The Fan Hitch PostScript
Number 6, posted
May 2020
In this Post

From the Editor: PostScript – From Famine to Feast

F.I.D.O.: From the Other Side of the World to Qimmiq Territory

Oh, those dog commands!

Dogs – One of the many reasons I loved them

Wally Herbert’s dogs – the Norwegian connection

Nansen Sledge Production

Langsomt på Svalbard (Slowly on Svalbard) Deferred for One Year

Book Review: QIMMEQ – The Greenland Sled Dog

Siu-Ling Han Memorial Scholarship
The Trip of a Lifetime

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Campsite by the Reva River in Femundsmarka. My daughters Jenny (left) and Inger (right).
                                                                                                         photo: Uren

This Year’s Langsomt på Svalbard
(Slowly on Svalbard)
Deferred for One Year

by Gisle Uren
Roros, Norway

“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” This is one of my absolute favorite lines from the British comedy troupe, Monty Python. It also sums up our current world situation quite accurately. No one ever expects a pandemic…at least not while planning an arctic expedition.

Whether you call it Corona, SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, its global effect has been devastating so far. For Jens and me, it meant going from planning a four week arctic dog sled journey one day, to waking up to travel bans, quarantine regulations and shut downs the next. Just one short week – seven days – before our scheduled flight to Svalbard, we had to admit defeat, or at least retreat, in the face of a changed global situation.

Corona led to both quarantine regulations for all travels to Svalbard, as well as local regulations temporarily preventing back-country travel on Svalbard, which put an effective stop to our plans this winter. But as written above, we do see this as a retreat, and not a defeat, as we have every intention of completing our journey next winter.

Economically we won’t fare too badly, mostly thanks to good travel insurance and helpful local operators on Svalbard; but also thanks to this being a mostly self-supported affair, relying very little on outside help. Thanks to helpful friends in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s  administrative center and the archipelago’s biggest settlement, they are making storage arrangements for all our gear and supplies which were sent to Svalbard several weeks prior to the pandemic.

What about next year? There are a few uncertainties when postponing the trip. The largest ones are concerning the dogs, and the ice conditions on Svalbard. One of the reasons we chose this winter for our trip, is the age of my dogs. My oldest dogs are still young enough, and my youngest are old enough this winter. Next winter my oldest dog will be nine years-old. She is in great shape now, but at that age a year older can mean a big difference. The other dogs are all younger so age isn’t as much a factor, but accidents or health issues might arise in the year to come for any of my eight dogs.
The ice conditions around Svalbard have been better this winter than they are most years. The predominant direction of air currents this last year has pushed the whole polar ice mass towards the Barents Sea and Svalbard. This has given a colder winter than average and given much better ice conditions on the fjords of Svalbard this winter. How the conditions will be next winter are uncertain, and our planned route for this winter, might not be possible next year.

On a personal level, waiting yet another year is very frustrating, especially since we have been developing this trip plan for several years and should have been out sledding right now as I write this. We would have been close to the end of our trip about now, having spent four breathtaking weeks in pristine arctic wilderness.

The first week after finding out we would have to postpone the trip was emotionally the most difficult. And of course, the day we were supposed to have begun sledding from our starting point was an emotionally strange day.

But all in all, knowing that everything preventing our trip were factors beyond our control makes it easier to handle than if this was somehow due to fault of our own making. As for now, new plane tickets have been booked and we are looking forward to next winter when the world is hopefully back to normal, or perhaps more precisely when the world has reached its new normal, because the world will unavoidably change because of a pandemic such as this.

A short break along the Røa River in Femundsmarka. Jenny (left and Inger (right).
                                                                                          photo: Uren

Any positive side effects? Yes, there have been a few positive side effects, or at least not-quite-as-negative side effects. I won’t be away from my daughters for five-six weeks this winter and I also got to spend Easter with my girls and our dogs in Femundsmarka National Park, something we all love. But all in all, I would have preferred Svalbard this year.