mile-long George River canoe route and the gateway to the Torngat in the remote village of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, Canada. So far we have completed the nearly 350 miles of this canoe route in record time, spending just 11 days paddling from the end of a remote train line, straight north into the roadless wilds of one of the great wildernesses of North America.
Of course, our trio of myself, Brazilian Pedro Oliva, and Erik Boomer is an extremely strong team of veteran paddlers, but we are also told that we are the first to attempt this route in kayaks, as opposed to the traditional canoes. Certainly we owe much of our success to these Jackson Kayak Karma UL long boats that move extremely fast through both calm and white waters, and also allow us to make this three-week journey self-support without any resupply of provisions.
In addition to the duration and the distance, the route was surprisingly complicated in the upper reaches, where we paddled and portaged through a system of lakes to reach a headstream of the George. Because of this, the DeLorme inReach Explorer was our GPS and communications system of choice.
It has also allowed us to share our expedition in real time with 30-minute tracking and updates from the field. And we are keeping this, along with our cameras, powered up with a lightweight Goal Zero solar recharging system.
The final element of the epic adventure worth noting is the weather. When we started the route, the temps were near 90 degrees F and have now dropped to near freezing with sustained gale-force winds. From clouds of insatiable mosquitoes and flies to sheets of subarctic rain, the combination of our technical gear from Kokatat and our Eddie Bauer insulation, sleeping bags, tents, and rain gear has allowed us to keep paddling all day and resting well at night in an incredible variety of conditions.
Paddling 8 to 10 hours a day is a lot of work, but in this place it is a labor of love. There are few other rivers on the planet where you can paddle for three weeks straight without seeing any signs of civilization. The George certainly stands in stark contrast to the already dammed rivers flowing to the south, where their waters are being harnessed for hydroelectricity largely for the Eastern United States. The bears, caribou, falcons, river otters, beavers, and seagulls are all part of this vast wilderness that is only 1,000 miles north of New York City.
But this was just the way we chose to get to where we are actually going. As you know, our destination is the Torngat and our goal is to be the first to kayak the Nachvak River. In this case, though, as in so many others, the journey there is proving to be what this trip is all about.
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